20 Mar 2014

The 10 Disaster Planning Essentials For A Small To Medium-Sized Business’s Network

Wams, Inc.Articles  

With all of the recent natural disasters happening recently, it is only appropriate to take a good look at your firm’s disaster plan to make sure you are prepared. If your data is important to your firm, and you cannot afford to have your business operations halted for hours, days, or even weeks due to data loss or corruption, then read on.

A disaster can happen at any time on any day and is likely to occur at the most inconvenient time – after all, it’s Murphy’s Law! A disaster is a sudden, unplanned event that creates an inability for a company to provide critical business functions for an undetermined period of time resulting in great damage or loss to that organization. Disasters can be widespread and severe, such as a fire, flood or earthquake, or more limited in the form of a server failure, virus attack or inadvertent deletion of data.

But no matter how it is caused, a loss of data (or access to data for any period of time) inevitably means a loss of revenue, a loss of productivity, a loss of reputation, and increased costs to the business. If you aren’t already prepared, you run the risk of having the disaster come before you have in place a plan to handle it.

All The Experts Agree:

“A Company that experiences a computer outage lasting more than 10 days will never fully recover financially.  50 percent will be out of business within five years.

An estimated 25% of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster.

70% of small firms that experience a major data loss go out of business within a year.

Of companies experiencing catastrophic data loss:

  • 43% of companies never reopened
  • 51% of companies closed within 2 years
  • 80% of companies that do not recover from a disaster within 1 month are likely to go out of business.
  • 75% of companies without business continuity plans fail within 3 years of a disaster.
  • Companies that are not able to resume operations within 10 days (of a disaster hit) are not likely to survive.
  • Of those businesses that experience a disaster and have no emergency plan, 43% never reopen; of those that do reopen, only 29%are still operating 2 years later.

Are You Prepared?

This all might seem so obvious, yet it is hard to conceive of any business that does not frequently back up its critical information onsite in addition to storing a copy offsite that is readily accessible in the aftermath of an unexpected event.  Disasters can be averted with some foresight and planning.  This article outlines 10 points you should have in place to make sure your business could be back up and running again in the event of a disaster.

  1. Have a written plan.  As simple as it may sound, just thinking through in ADVANCE what needs to happen if your server crashes or a natural disaster wipes out your office, will go a long way in getting it back fast.  At a minimum, the plan should contain details on what disaster could happen and a step-by-step process of what to do, who should do it and how.  Also include contact information for various service providers and username and password information for various services and key web sites.  Writing this plan will also allow you to think about what you need to budget for backup, maintenance and disaster recovery.  If you can’t afford to have your network down for more than a few hours, then you need a plan that can get you back up and running within that time frame.  You may want the ability to virtualize your server(s), allowing the office to run off of the virtualized server while the primary server is repaired.  If you can afford to be down for a couple of days, there are other solutions.  Once written, print out a copy and store it in a fireproof safe, an offsite copy (at your home) and a copy with your IT consultant.
  2. Hire a trusted professional to help you.  Trying to recover your data after a disaster without professional help is business suicide; one misstep during the recovery process can result in forever losing your data or result in weeks of downtime.  Make sure you work with someone who has experience in both setting up business contingency plans (so you have a good framework from which you CAN restore your network) and experience in data recovery.
  3. Have a communications plan.  If something should happen where employees couldn’t access your office, e-mail or use the phones, how should they communicate with you?  Make sure your plan includes this information including MULTIPLE communications methods using different forms of communication.
  4. Automate your backups.  If backing up your data depends on a human being doing something, it is flawed.  The #1 cause of data loss is human error (people not swapping out tapes properly, someone not setting up the backup to run properly, etc.).  ALWAYS automate your backups so they run like clockwork.  And, be sure to check that your backup successfully completed on a daily basis.
  5. Have an offsite backup of your data.  Always, always, always maintain a very recent copy of your data off site, on a different server, or on a storage device. Onsite backups are good, but they won’t help you if they get stolen, flooded, burned or hacked along with your server.
  6. Have remote access and management of your network.  Not only will this allow you and your staff to keep working if you can’t go into your office, but you’ll love the convenience it offers. Plus, your IT staff or an IT consultant should be able to access your network remotely in the event of an emergency or for routine maintenance.  Make sure they can.
  7. Image your server.  Having a copy of your data offsite is good, but keep in mind that all that information has to be RESTORED someplace to be of any use. If you don’t have all the software installation media and licenses, it could take days to reinstate your applications (like Microsoft Office, database, accounting software, etc.) even though your data may be readily available.  Imaging your server is similar to making an exact replica; that replica can then be directly copied to another server saving an enormous amount of time and money in getting your network back.  Best of all, you don’t have to worry about losing your server configurations.  To find out more about this type of backup, ask us for more details.
  8. Network documentation.  Network documentation is simply a blueprint of the software, data, systems and hardware you have in your company’s network.  The documentation ideally will contain IP address info and also the account information and password to your Internet Service Provider.  Your IT manager or IT consultant should put this together for you. This will make the job of restoring your network faster, easier AND cheaper. It also speeds up the process of everyday repairs on your network since the technicians don’t have to spend time figuring out where things are located and how they are configured. And finally, should disaster strike, you have documentation for insurance claims of exactly what you lost. Again, have your IT consultant document this and keep a printed copy with your disaster recovery plan.
  9. Maintain your system.  One of the most important ways to avoid disaster is by maintaining the security of your network. While fires, floods, theft and natural disasters are certainly a threat, you are much more likely to experience downtime and data loss due to a virus, worm, hacker attack or server failure. That’s why it’s critical to keep your network patched, secure and up-to-date. Additionally, monitor hardware for deterioration and software for corruption.  This is another overlooked threat that can wipe you out.  Make sure you replace or repair aging software or hardware to avoid this problem.
  10. Test, test, test! A study conducted in October 2007 by Forrester Research and the Disaster Recovery Journal found that 50 percent of companies test their disaster recovery plan just once a year, while 14 percent never test. If you are going to go through the trouble of setting up a plan, then at least hire an IT consultant to run a test once a month to make sure your backups are working and your system is secure. After all, the worst time to test your parachute is AFTER you’ve jumped out of the plane.