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10 Simple Ways to Disaster-Proof Your Business

A disaster recovery plan featuring off-site data backup and recovery, cloud storage, and communications processes can prepare you for unexpected circumstances. A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) gives an organization the power to plan its response to unplanned incidents. Natural disasters, cyberattacks, power outages, and other disruptive events can wreak havoc on businesses, placing employees, property, […]

A disaster recovery plan featuring off-site data backup and recovery, cloud storage, and communications processes can prepare you for unexpected circumstances.

A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) gives an organization the power to plan its response to unplanned incidents. Natural disasters, cyberattacks, power outages, and other disruptive events can wreak havoc on businesses, placing employees, property, and assets in danger. IT departments play an essential role in disaster-proofing companies and agencies.

When it comes to businesses and disaster recovery plans, there’s no such thing as “too prepared.”

Disasters come in many forms, such as hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, power outages, theft, and cyberattacks. No matter which unexpected circumstance pops up, having a business recovery and contingency plan is crucial to safeguarding your employees, business, and critical digital and physical assets. 

To provide support in the face of the unknown, we’ve developed ten surefire ways to disaster-proof your business. This list serves as a resource for businesses—a checklist of steps featuring knowledge and information applicable in real-world scenarios. 


Types of Disasters

First, you have to know your enemy. The first step to developing a business disaster recovery plan involves identifying the types of disasters that could potentially befall your company and damage your day-to-day operations. 


Natural disasters typically appear in various types of extreme weather and can range from hurricanes and tornadoes to earthquakes and mudslides. These events can have devastating effects on businesses, such as damaging buildings and infrastructure, cutting off supply chains, making it difficult for customers to reach you, compromising the lines of communication, and presenting a danger to your team of employees. 


Human-made disasters hinder business much in the same way as natural disasters. Typically involving some form of human error, these disasters include events like oil spills, gas leaks, industrial fires, some instances of wildfire, and nuclear meltdowns, along with transportation accidents. Cybercrime can also fall under the category of human-made disasters. 


Hybrid disasters occur when a human-made disaster unleashes the forces of nature, leading to occurrences of multiple natural disasters. One of the most common forms of hybrid disaster are floods and flash floods, as communities built on a known floodplain are left vulnerable due to the combined actions of man and nature. 


Disaster-Proof Your Business

The aim of developing a disaster recovery plan is to protect people, data, hardware, software, and structures. Our ten ways to disaster-proof your business covers everything from modernizing your IT, training employees in various concentrations, building a data backup and recovery program, and finally, auditing/testing your disaster recovery plan.

Again, the ultimate goal here is to make sure your employees, business assets, and valuable data remain safe and secure so that you can continue to conduct business, generate revenue, and serve customers. 


1. Implement & Test an Emergency Operations Plan

Consistent communication is key to effective disaster preparedness. If employees, customers, and partners cannot reach you during an emergency, it leads to uncertainty, confusion, and communication breakdowns.

Designate a point person to lead the communications team. This person will guide the group through what needs to be done, facilitating communications, questions, and next steps. To start, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is responsible for managing and operating the contingency plan?
  • If the building isn’t safe to enter, can employees work from home, remotely, or from another off-site location?
  • Is there an available emergency kit?
  • Is important customer data stored in the cloud or off-site?
  • Can we quickly locate insurance policies and other internal business documents?
  • How will effective post-disaster communication be delivered to employees, customers, and partners?
  • Is all employee contact information updated and accessible?


2.  Keep Lines of Communication Open

Communication is key to any disaster preparedness plan, and the collection of feedback from employees generates additional ideas and suggestions.

While we receive advanced warnings about certain weather events, such as hurricanes and blizzards, Mother Nature is often unpredictable, underscoring the need for a reliable and accessible communications plan. What’s more, chances are you will not receive any sort of warning when it comes to a cyberattack, making those open lines of communication even more crucial for the survival of your assets. 

Inform customers, partners, and stakeholders of your readiness and availability to answer any questions. This can be accomplished through phone calls, emails, press releases, and social media posts, among other forms of communication. Share if your organization is operating with reduced resources or limited hours. Add a regularly updated emergency notice to your website—this keeps employees, customers, and everyone else informed regarding repairs, restorations, and other post-disaster activities. 


3. Perform a Risk Assessment

No one wants to believe that their entire technology infrastructure can be wiped clean by a disaster, natural or otherwise. This is where risk assessment comes into play. A process to identify potential hazards and analyze what could happen if a hazard occurs, risk assessment helps you stay ahead of the curve.

To get started with a risk assessment, begin by identifying your most critical business processes, then gather information on potential threats to your organization. From there, a business impact analysis (BIA) is the process for determining the potential impacts resulting from the interruption of time-sensitive or critical business processes.

You can develop and modify your technology infrastructure backup and recovery process through the results gleaned from a risk assessment and subsequent BIA.


4. Develop Technology Infrastructure Backup & Recovery Process

The backup and recovery process concerns the process of creating and storing copies of data that can be deployed should an organization suffer data loss. Sometimes referred to as operational recovery, this process restores data to its original location—or to an alternate site—where it can be utilized in place of lost or damaged data. 

Data is lost or damaged due to hardware or software failure, data corruption, malicious attack (virus or malware), or even accidental deletion. A robust backup and recovery system allows data restoration from an earlier time before the corruption occurred. Storage typically occurs on a separate medium, such as an external drive, USB stick, disk storage system, cloud, or tape drive.  

Backup copies should be made regularly to minimize the amount of data lost during any given disaster. 


5. Review Insurance Coverage & Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Periodically review your insurance coverage, SLAs, licensing, and other essential documents to ensure you have the most updated and comprehensive coverage possible. Insurance companies assess your risks and discuss your current policy to determine coverage gaps.  

Businesses in low-lying flood zones, for example, should consider adding flood insurance. Meanwhile, purchasing additional insurance coverage that protects off-site assets, such as those held by key vendors and other stakeholders, is also a wise decision.


6. Protect Physical Assets

Making preparations in your disaster recovery plan also includes the protection of physical assets, such as hardware, office equipment, and a host of other vital devices. You can back up data, but you can’t back up physical utilities and other equipment. 

  • Protect documents and electrical equipment from leaks  
  • Move all essential devices to higher levels and away from large windows
  • Secure any heavy or fragile items
  • Flood-proof if your building is in a flood zone or prone to leaks and water damage
  • Consult an electrician to ensure wires are safe from potential water damage
  • Invest in a backup generator or other type of alternative power source


7. Train Your Employees—And Train Them Again

A solid disaster recovery plan is useless if your employees lack the training to carry out the necessary steps. Therefore, once you lock in your disaster recovery plan’s services, equipment, and processes, train your staff and hold regular emergency drills. Then, redouble your efforts and keep training employees—this keeps your emergency procedures fresh in the employees’ minds while ensuring any new recruits are brought quickly up to speed. 

Training can be as simple as fire drills. Or, for training that fits into today’s work-from-home environment, send your employees to operate from a remote site for the day, just to ensure it’s feasible and secure. 


8. Modernize Your IT Department

If your IT department is operating with outdated tools, modes of communication, and procedures, you’re leaving your business open to potential disasters. Modernizing your IT department involves implementing an official IT Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP).

An official IT DRP is a document that helps businesses react to a disaster of any sort, enabling them to prevent damages and quickly recover operations. A subset of your overall disaster recovery, IT DRP focuses on priorities like minimizing server downtime, securing databases and workstations, and bringing critical systems back online. Your IT DRP catalogs and organizes the tools and procedures necessary to make recovery a reality. 


9. Bolster Your Remote Access Capabilities 

When the COVID pandemic sent employees across all sectors home from the office, some businesses were more prepared than others to weather the storm. Those with an established remote access system could continue day-to-day operations with minimal interruption or service delay. Those that didn’t have such capabilities in place were left scrambling for a provider to deploy remote access to their distributed workforce. 

But it’s more than merely having the capability to connect your employees from home—their connection must be safe and secure. As cybercrime becomes more advanced, businesses must take certain precautions for remote access. Here’s a handful of safety measures you can take:

  • Risk Prevention. When team members don’t follow the correct procedures, remote access creates unnecessary vulnerabilities. Make your team members aware of cyber threats and how their actions can prevent cybercrime.
  • Access Rights Management. Limit access to only those who need it. This boosts your overall security and guards against the loss of sensitive data. 
  • Lock Down Credentials. Encourage team members to employ a strong password manager to keep track of passwords and enforce password updates. 
  • Two-Factor Authentication. Require users to authenticate themselves in no less than two ways. This could include requiring both a password and a one-time code via SMS. 
  • Provide Employees with Office Equipment. Send your employees home with a desktop or laptop that you provide. This enables you to put your own security measures into place rather than rely on any protections your employee might have at home. 


10. Audit Your Disaster Recovery Plan

It’s difficult to know if a disaster recovery plan will work until the time comes to put it into practice. But blindly trusting a plan without knowing it will work is not the best way to secure a business and protect employees and assets. Instead, an audit of your disaster recovery plan reveals any gaps in your planning, evaluating the plan’s people, processes, and technological components. This assesses the likelihood that the plan will effectively protect your assets in the event of a real emergency. 


Is your business or agency prepared for the next disaster? Get in touch and find out. 

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