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Introduction:

Why should any small business bother about disaster recovery when they can barely make ends meet for daily operations? Well, let’s consider a few facts:

  • In a span of just three years, from 2018-2020, there were 50 disaster events in the U.S. that total $237.2 billion in damages.
  • 20 of these disasters took place in 2021 with a total of over $1 billion in damages.
  • Hurricanes rank among the top destructive forces that result in a cascade of impacts including power failure, flooding, storm damage and more.
  • Recent statistics indicate that nearly two-thirds of SMBs that experience a disaster event like a fire, flood, hurricane, or tornado are unable to survive and go out of business within 12 months.
  • Most worryingly for businesses, downtime costs have risen 32% in the past 7 years. On average, for 44% of businesses across the nation, 1 hour of downtime could easily cost over $1 million.

Have we managed to convince you about the need for disaster recovery yet?

Unfortunately, many businesses will continue to balk at the prospect of building a disaster recovery plan from scratch. It can be an especially daunting prospect for small businesses that do not have the luxury of “extra pairs of hands” that can become critical in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. However, with the help of modern disaster recovery solutions, the right IT partner such as Disaster Recovery NJ and careful planning done well in advance, small businesses can coast over disasters just as easily as their larger counterparts. In this article we will discuss the exact steps that small businesses can take in order to build an effective disaster recovery plan.

7 Key Elements of Building an Effective Disaster Recovery Plan for SMBs

Identify critical systems

The first step in creating a disaster recovery plan is to identify which systems are critical to your organization. These are mission-critical systems without access to which your business will not be able to function with minimum viability.

Your list of critical systems should include:

  • Backups of databases and file servers
  • Web sites (including web servers) that are critical in the routine functioning of your business or used to send out vital information to your customers or employees
  • Mail servers necessary for official communications
  • Virtual machines or terminals regularly used by employees

Identify resources and the staff to run them

The next step is to identify the resources you need to have available and the staff capable of running them during emergencies. These can include physical infrastructure, such as a generator or fuel for backup power, or information technology systems; or human resources, including key team members with technical skills necessary to maintain those systems. Remember to identify and inventory all of these well in advance so you can be ready to deploy them at a moment’s notice when disaster strikes. For additional resources on how to do this, please refer to IT Consulting New York.

Define roles and responsibilities

Defining roles and responsibilities is a critical step in creating a disaster recovery plan. This should cover everything from who needs to be involved in specific processes, how often they’ll need to meet, and what tasks they are accountable for. It is best to engage the help of an outside consultant or advisor such as Managed IT Services NY to go over the process in detail with them to know if your company’s DRP is complete.

Create a communication plan

The first step in getting your business back up and running after a disaster is to ensure that staff, customers, partners and other stakeholders know what to do in the event of an emergency. This means having an effective communication strategy in place that includes both internal and external communications. This way, you can keep everyone updated on what’s happening at all times and keep tensions under control.

Ensure that everyone knows who to contact. The first step is obviously to have key points of contact for employees, customers, business stakeholders etc. (preferably different people). They should have adequate information (and training) on what and how to answer questions about the status of operations during times of crisis.

Create document templates for your resumption plan

Document templates can be a handy tool in helping your team to create and share recovery documents in a consistent, organized way. You need to think about the type of documents that will be used in your resumption plan:

Resumption plan documents
These compose the core elements of a disaster recovery plan. These should contain all critical information such as contact details, roles and responsibilities, methods for communicating with staff during an outage, key contacts outside the company (such as third-party service providers) to help with specific issues like legal or regulatory matters, etc.

Backup templates
Always create backup templates for your resumption plans. These can help to easily create new versions without having to start from scratch every time (save time when templates need to be updated). You could even automate this process using software tools such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.

Test your disaster recovery plan

Testing is critical to know the efficacy of your disaster recovery plan. The basic elements of the test should include:

  • Ensure that your backup server is functioning as intended by practicing with a test environment (you should set one up, if you don’t have one already).
  • Test backups and restores on an old system or virtual machine. This lets you iron out the kinks in the restoration process so you know it will go smoothly when everything goes wrong.
  • Test alerts and notifications during simulated disasters/ outages, so that everyone knows what they’re supposed to do and when they’re supposed to do it. You could also set time limits for each step of the process for maximum efficiency.

Know that you can rebuild after a disaster

The best bet your company has against a disaster is to have the maximum amount of preparation possible. You don’t want to be caught unawares. That’s why it’s important to test, document and communicate your plan regularly.

Your organization’s DRP must have a strategy to keep critical systems online during emergencies. This means having updated and highly available backups stored offsite, on multiple devices, on the cloud and at remote locations, so all backups cannot be affected by the same disaster.

Regular communication among teams is critical during and after a disaster. Everyone needs to be on the same page about what happens next at every step of the way. This includes knowing who’s responsible for what tasks during each phase of recovery. To make the process as transparent as possible, document everything in writing as well as through formal meetings with a process in place for quick problem-solving.

Sharon Arena

Sharon Arena is the Marketing Coordinator at Olmec Systems, LLC. Sharon studied Marketing Analytics and Data Research at Post University in Waterbury, CT. She has 15+ years of experience in direct marketing, sales and operations management.