Do You Have A Disaster Plan, Or Are You Winging It?

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In ordinary, everyday life, we rely on technology, especially communications.  This is not only important to individuals, but vital to your business.  There is a commonly used expression: “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”  So, the burning question is, have you prepared for the worst-case scenario for your business?

Disasters strike in various guises, and according to Murphy’s law, usually when you are least prepared.  Imagine having a fire, or a burglary and you desperately need assistance, but your communications system is down?  Or even a more everyday situation, a tree falls on your power-lines and you have no phones, and no Wi-Fi, with a really important time sensitive deal at risk?  It’s really important that you have a disaster plan to ensure that you and your staff can call for help, continue to do business, and of course not lose valuable data. 

Every business has a business plan which looks at how to grow the business under normal circumstances, but unfortunately very few have a plan for when, or if, the worst should come to be.  It’s too late to start trying to scratch a plan together when the chips are already down.  So here is a guideline on how to draw up that all-important disaster plan. 

Data Backup Plans

Whatever the nature of the disaster, communication has to be a priority, and the ability to save data ranks very high for any business.  VoIP systems are connected to a cloud, which means that in the event of power failure or a computer system crash your data will be secure, and ready to recover from any device.

If you don’t have a VoIP business telephone system with cloud storage, you need to do regular backups every day.  Unfortunately, you will be relying on people to do these backups, so there is the possibility of someone forgetting so it’s best to have one person responsible for backing up, and another responsible for ensuring that it has actually been done. Back ups can be done to an external hard drive or to cloud storage.

System Monitoring

To prevent losing data and or communications, VoIP systems offer monitoring that will detect faults in the network and monitor performance standards.  This is a great early warning system that can help you to avoid data or connectivity loss.  If you don’t have a monitoring system consider a daily survey where employees report on the quality and speed of internet connectivity and calls. 

Back up Communications

If you have a standard telephone line, consider having back-up systems such as a mobile phone with data and a Wi-Fi router.  If you have a VoIP system, it is reliant on internet connectivity for calls, so you will need a backup system for that too.  Always have a secondary communications system as internet is subject to maintenance and cables, and is not infallible. 

Plan ahead with your Service Provider

Whatever communications system you install, discuss with your service provider what issues may arise, and what recommendations they can make in terms of recovery.  This is just as important for card machine payments as it is for telephone and Wi-Fi.  It’s probably the last thing on one’s mind when installing new technology, and service providers are unlikely to be warning you of pitfalls when doing the installation.  Like getting married, you don’t do so with divorce in mind, but if you have the right marital contract in place and know how to deal with it, it will certainly make life easier when crisis hits. 

Planning beyond communications issues

While communications are the lifeline of your business, there are other issues that need to be planned for.  When drawing up your disaster plan, these are important things to consider:

Back up records

Make sure that you have back-ups of all-important documents like bank statements, tax returns and financial statements.  These should be stored on the cloud, or physically at a separate location, so that in case of fire or flood, you are not caught short.

Valuable equipment and property

Make sure that your insurance cover for both immovable and movable property is comprehensive, and keep a record of all valuables.  Include model and serial numbers and if you can, a photographic record.

Identify Key Employees

Know which positions are essential to your business, so that after a disaster you can continue with a skeleton staff if necessary.  If you are the business owner/MD, make it clear who should act in your stead if anything should happen to you.

Put emergency evacuation plans in place

Identify and clearly mark emergency exits.  Have an emergency evacuation plan in place.  This must include important responsibilities like turning off gas or electricity, where to assemble in case of emergency.  Designated first aiders, and readily available first aid supplies.  Conduct emergency evacuation drills to ensure that your staff know what to do. Ensure that firefighting equipment (hoses, extinguishers and fire blankets) is available and serviced regularly.

Update your Disaster Recovery Plan regularly, as equipment and systems change, employees come and go and even economic conditions fluctuate.  It is important that you are ready to deal with any disaster head on without wasting time floundering about what to do and who should do it.