We've all seen reports of businesses losing everything due to an unexpected disaster. Whether a pipe bursts and floods an entire office or a tornado strikes and leaves a building in shambles, these stories are devastating to hear about. Still, most people seeing these stories on television, or reading about them in the newspaper or online are left with the feeling of, "that could never happen to me." Well the truth is, it can. 

The recent string of tornadoes in the south caused over $1 billion in damages to businesses and homes. In fact, according to an article published on Slate, at least 68 tornadoes were reported across 15 states during the week of December 21st. Meanwhile, the East Coast just received its first snowfall of the winter after a devastatingly cold and snowy 2014. 

For small and mid-sized business owners, this should be alarming. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster and another 25% fail within one year. This is largely do to the high cost of downtime. After hearing this statistic, it should be clear that having a solid and reliable business continuity plan in place is imperative for any SMB.

The 2011 Business Continuity Planning in Severe Weather: Advice to Businesses on Preparing for Severe Weather lays out an extensive guide on how businesses should go about ensuring that they will be able to continue to operate in the event of a disaster. Check out the image below and read on for more details on each step.



Risk Evaluation and Control

The first thing that a business should do when evaluating its risk is to identify which portions of the business are critical and necessary to achieve objectives. Lets say a doctor's office in Maine experiences a power outage due to a large snow storm. Will they be able to access the critical patient data that is stored on their servers? If the doctor's office determines that patient data is critical and necessary to maintain business operations, the server that houses that data NEEDS to be operational in order to avoid downtime for the business.

The doctor's office should continue to do this for every aspect of the business that is needed to stay operational. Once a full list is developed, your clients should continue to the next step in the process.

Business Impact Analysis

Once the list of critical business operations has been built out, the SMB needs to determine the potential risks to those critical operations. These risks should include things like severe weather, power outages, floods, etc. Research can be done to determine the amount of risk that the business is subject to depending on the area that it is located in. In the earlier example, the doctor's office was located in Maine. Since parts of Maine receive high average snowfall annually, that business would be at a higher risk of having to deal with a snow-related disaster than businesses in other areas. As such, that doctor's office should have a recovery plan in place.

Development of Business Continuity Strategies

For each determined risk, there needs to be an action plan. SMBs should work with their MSPs to establish a plan to stay up and running during each of the premeditated disaster scenarios. Is data being replicated off site so that it can be easily restored if a local server is damaged? MSPs can provide their clients with a Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR) solution that will allow their businesses to stay operational and eliminate downtime in any disaster scenario.

Emergency Response Plan

Even if an SMB is able to fully recover all of its data from an off site location, there are measures that should be taken to ensure the safety of employees and preserve as much of the physical material in the affected office as possible. Which emergency services are best to contact? Which devices/files should be removed from the location first? Having answers to these questions before a disaster strikes will make the post-disaster process a whole lot easier.

Crisis Management Plan

Businesses must also have communication plans in place following a disaster. If something happens to a small business in a small town, word is going to spread quickly. The SMB should have a plan for internal communication (how should employees be addressing the issue?), customer communications (how will the SMBs customers know that the business is still operational and that their data is safe?) and media communications (who will the business contact in order to get the most accurate information out to the masses?). Businesses should take many of these steps to ensure that a disaster doesn't land them in the middle of a PR horror story.

Business Recovery Plan

Once removed from "crisis mode," an SMB can begin to evaluate the damage that has been done. Was there any downtime? How much did that downtime cost? What is the extent of the physical damage to the office? Once these questions have been answered, a plan can be developed to start restoring the damage. The end goal is for everything to return back to normal as soon as possible.

Nobody wants to experience a disaster caused by severe weather, or any other reason for that matter. Still, due to the high rate of failure for SMBs after a disaster, there needs to be a plan in place. The goal is to keep the business alive after a disaster hits. It might not be pretty, but if a business is able to come out on the other side of a disaster with an "open" sign hanging on the door, mission accomplished.  


Want to provide complete business continuity for your clients?