How to prepare your business for a disaster

businessman standing in the rain

You may have made your business ultra-mobile with a fleet of laptops or tablets, to make sure you and your team can be responsive and productive almost anywhere. But have you prepared for how a disaster-caused outage would impact your business? If not, read on.

But new research from Symantec suggests lax backup plans mean those gadgets, which should empower your business, put it at greater risk of productivity-and-revenue drains because you skip the basic chore of backing up and planning for disasters.

Those conclusions are among the findings of the 2012 Symantec Disaster Preparedness Survey, a study released this week which surveyed 100 small and medium businesses in Australia and New Zealand, and more than 2,000 around the world.

If you’re cool with higher costs and lower cashflow that comes from disasters, or from leaving a laptop on a plane, stop reading now. If not, read on.

You’ll learn that 53 percent of tablet-owning businesses back them up less than once a year. Only 40 percent of laptop-owning businesses back up their portable computers’ hard disks once a quarter – or even less frequently.

Throw in the fact that power outages are experienced by 36 percent of businesses, 25 percent of businesses surveyed said they had experienced disruptive storms and 21 percent said floods hurt them. Overall, the typical SMB experienced five outages, each lasting three hours, in the year before the survey was conducted. The impact of those events was any entrepreneur’s nightmare: labour costs rose as employers paid for extra hours to set things to rights, but productivity and revenue fell.

Yet most small businesses reported they were poorly-prepared to handle an outage – they just don’t have plans to avert a disaster and the cash flow mess that follows. The survey found 40 percent, for example, back up their main data sources less than once a week and just 43 percent have a plan to work on another site, should their main office become unavailable. Only 45 percent have a formal plan to help recover from a disaster and then there’s your laptop or tablet, which as we mentioned earlier, are not often backed up.

Improve disaster preparedness and save costs by embracing new technologies

If you want to take action to disaster-proof your business, Symantec recommends you consider three key technologies. The three key technologies, can not only help you buy into a sound Disaster Preparedness strategy and plan, but can also save significant costs as you go through the process of implementing these technologies.

1. Virtualisation: Virtualisation involves creating versions of PCs and servers that can run on any computer, instead of being tied to a specific piece of hardware;

2. Cloud computing: “Public” cloud computing services let businesses run critical applications in a world-class data centre that is far better-protected against disasters than most small businesses could ever hope to afford. “Private” clouds see businesses make their IT less dependent on individual pieces of equipment, and can remove a need for replacements after a crisis;

3. Mobility: Laptop computers, smartphones, tablets and wireless broadband services all give a business the ability to conduct business beyond the walls of their offices. They also mean it becomes possible to resume business after an outage, instead of waiting for repairs to an office.

Disaster preparedness advice

Once you understand the three technologies mentioned above, put them to work with a four step disaster recovery plan that will help you save costs and give you peace of mind:

  1. Start planning now: Develop a disaster preparedness plan today and consider how mobility, virtualisation and cloud can help in those efforts. Start by making sure your mobile devices are backed up regularly!
  2. Implement strategic technologies: Adopt integrated cloud backup for offsite storage and disaster recovery, so you can access data from mobile devices and get back to work before your office is ready for re-occupation. Back up physical servers into “virtual machines” that can be quickly redeployed on any server, so you can overcome destruction of key computers without having to replace them with identical equipment or go through a configuration process.
  3. Protect your information: Use comprehensive security and backup solutions to protect your physical, virtual and mobile systems. You may even opt to backup to the cloud.
  4. Review and test your disaster preparedness: Don’t create a plan and then leave it in a bottom drawer to gather dust. Instead, ask your team to review and test the disaster preparedness plan every quarter.

We recommend these four steps because our survey also showed that businesses which take these steps bounce back faster from disasters and save costs in the long run.

Two-thirds of respondents who adopted virtualisation, for example, reported a positive impact on their ability to bounce back from a disaster. In addition, 30 percent said the same for use of mobile technology, while 36 percent reported the same benefit was available from cloud technologies.

The bottom line? Laptops and tablets are sensible investments to make your business more agile. But disasters do happen and even minor ones hurt your bottom line. If you spend just a little time getting disaster-ready, you’ll emerge stronger and more able to capitalise on your hard work instead of having to start again when adversity strikes.

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