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What to Know About a Business Continuity Plan and Disaster Prep

by Daniel Cohen-Dumani, Partner & Market Leader, Withum Digital, and Walter Merkas, MBA, Team Leader – Cloud Solutions

Mother Nature’s wrath can be manifested in any size, shape or form. Whether it be from hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, snowstorms, fires, or floods, the impact of a natural disaster can be immeasurable. Unfortunately, it is oftentimes only after a disaster strikes that management begins to think about a business continuity plan. The stakeholders are left thinking “what could we have done differently?”

Disaster planning has the potential to save lives and minimize the time, damage, and costs of recovery while ensuring that you are able to open for business in a timely manner after a disaster strikes. Below, we have compiled and answered a list of commonly asked questions when it comes to disaster prep, business continuity planning and business recovery.

Q: Any general best practices before and after a hurricane?

Business recovery

  • Before the hurricane
    • Assessment: Most critical aspect – you must know the information / assets that are the most critical to protect
    • Drills: As silly as they may seem, drills in which every member of your organization has a role in case of emergency can make the difference between safety and danger
    • Communication: Set up ways to communicate even if WiFi or phone lines are down
    • Finance / Legal
      • Learn policies in place that protect your business from hurricanes and how long it would take to recoup
      • Assess cash flow and debts to understand how long your company could stay in operation if it had to spend a lot to stay afloat after a hurricane
  • After the hurricane
    • Assess and communicate
      • Make sure to let everyone in the organization know how the storm has impacted the workplace, what to expect in the coming hours/days/weeks, and where they can get help if they need it
      • Make sure intranet pages to reference critical information
  • Recovery and repair
    • Once all the damages are assessed its time to create a plan of action, without panicking, to get your business back on its feet in the quickest way

Q: Any best practices/guidance  for not-for-profit organizations across the globe in the event of disasters?

A: Unfortunately,  not all not-for-profits are big enough to typically set aside a budget to draft a formal disaster recovery plan, but four necessary practices to prepare for a disaster should include:

  • If the not-for-profit is not in the cloud, consider moving to the cloud now. Most cloud providers offer special discounts for not-for-profits
  • Build a recovery team
    • Responsible for writing recovery plan, implementing processes, and managing chaos during a crisis
  • Communicate with personnel
    • Have access to contact information to spread information quickly before/during/after an emergency
    • Ensure emergency alternate work space / facility
      • There is a chance the disaster recovery lasts for days, weeks, or months
      • Make sure there is an alternate space available far enough away from the original office so that it won’t also be impacted by a disaster
  • Protect data files and paper documents
    • Data and information is critical to a not-for-profit, whether it be donor information, programming details, budgets, etc. A huge priority should be placed on protecting these documents in case of emergency
    • Make sure to constantly back up information and upload documents to the cloud

Q: What  are some best ways to make sure employees who may be at home without power can continue to connect while things are cleared up after a hurricane?

  • Look into an intranet for your company
    • Through an intranet, accessible via mobile device,  you can confirm staff safety, execute emergency protocols, distribute information, and manage response efforts
    • An intranet gives  you the ability to alert individuals of crisis, confirm their safety, and provide critical information
      • If you are worried about your employees’ safety, you can send a request they can acknowledge that they read a message sent through your company’s intranet

Q: Is a cloud-based recovery sufficient? Is cloud storage enough or is a hard drive necessary? 

It depends:

  • When is cloud-based recovery sufficient?business continuity plan
    • If your IT environment isn’t affected, a loss of data can be managed with a cloud-based recovery
    • It allows you to bring your data back into your systems to get IT functionality back on track
  • When is cloud-based recovery not sufficient?
    • If your IT environment becomes compromised, there is no where for your backed up data to go
    • To ensure continuity in the event of a disaster, it is important to set up a proper disaster response plan that involves backup servers/hard drives

Q: Since we are an offsite location from our main building, any additional tips?

  • Connectivity and redundancy is critical

Q: Suggestions for temporary relocation of office space until after recovery of business continuity?

  • Check if you are eligible for recovery assistance
    • This may help with the cost of relocating your business
    • Expenses and allowances for temporary relocations will depend on the length of relocation, project conditions, relocation area conditions, and cost
  • Consider hiring a commercial relocation management team
    • They can assist you with this process which gives you more time to focus on other critical matters during this time

Q: We have a lot of home-based businesses. How do we help them?

A: A cloud environment is a great way to start. It can be accessible from any where on any device.

Q: What is the best way for a small business to secure electronic files and programs? And databases?

A: Ultimately this depends on the volume of data and your available budget. But the most common ways for a small business to store data are:

  • Direct attached storage
    • Storage devices connected directly to PC or server
  • Network attached storage
    • Storage devices that connect directly to the network and accept multiple storage drives
  • Disaster protected storage
    • Can come in the form of DAS or NAS
    • It is built to be safe from disasters that would have easily destroyed unprotected data
  • Online storage
    • Back up data and information to a 3rd party cloud
    • Data retrieval could take a very long time if you need a full data recovery
  • 2+1 = Data Backup Best Practice
    • For critical data, businesses should make two full copies maintained on separate physical devices
    • In addition, a third copy should be kept offline, preferably at another location in the event of the main location being compromised to a disaster 

Q: Is it enough to have an outline or should we document our plans?

  • Take the proper steps before a disaster strikes so you don’t have to ask “what else could/should we have done?” after
    • This includes documenting a disaster plan, sending it to all members of your organization, performing drills to practice the plan, and communicating throughout a disaster
Are you taking the right steps to prepare your business for continuity in any type of disaster? Reach out to us to set up a complimentary assessment of your preparedness.
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