Did you know that 46% of businesses who experience a fire, flood or other type of major disaster will never re-open? That’s quite a sobering thought: the odds of your business recovering from a major event like this are essentially 1 in 2. The real tragedy here is that most of the companies who didn’t make it through a crisis could have survived with the right planning and preparation.

We have good backups. Isn’t that sufficient?

By far the most common disaster scenario is equipment failure, so having good backups of your critical applications and data is certainly an important first step. Unfortunately, backups alone won’t help much if the equipment that runs your applications is destroyed or inaccessible. How long will it take to provision replacement equipment, and what happens to your business in the meantime? Furthermore, if backups are stored in the same area as your production systems, as opposed to a safe off-site location, there’s a significant risk of losing these, too.

People, Process and Infrastructure

Most businesses carry insurance to cover losses related to building and equipment damage, but many fail to plan for the operational challenges of getting things back up and running after the dust has settled. A solid disaster recovery and business continuity plan needs to re-align your people, processes and infrastructure quickly after an incident. The specific steps required to make this happen will vary considerably and depend on many different factors, including the kind of business you’re in and the types of risks you are likely to face. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How will we continue to deliver goods and/or services to our customers?
  • How will we replace damaged inventory or production equipment?
  • How will we get financial and other supporting systems back up and running?
  • How will we make payroll in a timely fashion?
  • What steps will be required to re-establish communications (phones, email)?
  • What are the people and infrastructure dependencies for critical business processes?
  • How will we cope with the possibility that some of our staff may be unable or unwilling to perform their duties?

When is a plan not a plan?

In order for any disaster recovery and business continuity plan to be effective, it needs to be battle ready. This means ensuring that your team is aware of the plan itself, and where to find it in an emergency. It also means reviewing the plan on a regular basis (annually, at a minimum) and readjusting various components to reflect any changes in your people, processes or infrastructure.

The Right Plan

A disaster recovery and business continuity plan can be very simple, or extremely complex. Right-sizing a plan for your organization requires a thorough analysis of the risks, and the potential costs associated with their manifestation. Some risks might be safe to ignore altogether. Others may be too costly to mitigate entirely, requiring some middle ground. With the right planning and preparation, you can ensure that your business doesn’t become another statistic.

This article was originally submitted to the Windsor Essex Chamber of Commerce Newsletter by Adam Davis who is the President and CEO of Next Dimension, a Windsor Ontario based IT Services Organization with offices in Windsor, London, and Waterloo.