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Learning Center Experience
By Ellen Raineri, PhD
Published July 2016
on owning a small business! You may have mastered your craft and built up your
practice with some excellent support staff such as administrative, IT, HR,
accounting, marketing, and sales. If your firm is a success, then you even have
customers that generate profit. However, what if a disaster such as a flood, hurricane,
or cyber-attack occurred? Do you have the proper mechanisms in place to recover
from such a disaster? Even if disaster recovery was not a topic of your
business plan, it is not too late to develop your strategies now!
57% of small businesses have not developed disaster recovery plans (Johnson,
2015). Even if small businesses do not have the money to hire an external firm
to create a plan, they can create their own. Business owners can begin by analyzing
the types of risk that can occur for their company, the likelihood of each occurrence,
and the critical systems/data that could be impacted. This analysis will then
help determine an allocated budget for disaster recovery.
savings, business owners can search for free disaster recovery plan templates.
Some common content areas include key personnel contact information, insurance
information, media contacts, vendor contacts (i.e. computer hardware, plumbing,
HVAC), key customer contacts, and financial information. Step-by-step
instructions for addressing high probability disasters should be included.
Last, an appendix of supplemental information may be beneficial such as floor
plans, insurance policies, and technology service level agreements (SLAs).
It will be
important to identify critical hardcopy or electronic data for financials,
customers, insurances, vendors, or employees. On a continuous basis, make
copies of (or mirror) your data and store in an offsite location that would not
be impacted by the same disaster and that can easily be accessed. Unfortunately,
in a study of 94% of small businesses that made backups of financial data, only
25% of them used off-site storage (Johnson, 2015). Small businesses can easily
scan their data and store in a cloud environment such as Google Drive or Amazon,
which can be an inexpensive and easily accessed. Alternately, small businesses
can store hard copy reports, magnetic tapes, DVDs, or flash drives off site.
If an organization
stores physical information at a secondary site or backup information in the
cloud or on an external device, it must consider security. The stored physical
information is at risk from theft, accidents, or a natural disaster.
Accordingly, to protect physical security, an organization needs to plan for things
like door/window security, and personnel access. Also, owners should be
cautions of drop ceilings and raised floors where intruders can gain access to
compromise physical security. The back-up electronic information may be at risk
to a cyber-attack (on an organization’s system or a cloud provider’s multitenancy
an organization would need to implement adequate security measures such as an
IDS, IPS, honey pots, antivirus software, network segmentations, firewalls,
vulnerability assessments, and user education. If using a cloud provider, an
organization should ask its cloud provider about the type of network security
or disaster recovery initiatives that it has implemented.
Once the plan
has been developed, it must be maintained. According to one report, 90% of the
small businesses with plans invest fewer than 8 hours a month in plan
maintenance (Johnson, 2015). To address maintenance, small businesses can
establish a cross-functional team that drives maintenance and awareness
initiatives. The team can host brown bag lunches to initially discuss the
concept of disaster recovery plans, as well as trends. When there are changes
in applicable regulations (i.e. HIPAA), purchases of new equipment, or changes
in company direction, the team should evaluate the content of the plan.
team can invite risk assessments of the plan. If the cost of an external firm
to conduct the risk assessment is a barrier, the team can invite employees to
critique the plan or even another trusted organization to critique the plan.
Last, disaster recovery training of personnel should be done initially and
throughout the year.
As part of
disaster recovery, some organizations explore alternative sites to run their
businesses after a disaster has occurred. Hot sites are most expensive, as they
contain duplicated hardware and processing systems; updates are current. A cold
site is least expensive because it may simply consist of space, phone lines,
and furniture. Warm sites are in between with pricing and functionality.
Organizations need to consider costs as well as the acceptable delayed operational
small businesses, cost is a major concern so a cold site may be their only
option. If so, the small business can contact a leasing firm for pricing.
Alternatively, a small business can explore other creative avenues that mirror
a formal cold site such as striking an agreement with a trusted small business
peer who will agree to make its conference room and vacant office available if
a disaster occurred.
(2015, February 5). How natural disasters terrorize the business world
in one infographic. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/natural-disasters-and-business-infographic-2015-2
Ellen Raineri, PhD, is a
faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are
solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
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