A natural disaster could potentially threaten every business that has any digital asset or that needs a disaster recovery plan. In today's world, that should cover the vast majority of companies on the planet. If you're reading this, it probably covers your business, too. 

The following steps will help you create a comprehensive business recovery plan, though some individual actions may have more or less detail, depending on your business type. 

The Digital Side of Your Disaster Recovery Plan

Developing the digital side of your business recovery plan should be relatively quick and painless, especially if you're using one of the digital solutions and templates available. 

Create A Physical Backup Onsite – Depending on the size of your business; this could mean anything from a thumb-drive to a full server setup. 

Create a Digital Backup Offsite – This is best done with a professional disaster recovery solution. These typically require little input once set up and have different levels of storage and restoration capabilities.

Schedule Backups On a Regular Basis – If you aren't using an automatic solution, take the time to update your backups regularly. 

Use “Version Control” - Do not overwrite your backup for Tuesday on Wednesday. Sometimes errors take a few days to be noticed- sometimes even weeks. While you don't need to keep backups for every single day, keeping a milestone for every two weeks of the last three months as well as full backups of the previous three days should prevent a lot of lost time, especially as your organization grows and takes on new hires. 

Keep Analog Copies of Important Lists and Documents – Even professional backup and recovery suites aren't infallible. Keeping a paper record offsite of the minimal information you need, such as client contact information and certification documents, can help you recover during a  worst-case-scenario.

The Physical Side of Your Disaster Recovery Plan

The fact is, 40% of small businesses don't reopen after a natural disaster. If a disaster strikes in the physical world, your plan should contain ways for your business to continue to operate. The following items must be included in every disaster recovery plan aimed at helping your business recover after a physical disaster. In addition to having business-specific resources in your project, you may want to include safety information and protocols to keep your staff and business safe. Funds for these can be found on the homeland security website

Communicate

  • Train Staff to Respond in an Emergency Situation in Clear First Steps 
  • Determine Alternate Locations for Equipment and Staff – Where else can you set up shop in an emergency if your primary business location is inaccessible? 
  • Have a Plan to Communicate with Clients and Customers – When disaster strikes you should have a script to use to talk to clients and inform them of the situation. If possible, give them a time frame as to when your business will be operational again. 
  • List Available Supplier and Vendor Support – Do you need to move heavy equipment before a disaster? Repair it after? Vendors may be able to point you in the right direction or offer other support.

Resources

What are the minimum requirements for you to run your business? - Think bare-bones. If you had to move your entire office or set up in a handful of hours and be back up and running, what, exactly, would you need to make happen? 

What are alternative utility sources available to you? - What happens if the power goes out or the water stops running? Do you have generator access? How long could your business go without these resources? 

What preventative measures can you put in place?

Keep Duplicate, Records Off-Site – This includes names and addresses of clients, up-to-date inventory, contact information for your staff and their families, supplier information, warranty and insurance information, and copies of any certificates, qualifications, or records you need to stay in business. 

Schedule Tests and Revisions

An untested plan or one that's been in the back of a drawer for the last two years isn't going to be nearly as effective as one that's been put into practice and updated at least every six months. Yes, it may take a small investment of time, but it's much better to know that your chosen solutions work rather than just assuming they will. Further, if the plan is not updated and a given solution changes- how much extra time will that add to your implementation of the disaster recovery plan if disaster does strike? 

Scheduling time to update and test your plan should be a set rule included within the program. This is part of the process and an element that should not be skipped. The good news is that this process can be straightforward- there are automated solutions available to schedule, prompt, and run the actual tests for the digital components of your plan automatically.