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What's the likelihood that your business could withstand a disaster and continue as normal?

Disaster planning tips can be crucial to managing and maintaining a small business but it’s natural to want to keep costs to a minimum and avoid any additional time-consuming activities. However, whilst this approach may help save money over a prolonged time period, when it comes to protecting your business-critical systems in the event of a disaster, the price shouldn’t be a deciding factor.

Here are some expert tips to help get you started on your disaster planning strategy.

1) Regularly review plans

One thing that is worse than not having a plan, is having a plan that is out of date. It is dangerous for a business to rest on its laurels, knowing that three years ago it developed a business continuity plan. People may leave, information becomes out of date and ultimately the plan becomes useless and the customer is lulled into a false sense of security. It is important that businesses carry out regular health check exercises to ensure that the plan works and if not, any updates that need to be made are actioned.

2) Buy for business

Small business owners often start out by purchasing cost-effective IT equipment that is similar to the services that they use in their personal lives. However, investing in business-grade products instead of residential-focussed ones allows SMBs to benefit from enhanced levels of service.

3) Backup off-site

The traditional approach of backing up data on site is far from infallible due to the risks of a fire in your workplace. Even if you store your IT backups in an on-site fire safe, the fire services will most likely stop you from entering a building to retrieve them for a number of hours or even days. Storing backups off-site will ensure your employees still have access to important data and business can continue as normal.

4) Backup and back up again

Don’t just take one backup; instead, have multiple generations of off-site backups. If you discover a computer virus started a week ago or you accidentally delete a piece of critical data, your backup would be affected too. To reduce storage space required, you can arrange for any backups to be staged. For example, you can keep seven days of daily backups, then three more end-of-week backups, and then 11 more monthly backups.

5) Keep in touch

One of the biggest challenges that businesses face when a disaster strikes is being able to communicate with both suppliers and, most importantly, customers. Arrange a call divert service in advance to ensure any calls will be diverted to another phone (usually a mobile) in the event of a disaster. This will mean you never miss a call and, best of all, your customers won’t notice any difference.

6) Think security

As hacking becomes more prevalent in the digital age, IT security must be placed at the forefront of any disaster planning strategy. Purchase and install anti-virus and threat detection software to help protect devices that are taken outside of the office, and ensure staff use business equipment solely for work purposes. It’s also worth getting a specialist company to dispose of old devices because deleted Windows files, for example, can actually be reconstructed.

7) Provide your staff with the right tools

If your office was destroyed, do your staff have any alternative working arrangements? Some businesses may have the luxury of operating from another site, but others may have to look at their remote working capabilities. If it’s the latter, make sure staff have the equipment needed to be able to do their job from home.

8) Consider the reliability of others

Business continuity isn’t just about looking after yourself; losing a key supplier can also seriously harm your company. Consider whether there is any possibility of spreading your suppliers so you aren’t left struggling should one of them experience a disaster. It’s also worth speaking with suppliers to learn what they’re doing to protect themselves, you might even pick up some tips yourself.

9) Protect your goods

As well as spreading your suppliers, you also need to think about spreading your on-site risks. Stock, for example, should be stored in multiple secure offsite locations in case of a fire or flooding. In regards to data, consider moving your IT system into a cloud environment.

10) Location, location, location

Consider the risks of where your business is located. If possible, consider moving your company to a new or newly-developed area/business park. These will often have reduced risks compared to a facility, for example, positioned next to a river that is renowned for flooding.

Using the above tips as starting points, you should be able to start creating your own business continuity/disaster recovery plan. It will need to include a list of tasks you need to do to keep your company running, such as changing delivery addresses, and copies of customer contact details. Finally, make sure someone has a copy of the plan at all times and a second version is stored at an accessible, off-site location.

Remember: for every day that you operate without a plan in place, you’re rolling the proverbial dice and risk losing everything you have worked for. So, don’t wait to create and implement your disaster plan, act now before it’s too late.