The month of September is a lot of things to a lot of people. To kids (and their parents) it marks the return to school after a long summer break. For the shutterbugs, it is the beginning of one of the most beautiful (and photographic) seasons as the foliage begins to change colour. For Red Sox fans it marks the soon-to-be wrap up of another (hopefully successful) baseball season. And for all, it is National Preparedness Month, an observance that draws attention to the need for Americans to proactively prepare (with IT solutions and non-IT solutions) for the diverse suite of disasters and emergencies that could strike at any time.
If there is any remaining doubt about the true potential for disaster, let’s just take a quick stroll down the memory lane known as 2020:
- Leading the charge is, of course, COVID-19, the first global pandemic to hit in a century, and one that has infected over 200 million and killed over 4 million (and counting) to date;
- The Australian wildfires that kicked off 2020 and destroyed over 5,900 buildings; and
- Let’s not forget the $22-billion climate disasters that hit the United States in 2020, including Hurricane Laura, the Midwest Derochoes, and the record-breaking U.S. Western wildfires.
If nothing else, the last couple of years should give people (and businesses) a heightened appreciation for the tremendous damage that disaster can dole out.
From a business perspective, business owners have a due diligence and an obligation to take disaster planning seriously. Disasters don’t care if your business is big or small; businesses of all sizes are at serious risk and need to be proactive. Make this September the month you take a serious look at your business continuity planning and make sure it will take you, your organization, your employees, and your customers through another year like 2020 as unscathed as possible.
WHAT TOOLS NEED TO BE IN YOUR DISASTER PLANNING TOOLKIT?
The business case for disaster and business continuity planning is solid. Downtime is expensive, costing small businesses, on average, $8,000 per hour, and medium-sized businesses $74,000 per hour. When you consider that the average time it takes to contain a breach is 280 days, the dollars start to really add up. Despite that, only 54% of organizations have a disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place.
Back-up planning is the process of creating copies (we recommend 3) of your data that can be restored in an emergency. Back-up planning is key to regaining access to the information needed in order to resume operations in a timely manner, post-crisis.
There are a variety of ways to back up your data, including:
- Software solutions: back-up software which allows for greater flexibility when it comes to managing your backups
- Cloud-based back-up services: this is where more and more companies are moving their back-up processes, having their data saved remotely in a public or private cloud
- Removable media: USB flash drives, CDs, DVDs all fall under this category
- Redundancy: an additional hard drive that is a replica of your system
- External hard drive: this involves the use of archival software to save to a high-volume external hard drive
Doing proper backups is only half the battle though. Disaster planning also needs to account for the steps required to restore the data as needed to resume operations. If you do not have a clear idea of how you will reconstruct your data from your backups, you have not yet completed your back-up plan. Data recovery provides a viable copy of the data to replace lost or corrupted files.
Disaster recovery, by contrast, is the plan and processes for getting back up and running as efficiently, quickly, and safely as possible. While back-up planning is a critical piece of the disaster planning process, it is not the only piece, although many organizations mistakenly think that it is. Disaster recovery planning should include an audit of your business insurance to specifically identify the following:
- Does your insurance cover loss of data?
- What coverage exists for loss of employee productivity time?
- What kind of financial support is available for resources to get back up and running as expediently as possible?
When a crisis hits, it affects your employees, customers, suppliers, and even, potentially, the broader community. Disaster planning needs to include the identification of a crisis communications team that is responsible for gathering information, developing and disseminating key messages, and working with the media. An emergency communication plan is crucial for the health and well-being of your employees, and it is essential to keeping your customers in the loop.
MAKE A DISASTER RECOVERY CHECKLIST…AND CHECK IT TWICE
Who doesn’t love a good checklist? While a proper DRP needs to be customized based on your organization’s unique operations and requirements, all DRPs should include, at a minimum, the following:
- A complete inventory of all hardware, software, and applications
- Identification of key personnel, everyone from C-suite executives to IT employees to third-party vendors
- Procedural guidelines that outline strategies and procedures for post-disaster recovery efforts for all areas of the business
- Recovery time objectives (which refers to the amount of time needed to recover all applications)
- Recovery point objectives (which refers to how far back you will need to go, file-wise, for normal operations to resume)
- Crisis communications overview, identifying with whom and how you will communicate when disaster strikes
And then test that plan out with your IT support. Annually. And adjust as needed.
AT THE TOP OF THE LIST? THE RIGHT MANAGED SERVICES PROVIDER (MSP)
With disaster seemingly lurking around every corner, business continuity planning is a must-have, albeit a daunting must-have. That’s where the right IT management MSP partner comes in. They will be up to date on all the latest threats, trends, and best practices. They have been there (and done that) disaster-wise. They are experts in the business of keeping companies cyber-safe…just like you are an expert in your business.
Secure Networks is an expert in managed IT services, technology consulting, business continuity planning, IT support, and cybersecurity. And we’re committed to seeing you through National Preparedness Month (and beyond) unscathed. We take the time to truly understand your organization’s unique risk factors and how we can best mitigate those risks. Schedule your complimentary back-up and DRP review today and kick your fall off with some much-needed peace of mind.