Every business should have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. Unfortunately, because the idea of developing one can seem time-consuming and tedious, many entrepreneurs choose to go without one. Although it’s always best to have a complete plan, it’s better to have a few crucial pieces than nothing at all. So even if you can’t do everything, do something.

That’s what Len Oppenheimer, chief executive of the Golden Box, a provider of custom packaging to companies in the tristate area around New York City, did — just before a power surge in his office blew out a primary server. “We had started doing online backups literally three days before the server went down,” Mr. Oppenheimer said. “If we hadn’t had that safety net in place, I hate to even think about where we’d be right now.”

This guide is intended to simplify the disaster-recovery planning process by breaking the overall task into building blocks, covering major areas like data, communication and people. Use it as a starting point and adjust it to fit your own needs.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of developing a disaster-recovery plan on your own, hire an expert. Investing a few dollars now can save money — or even your entire business — down the road. “After 9/11 we knew we needed a D.R. plan for the business,” said Karin Ajmani, chief executive of U.S. Imaging Network. “We didn’t know where to begin, so I outsourced. We ended up with a really solid plan that everyone in the company is comfortable with. Fortunately, we haven’t needed it yet, but I definitely sleep better now.”

Whatever you do, don’t wait.


The most common business disaster is data loss, which can result from a number of causes including human error, hardware failure, natural disaster and theft. Fortunately, data loss is easy to recover from if you have a backup solution in place. To make sure you get the right solution for your business’s needs, follow these steps:

1. Familiarize yourself with your data. Know what you have, where it is and what is most important. If you walked into your office tomorrow and your data were gone, what would you miss the most?

2. Consider backup options. Your backup must be offsite, secure and available for recovery 24/7. One popular option that meets the above criteria, with the added benefit of ease of use and automation, is online backup. Other options include tape or backup to external media.

3. If you have chosen to outsource your backup needs, make sure that you choose a provider that offers security, monitoring and support.

4. Decide who will be responsible for either managing backups internally or working with your selected provider to get your backup solution carried out.

5. Do a run-through of the recovery process. Backup is nothing without recovery, so be sure that you are familiar with the recovery process and confident that it works smoothly. Your provider should be happy to walk you through a test-recovery procedure.

6. Review your data regularly to be sure you’re backing up everything you need. For example, if you add a new server in your office, your backups should reflect this addition. This should be done every other quarter if not once a quarter.

Contact and Communication

All the contact information and communication methods that you take for granted could be inaccessible in an emergency. Just ask Peter Laughter, chief executive of Wall Street Services, a temporary staffing and consulting firm servicing financial clients. He had to evacuate his downtown office on 9/11. “We had the foresight to have printouts of customer and employee contact information,” he said — but there was no way for his clients to reach his employees.

Michael Adams, the director of information technology at Bush Ross, a law firm in Tampa, Fla., had a similar problem. During Hurricane Charlie, the firm’s T1 phone lines were down for 24 hours. “Our lawyers’ clients and the courts had no way of reaching them by phone, since they never gave out their cellphone numbers,” Mr. Adams said. “It was extremely stressful.”

The firm has since put a disaster-recovery plan in place for phone and fax lines. As part of your own planning, you should create backup contact lists and set up alternative methods of communication:

1. Decide on intercompany communication methods to be used if you cannot enter your office. Options include cellphones, instant messaging, Skype and a Web-based e-mail service like Gmail or Yahoo.

2. Make arrangements for incoming communications (how clients and others will reach you). Consider using a VoIP system like Grasshopper or Vonage, which let you forward your office lines to other numbers. Companies with 10 or more users might want to look into a more sophisticated hosted VoIP system like M5 .

3. Create contact lists so that you aren’t stuck without critical information when you lack access to your servers. Upload documents to an online location so that they are accessible from anywhere. There are secure online document storage sites for documents, like vSafe from Wells Fargo Bank or lockyourdocs.com, which is — full disclosure — part of my company.


For your plan to work, you need to prepare your employees so that they understand where to go and what to do if something happens:

1. Identify critical functions like setting up communication methods, drafting e-mail messages, contacting clients and vendors and handling insurance.

2. Decide who will be responsible for your critical functions.

3. Designate a location where everyone in your office will meet if you need to evacuate.

4. Designate an alternative working location (or locations), whether it be another office space you can use, or everyone working from home.

5. When your plan is complete, distribute it to every employee. Consider uploading a copy to an online location accessible to all employees at all times.

6. Review your plan with your employees regularly.

At some point your business is going to face an emergency situation, it’s just a matter of what type, what magnitude and when. The best preparation for any situation you may face is to have a well-thought-out plan in place and to educate your team on its elements.

[via The New York Times] by Jennifer Walzer[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]