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Does your business have a disaster recovery plan in place? If not, it’s something you need to think seriously about implementing, to make sure your business can survive and continue trading if your IT systems are damaged or destroyed by flood, fire or cyber attack.

 

A robust disaster recovery plan means a short-term problem doesn’t have to turn into a long-term nightmare (or worse). You’ll have the reassurance of knowing you can still access your data and IT resources, so that if the worst happens you can resume your business operations as soon as possible.

 

Setting up a disaster recovery plan might sound daunting. This article offers some useful information and tips to help you tackle the process step by step, and implement the right emergency planning measures for your business.

 

  1. Identify the impact that different disasters would have on your business

Start by listing and prioritising all the potential risks to your business – from loss of client and financial data after a virus attack or hardware failure, to the complete destruction of your IT infrastructure and premises by fire or storm damage.

 

Starting with the worst case scenario (total destruction), consider the levels of disruption, operational downtime and data loss that each would result in.

 

  1. Create a plan setting out what would happen in each scenario

Your plan should include:

  • An emergency response checklist setting out what needs to be done immediately after the disaster has taken place. For example, if the premises has flooded due to a burst pipe, initial action will include turning off the water, electricity and gas at the mains and contacting the local utility providers. The checklist can then go on to state the actions that should be taken to safeguard or restore your IT systems and data.
  • A list of responsible personnel who will take charge of the situation and implement the checklist, according to the nature of the disaster. Where relevant, these personnel will also be responsible for informing and liaising with other affected parties, for example, businesses occupying the same building. Don’t forget to state who will take on these responsibilities if the primary personnel are off sick or on holiday.
  • Arrangements for working elsewhere if you can’t access your premises. For example, your staff could work remotely from home, or you could arrange emergency office space with internet and phone facilities. In either case, you would need to ensure in advance that your business-critical data, IT applications and other resources can be accessed using the cloud, so that normal business operations can resume as soon as possible.
  • Realistic time frames for getting the business back up and running, including the amount of time needed to restore your data and access alternative IT systems if your hardware has been damaged or destroyed.
  • A communications plan for telling your clients and suppliers about the disaster and keeping them informed about any temporary changes to phone numbers, email addresses and so on. The plan should also note the approach to be taken if the situation means that projects need to be postponed, delayed or cancelled. This includes claiming on any Business Continuity or Professional Indemnity Insurance policies you have, if appropriate.

 

  1. Test your plan

Once you’ve drafted your plan, it’s important to try it out to make sure you’ve covered everything and your time frames for getting back to ‘business as normal’ are realistic. Getting a clear idea of how long it will take to restore your data and/or decamp to alternative premises will be invaluable when it comes to keeping your clients and suppliers informed if the worst happens.

 

Testing your plan in a safe environment also means it’s more likely to succeed, as your team will know what they need to do and will be confident that the plan will work if required.

 

  1. Invest in the right technology to protect your business

The process of creating the plan may well have flagged up a few risks to your business, such as erratic data backup processes, or outdated technology that can’t be accessed online. Now’s the time to think about how you should change your IT infrastructure and processes to make them as robust as possible, so your business stands the best possible chance of survival.

 

  1. Keep the plan up to date

As your business evolves, the IT systems you use – and how you use them – will change. Your disaster recovery plan will need to be updated to reflect these developments, so make sure you revisit it every couple of years to make sure it’s still fit for purpose. Make sure any changes are cascaded to all relevant staff members, so everyone remains up to speed.

Sample 2 page Business Continuity plan is available by clicking here