In my last article, “Where Recovery Begins,” I discussed the importance of prioritizing your critical data. Businesses need to determine what data they would need immediately to continue functioning after a disaster or loss of corporate data. Once the business defines the significance of all of their data, they can begin to develop their disaster recovery plan. A properly structured plan is comprised of three components: data, communication, and people.
The most common type of disaster recovery is the retrieval of lost or destroyed data. A business can’t function going forward if they can’t retrieve their critical data after a disaster. Here are some steps to follow when developing your data recovery plan:
- Backup options: Company data should be securely backed up offsite and available for recovery at any time. An excellent way to do this is via online backup whereby a company’s data is backed up each night and stored far away from the company’s location.
- Delegate: Determine the person responsible for the data backup plan. They must check that the backups are running smoothly and tested regularly.
- Dress rehearsal: Practice a recovery process every few months to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Make sure that the data that is stored is easily retrieved.
- Check the location of your critical data: Make sure you know where the critical data is stored at your company. If people store their data on their desktops instead of the file server, make sure all desktops are backed up.
Contact and Communication
Assume that your normal methods of communication during a disaster or emergency will not be functioning. Instead, consider alternative communication vehicles:
- The alternatives: Should your office phone lines be down, you might want to consider using AOL instant messaging and/or Skype. Make sure that everybody in your company has each other’s cell numbers.
- VOIP/Virtual: VOIP and virtual phones are useful in situations when access to a central physical location is not possible. These services allow you to forward office lines or even create virtual lines that can be accessed from anywhere. They are practical for fielding incoming calls from clients. We once used Grasshopper as our failsafe phone system. If our phones went down, we would be able to immediately forward our calls to Grasshoppers 800 number which would then forward our calls to our personal cell numbers. Now we use M5net and it works great for our VOIP needs.
- Contact lists: It is very important to have both a physical contact list of clients and vendors as well as a virtual copy stored on an online storage site where you can access it from anywhere (LockYourDocs or VSafe, LockYourDocs is part of my company just to ensure full disclosure). Having your contact list on your unavailable file servicer is useless during an emergency.
It is imperative that your employees know where to go and what to do if your office or computers are down. Here are some roles and functions you should designate:
- Identify the critical functions and determine who will fill them. For example, who will contact clients and handle the insurance?
- Determine rendezvous points for evacuation scenarios.
- Designate and prepare for alternative working sites and suggest remote work facilities for a temporary period.
- Distribute the plan to all employees and upload a copy where it can be accessed by everyone.
- Put a copy of the plan somewhere that won’t be affected by data failure or office evacuation. Do not put the lone copy on the server.
- Share the plan with all new hires as part of their company introduction. In addition, review the plan with all employees on a quarterly basis.
All businesses experience some kind of data failure or emergency situation. It’s just a matter of time and magnitude. Most people don’t think it will happen to them, but all it takes is one small instance to ruin a company. The best protection against such a scenario is a well thought-out plan that’s been tested and communicated to everyone. Make sure you are prepared.
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