If you’re a small business owner who thinks that planning for disaster recovery is for the big corporations, think again! Research from U.S.A and U.K. shows those disasters causing disruptions of operations for ten days or more or a total loss of data result in less than 10% of small businesses actually surviving. Some limp on, sometimes even for up to two years, but their full recovery after a disaster is rare.
Tellingly, most of the few businesses to survive and recover from a disaster have had disaster recovery plans in place. This is why getting your team together and spending the time and energy on a disaster recovery plan is worth the effort.
Disasters come unexpectedly in different shapes and sizes. Natural disasters occurring in specific geographical areas can be easier to anticipate. You will know if you are operating in a region historically vulnerable to earthquakes, floods and storms. However, over the recent years, we’ve seen climate change in action and it is delivering some surprises.
Since the wake-up call of September 11 in 2001, there is heightened awareness that no place, person or business can be considered immune to the increasing vagaries of terrorism. Your business doesn’t have to be a target; it can just be in the unfortunate neighbourhood.
You also don’t have to be a bank nowadays to be the target of cyber crime, which is exponentially on the rise, creating disaster after disaster for businesses, governments and citizens.
None of these threats are too high-flying to impact on a small business, but more mundane occurrences can still spell a disaster that disrupts your business for more than ten days, and beyond. Consider:
- Your premises can be destroyed despite security, fire alarms and insurance
- An irate employee can delete or sell the business’s electronic data
- A top employee may be diagnosed with a fatal illness or be killed in a car accident
- Your rare talent can set up shop opposite you and take half your customers with them
- Your exclusive supplier’s operations may fail during a natural disaster in their country
- Your insurance or financial services provider may be go under
- An outage of power can cause permanent failures to critical equipment
These scenarios may present potential disasters for your business. If you have a plan in place, you could recover from the impact.
A disaster recovery plan clearly identifies your business’s potential vulnerabilities and then details the resources and actions that will enable you to keep trading afterwards.
Keeping your business going is the primary challenge. Most small businesses need to bring in cash on a daily basis, and so time is of the essence. A plan that unfolds over weeks and weeks won’t help you. Your solutions need to result in trading and getting revenue coming in as soon as possible
Templates for disaster recovery plans are readily available. But these tend to be generic and can only provide outlines to develop your own, customised version. As each business is unique with its particular vulnerabilities and capacities, a ‘one size fits all’ disaster recovery plan may very well actually disadvantage you.
Teamwork generally brings forth the best results. It helps to get relevant input into the answers to questions such as:
- What disasters can happen to us?
- Which functions are critical to maintain in the face of disaster?
- Which people need to be involved?
- What and who can maintain our operations if these functions and people are compromised by the disaster
- How can we achieve this?
- Who will manage our disaster recovery process?
- How will we fund the expenses?
Once formulated, a business’s disaster recovery plan needs to be communicated to staff, supporting consultants and key stakeholders.
Your disaster recovery plan should also be regularly reviewed and examined for its effectiveness over time. Some owners may be tempted to keep the plan ‘under wraps’ for fear of revealing vulnerabilities of the business. In fact, the disaster recovery plan should be transparent and presented in the context of your commitment to keep the business going and your people employed, no matter what.