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Productivity / Business plans

Nine ways to disaster proof your business

A disaster doesn't need to signal the end if you plan ahead. Here are nine tips to help you disaster proof your business.

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1. Think ahead

Identify different potential disaster scenarios and understand what each of them mean for your business. For example, what happens if a power surge takes out all your plugged in electronic equipment? What if there is a theft? What if the building catches on fire?

2. Plan to survive

To address each of the potential scenarios above (and more!) clearly document a Disaster Recovery Plan. This plan, at a minimum, should cover (1) who will be communicated to and when, (2) what steps are required to get systems and data/information back to being available and (3) how the business will operate during the disaster.

3. Keep a communications register

You need a record of all significant parties to your business; including phone companies, suppliers, clients, staff, partners, landlords and insurance companies. This register should not only include the name, phone number, email, website and address of these related parties, but also any account numbers or identifiers you will need when contacting them. Make sure this is available to you 24×7. It could be stored online or even on a USB stick attached to your keyring.

"Create an automated backup system and never store backups in the same location as where you use it."

4. Be able to financially survive the disaster

To disaster proof your business you need to take out appropriate insurance. You should have sufficient insurance to cover not just replacing your core business assets, but enough to get your business back on its feet. Also, life, total-and-permanent-disability (TPD) and income protection insurance will provide for your family if you are no longer able to. Lastly, have enough cash in the bank to survive until other means of financial support is received, such as collecting outstanding invoices or receiving an insurance payout.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business plans section.

5. Make soft copies of hard copy paperwork

Scan all important paper documents. The scanning and electronic filing of paper-based contracts, receipts and client-related documents should be completed upon receipt and factored into your regular business processes. When documents are stored electronically in a Document Management System, questions of who has it and where it is in the overall business workflow is no longer in doubt. Also, it is much easier to share these electronic copies between staff and outsource providers than it is with their hardcopy originals.

6. Have somewhere else you can work from

If your primary work location is unavailable, make sure you have alternative business premises; say at a serviced office, a partner business or even at an accommodating friend’s.

7. Don’t put all your eggs in one electronic basket

To disaster proof your business, create an automated backup system and never store backups in the same location as where you use it. If you have data stored on two hard-drives, a primary and a backup, but they are stored right next to each other; a building fire or theft will leave you no better a state than having no backups at all.

8. Have access to alternate internet connections

If your home/small office internet connection is unavailable for any length of time, have or know where you can get access to the internet (internet cafe or wireless access) to reply to email and progress critical business processes.

Keep in mind that a lot of modern 3G mobile telephones can also be connected to a PC/laptop to provide internet access.

9. Check how safe your suppliers are

Ask the questions of your service providers, how would they handle disaster scenarios? Will there be any downtimes which affect your clients directly? Is there any manual involvement required by you to get back on track? How will they contact you?

You need to be clear on both how they will survive in a disaster and how it will it impact your business.

What strategies do have in place to disaster proof your business?

Greg Pritchard

is dedicated to making your software and systems contribute to your business bottom line. He founded Dedication Group, an IT & Management Consultancy helping companies deliver on their IT Strategies.

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