Insurance 25 July 2017

Disaster recovery: Five steps to planning the ultimate safeguard

disaster recovery
Only six per cent of businesses that suffer a substantial data loss survive

Writing for Business Advice, Ben Norman, CEO and founder of digital marketing agency Koozai, provides readers with a five-point disaster recovery plan to ensure a small company is protected after an unthinkable loss of data.

You wake up one morning to the news that where your office once stood there is now nothing but an open expanse. It’s gone. Nothing left whatsoever. No desks, no computers, no phones, nothing.

What does that mean for you and your business?

The sad fact is that for most it’s probably the end of your business. Of course, you will probably limp along for a while, but most businesses that suffer a substantial data loss never recover.

In fact, the Gartner Group found that 43 per cent of such businesses that lost their premises were put out of business immediately and a further 51 per cent closed their doors within two years.

That leaves only six per cent of businesses that suffered a substantial data loss and survived. Not a nice statistic.

So how do you protect yourself? How do you shift the odds to your favour? Well, you make sure you have significant failovers, fallbacks, backups and redundancy in place to protect against it.

You also make sure you have a clear plan to get back up and running in a set amount of time that you are comfortable with and, most importantly, make sure that the plan has been tested.

The below five steps will give you a good base to start from with assessing, planning and implementing your disaster recovery plan.

Step one – Analyse

Look at what the scenarios are, how they could affect you and what the implications, costs and timelines would be to get back online. If the timeline is too long or you can’t test and prove it, you need to find an alternative.

For example, if your internet is constantly going down, it’s time to look for an alternative – at least if you, like us, need it every minute of the day. One way to look at this is by asking yourself what you need to keep billing; start there and work backwards.

Get your priority list before moving on to the next step. If you need more, try surveying your company and ask what the main things are that stop people performing their role. Alternatively, what could stop them?

Step two – Research

Now you know what the issues and potential threats are, start with the worst case and look at how you could eliminate it. For example, if your internet keeps going down as you have a cheap broadband line, look at how much a leased line would cost.

The costs are now much cheaper than they were and the stability it gives you is easily worth the extra cost.

Once you have all your options, weigh them up. Ask about uptime, downtime and SLAs and check customer reviews until you have a winner in each of the sections you need to improve.

Step three – Plan

Now you have your shortlist, it’s time to prioritise. Look at costs and timelines. If you can’t afford it all, start with the priority items and factor or plan the rest in on your timeline.

You should also put together your overall DRP plan. Google it: there are plenty of free templates you can use to help you put it together.

Step four – Execute or implement

This is the part where you start bringing in your new systems and technology. Some of this can take quite a while; some things just happen behind the scenes.

I have done file storage switchovers that have been done in a weekend versus CRM switches that can take months of preparation and then months to get up and operating as required.

The key is that once the system is in place, you need to make sure you test it and that it is doing what you got it for in the first place.

Step five – Test and refine

Once you have your systems and plan in place, you must ensure they stay up to date. Things change, break and stop working and if you do not keep an eye on them it’s easy to find that what you think is protecting you is actually not.

What’s more, new technology and platforms are being released all the time, meaning even more chances to upgrade and make your systems better. Not to mention broadband speeds are getting faster and cheaper, also lowering the barriers to entry.

Five things I suggest reviewing first if you are more of a digital or online company

  1. Computers

If your business is made up of people on computers, consider laptops and having a policy where they must leave the building each day with your team. This way, if anything happens to your building they have the ability to work remotely, at least with the help of a few of the below.

  1. Internet

Look at a leased line – they are cheap and the uptime is incredible.

  1. Phones

Consider a business VOIP system (hosted remotely): you can still have handsets and they work like real phones, but you can also have softphones and headsets for your laptops, meaning wherever the laptop is you have an office ready to go.

  1. File storage

Depending on your needs I would nearly always suggest cloud-based file storage. With fast broadband speeds, access is quick and they are very secure now as long as you stay with the main vendors. The bonus is they deal with version control and backups too.

  1. CRM

Again, cloud-based CRMs are the way forward for the same reasons as for file storage.

Just these five points will put you ahead of most of the businesses out there. I’m always surprised at how many firms have the latest coffee machine and every other gadget but nothing when it comes to disaster recovery planning.

Remember: the plan is pointless if you do not manage, test and update it. If you are going to be a statistic, make sure you’re in the six per cent.

Ben Norman is the CEO and founder of Koozai, a leading digital marketing agency based in the UK

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