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Preparing Your Business for an Emergency

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Natural disasters, technical faults, human error—these are just a few factors that leave your IT systems vulnerable to failure. To ensure incidents like these don’t catch you off guard or put your team offline, emergency planning is a must.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that 40% of companies go out of business after a disaster. Consider that alongside insurance company Nationwide’s report that 68% of small businesses surveyed do not have a written disaster recovery plan in place, and almost half of those respondents would take as long as three months to recover.

For small businesses, this means the ability to survive, much less thrive, is nearly out of reach should an emergency strike. Planning for emergencies can be the difference between getting your business back on the road to recovery or being forced to close for good.

To prevent the worst, put an emergency plan in place today and ensure your staff members know their role in a crisis scenario. A contingency plan will also provide a roadmap that enables your business to bounce back, or at least significantly hasten its recovery. Here, we’ll discuss the crucial steps you must take to create an effective IT emergency plan.

Understand your vulnerabilities

Step one is to carry out a detailed audit of your organization’s most obvious vulnerabilities, as well as the assets most important to your business’ survival. Start with the IT department to get their important insights into those vulnerabilities, and then begin gathering information from the rest of your team. It’s important to incorporate input from across your organization so you are aligned on what your most crucial assets are. Once complete, you can turn to working on creating an IT emergency plan around the biggest vulnerabilities.

Identify potential risks 

Once you understand the risks, you will be able to defend against them. Aside from the most obvious ones like security breaches, malware, ransomware, or viruses, think about all potential risks that could threaten your organization.

For example, don’t overlook natural disasters, severe winter storms, and other emergencies that could impact your business’ ability to function. It only takes one fire to put you out of commission (and statistics show that 70% of businesses fail after a fire). You can’t afford to be unprepared for scenarios like this.

Create a list of potential risks and consider how these events may impact the business. What steps can you take to mitigate these risks? For a fuller discussion on the measures you can introduce to protect your business from common risks, consult supportive subject-matter experts.

Create an inventory of equipment

Think ahead to what you’ll need to do in the hours and days following an emergency scenario — filing an insurance claim is high on that list. Create a detailed inventory of equipment, software, hardware, and other vital office equipment so you can recoup your losses. Do this while things are going well so you can take your time and capture every item, serial & model number, and cost. Take photos and file them safely alongside price tags or receipts. With your organization’s inventory records safely stowed away, you’re one step closer to a swift recovery in the event of an emergency.

Back up your data 

Data loss is a common but potentially devastating crisis for businesses. Hardware failures, hacks, technical issues, or human error are all potential culprits. It’s also one of the most preventable disasters, so save yourself some stress and ensure all data is securely backed up.

Many organizations are choosing to back up their data off site in case of damage incurred on site. You can accomplish this by using cloud, network-attached, or direct-attached storage. Alternatively, you can use an off-site commercial storage provider. It is also advisable to store back-up data in more than one format/location for extra protection.

A successful backup and disaster recovery strategy means first determining the critical areas to back up. From there, you can then start thinking about the best way to introduce backup procedures and frequency.

To find out more about backing up essential data and recovering from an emergency, talk to the subject-matter experts on Experts Exchange.

Back up your hardware and software 

Emergency planning should also cover IT equipment such as servers, computer networking, storage devices, wireless connections, and any laptops or desktops used in the business. For software, it’s a good idea to keep copies of the original installation discs so you can reinstall it in the event of a disaster.

To begin your back-up plan, determine which items are the most critical to running your organization and focus on these first. Get input from your IT team to assemble a detailed overview of the most essential components of your hardware and software.

Determine roles and draw up an action plan 

A good back-up plan should cover which individuals are responsible for which tasks, and when. This includes everything from the initial declaration of a disaster to roles and tasks in the ensuing recovery steps. Ensure your plan thoroughly outlines these points and run it by your team. Everyone should be confident in their roles. Your plan should include preventative checklists, so make sure those are assigned and schedule reviews to ensure your team is keeping up with them.

Additionally, have a detailed action plan in place. Everyone on your team should know what steps to take. As your business circumstances change and new equipment is introduced, revise the plan and keep it up to date.

For advice on how to draw up an action plan, discuss your individual needs with trusted security experts.

Check that the backup plan works 

A recent report found that more than half of the organizations surveyed check their backup plans once a year, while others do not check them at all. Businesses cite the task’s time-consuming nature as one of the top reasons for not reviewing them at regular intervals. However, missing this vital step could mean the difference between getting back to business after data loss or not recovering at all.

To test whether your plan works, introduce simulations to identify any potential problem areas, back up your critical data, and test how long your plan takes to implement. Do this for all areas of your back-up plan, including IT systems and networking, to cover your bases. A back-up plan is no good if it doesn’t actually work.

Your training plan should be adapted as your organization changes, such as when you introduce new staff or when new technology is adopted. Staff should know how to spot the early signs of a potential emergency and have a clear plan on what they should do to help mitigate disaster.

Conclusion 

There are numerous potential threats to your business’ data such as technical issues, hacks, and viruses. IT systems and networks can crash without warning, leaving your business unable to continue. However, your organization can reduce the risk of data loss and recover when there are strong, well-rehearsed procedures and a comprehensive emergency plan in place. To learn more about protecting your IT systems, data, and networks, sign up for expert advice today.



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