The likelihood of something bad happening to your business is very high. That's what Vinny Troia, a certified ethical hacker, disaster recovery specialist, and founder of Night Lion Security wants every small business owner to know.
Troia believes that many business owners have fallen into a trap where they think "this can't happen to me," but disaster recovery and business continuity planning is very relevant to every small business owner.
According to Barbara Goldberg, owner of Back On Track Solutions, a disaster recovery plan is something every small business should have, but most don't. It's unfortunate because, in the face of a disaster, a small business can go out of business in an instant. She says that more than 25 percent of small businesses that close after a disaster simply don't reopen.
Even a Simple Disaster Recovery Plan Can Be Successful
In Joplin, Missouri on the afternoon of May 22, 2011, John Motazedi, CEO of SNC Squared stood in the debris field where his office building had been and surveyed the damage. For as far as he could see there wasn't a single thing left standing — including his own office building.
"After the tornado, I could do a 360 degree turn and there was nothing left standing. The tornado was so strong it blew the bark off the trees and peeled asphalt up in parking lots," said Motazedi, describing the devastation.
John Motazedi, CEO of SNC Squared, captured this post–tornado view from what had been the site of the company’s office building.
The tornado that ripped through Joplin on that day left a mile-wide path of destruction behind. News reports put the death toll at 116, making this the deadliest single tornado to have hit in nearly 60 years.
Five hours after the tornado leveled his office, Motazedi said all ten of his employees were accounted for, and the IT services company was back up and running.
Within 72 hours of coming back online, SNC Squared had all of its clients in a position to conduct business. This was critical because 90 percent of the company's clients are doctors who needed access to patient medical records in the wake of the tornado.
Motazedi said that SNC Squared was saved by the company's 10-page disaster recovery plan and the foresight to keep a data backup offsite, which was stored in the basement of Motazedi 's home at the time.
Expert Tips for Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan
Goldberg firmly believes that any small business can put together a disaster recovery plan without spending a lot of time or money -- even if it's just to get you through small events that most businesses will face at some point, like a power outage or a server crash.
Small businesses with no plan at all can make good use the resources offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). On the Ready.gov website, you have access to simple checklists and a disaster preparedness planning tool that you can tailor to meet your specific business needs. You'll also find sample exercises with walk-through scenarios to help test your plan.
If you're looking for more ideas on how to create your disaster recovery plan, the individuals interviewed for this article offer the following sound advice and best-practice tips to help small businesses get started.
Tip #1. Pull Contact Lists Together
One important task is to keep details of your major business contacts. Goldberg recommends you list contact information for all partners, vendors, insurance agents and, of course, your staff.
This proved to be an important lifeline for SNC Squared. The company kept a list of mobile phone numbers for all staff members in addition to cell numbers to contact spouses and next of kin. As part of the company's disaster recovery plan, Motazedi created a group in Exchange that would allow him to send one email to a known address in the event of a disaster.
"I was able to send one message that in turn sent a text message to everyone saying that we'd had a tornado, our offices were destroyed and that we needed everyone to check in," said Motazedi , recalling how difficult communication was following the tornado. "With one message I could communicate with all staff and significant others so we could make sure that we accounted for everyone."
Because cell towers were destroyed, text messaging was spotty, but Motazedi said it worked well enough given the severity of the situation.