Probably the worst thing for a small business owner is to spend years developing their organization and then lose everything after a single uncontrollable disaster. Unfortunately, that’s not just a popular movie plot but the real world’s everyday case. According to statistics by FEMA, more than 40% of small businesses that suffer a disaster never reopen. And 93% of those not managing to recover in five days or less stop operating within one year.
The scary numbers above are closely connected with one more record: 75% of small businesses don’t have disaster recovery plans. You may doubt your organization needs one since most businesses either are functioning successfully or fail due to reasons other than sudden disasters. In this post, we explain why that viewpoint is not right, and also show the key points to include in an effective disaster recovery (DR) strategy.
Why Do I Need a Disaster Recovery Plan?
Unlike large enterprises, small business owners don’t have extra funds to spend on something that won’t boost earnings. Small organizations remain unprotected due to their limited resources. And that’s the exact reason why small businesses need to develop disaster recovery strategies.
Whether a disaster is natural or man-made, a small business without a disaster recovery plan does not have a safety net to survive it with acceptable losses. Simply put, large enterprises can afford to throw cash at disasters, while your small business can’t.
Moreover, the lack of protection plans and solutions is the reason, for instance, for hackers to target small businesses when planning cyberattacks. That’s correct, without running ransomware protection software from NAKIVO or any other vendor, a small organization risks falling inoperable soon after a single ransomware injection. On the contrary, 96% of businesses with backup practices implemented successfully recover from ransomware incidents.
Key Elements of a Disaster Recovery Plan for a Small Business
In theory, the universal one-phrase guide for any disaster recovery plan would sound like “preparation is key” or “expect everything”. However, those phrases are too broad to call them a guide. We’ll narrow things down and expand the main points of a DR plan. Below, you will find recommendations that can help small businesses survive tough times and resume production after a disaster.
Create an instant response plan
First, you need to figure out what to do right after a disaster strikes. Be it fire, flood, an earthquake, an unexpected power outage, or any other emergency, an action plan is required. The quicker you can react to a disaster, the fewer losses your organization would suffer when it strikes.
To minimize the first-minute impact, instruct your employees about their actions in face of a disaster. Share responsibility areas, document step-by-step guides for different disaster scenarios, and make sure to train your workers. When every person knows who to contact and what to do in an emergency, the devastating consequences of most disasters for the organization’s staff members, assets, and inventory can be mitigated.
Develop a disaster recovery strategy
Ensuring the effectiveness of the DR approach is possible only when you know the processes and interdependencies of the organization’s parts. Analyzing how your organization is built and working will help you understand the importance of every element for production. After you are informed about the role of every infrastructure part, you can grade them by priority. When the importance of every link in the chain is clear, here is what you need to do:
- Determine the maximum downtime your business can tolerate. In the IT industry, they call it the recovery time objective or RTO.
- Find out the quantity and type of resources required to meet that objective. Understand clearly how much financial, human, hardware resources, among others, your organization has and needs. Remain realistic and balance recovery requirements with your capabilities.
- Develop a priority-based step-by-step disaster recovery plan efficiently involving the available resources. Don’t just think over a plan, but document it. And, of course, don’t leave the plan on paper until a disaster becomes real.
- Test your strategy and, if necessary, adjust recovery sequences to optimize resource usage and meet requirements.
Ensure data protection
To successfully protect one of the most valuable assets of an organization, which is data, you need a specific backup and recovery strategy in place. An effective data protection approach includes two equally important points:
- Regularly updated backups – to ensure backup data relevance
- Fast and flexible recovery – to ensure the availability of data on demand
Both regular data backup updates and fast recovery workflows cannot be implemented manually. The amount of data and the complexity of IT infrastructures even in small organizations make automation obligatory for data protection activities. Effective data protection automation is possible with two choices: installing a backup appliance or using a specialized software solution.
Purchasing proprietary ready-made backup appliances can be too costly for small businesses. On the other hand, contemporary software solutions provide an equal set of data protection functions while offering flexible licensing models and affordable prices. From the viewpoint of cost-efficiency balance, data protection software solutions are the most suitable for small organizations with limited budgets.
Get emergency supplies and systems
What will be the first that you, your staff members, and your business itself require right after a disaster occurs? The emergency supplies can include first aid items, food, and drinking water. Emergency systems are spare power generators, doubling computer infrastructures and disks with data backups.
You can find yourself, for example, physically isolated in the office, cut from your neighborhood, lightly, or severely injured due to a disaster. First aid kits, water and food supplies are there to support you and your employees in that emergency. Delivering basic medicals, some dry and canned foods, toilet paper and a couple of dozens of water bottles to the office is neither expensive nor time-taking. Bring enough supplies to support your regular office staff for at least a week.
In turn, remote backup servers, spare hardware and virtual environment replicas can help you restore operation with minimal downtime. When the main site is down to a disaster, you can instantly redirect production-critical workflows to a secondary site using one of the comprehensive backup and recovery solutions.
Therefore, create a list of supplies and hardware that is required to keep your business operable in an emergency, and get them. Maybe you’ll never need those emergency resources. But you surely would want to have them in place when a disaster strikes your business.
Insurance is what business owners also frequently postpone until it’s too late. If you don’t have insurance coverage, do whatever is required to get it as quickly as possible. Not every organization suffers a disaster, that’s true. Still, you never know when your luck runs out, and insurance can help you lighten your financial burden to keep the organization operable after a disaster.
And if you have your business insured, check whether your current plan covers the necessary risks, including those typical for your location. For instance, the fact that your headquarters is in a region with the intense seismic activity does not guarantee that your insurance would cover your losses if an earthquake happens. When you see the risks that are in the disaster recovery plan but not in the insurance plan, consider expanding your insurance package.
Have a post-disaster contact plan
After you complete the urgent steps of the recovery plan, regardless of whether the disastrous consequences are mitigated or not, there are people and institutions to notify. Your checklist may include such contacts as:
- Major customers
- Critical suppliers
- Government officials
- Insurance agents
- IT providers
Create this list of contacts beforehand to avoid missing someone important in a tense and stressful post-disaster situation. Remember that timely notifications sent to the right people can help to make the disaster outcomes negligible.
No business is isolated. Your operation and earnings depend on external connections just as they rely on internal processes. A disaster can turn you into a missing link for your suppliers and vice versa.
Therefore, logistical chains should be backed up just as the critical data and IT infrastructure. Alternative suppliers, routes, and solutions should be found long before a disaster because you’ll be too busy to look for those after your business is hit.
Don’t Postpone Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan
Some 21% of small business owners not having a DR plan say it hasn’t been a priority task for them. That’s an approach that might be harmful. Even though other tasks can be critical for your business operation and profitability, a disaster recovery strategy shouldn’t be deprioritized and postponed.
The lack of time is not an excuse when the whole organization is at stake. Redistributing working hours and losing a part of potential earnings to prioritize a disaster recovery plan development is an astute step. You will be able to earn much more profits throughout a time when your small business can survive a devastating disaster with minimal losses.