With the world whether turning topsy-turvy, places which previously did not have harsh weather conditions such as tornadoes, floods, earthquakes etc., are suddenly finding themselves in the middle of such natural phenomena. Prudent businesses should ensure that in the event of a disaster, disruption of production is at a minimum and it will stay in business instead of folding up. However, being prepared to stay in business, in the face of a disaster, requires planning and training of personnel as per a well thought out robust business continuity and disaster recovery plan..
Steps to be taken to stay in business after a disaster strikes
There are many crucial steps to be taken and if the business is covered from all angles, the effects of the disaster will be minimized and production can restart within the shortest possible time. Some of the steps to be taken to ensure that an entity stays in business are:
Ensure data is backed up
In the event of a disaster, one of the first problems which any business will face are power outages and servers crashing. If the data on the servers have not been backed up in real-time or at least at frequent intervals, then the effect of the disaster could be far more pronounced.
If the company has sufficient financial resources, then it should get all its important and critical data backed up on a remote server. To ensure data is backed up at regular intervals, it is important the business decides on a Recovery Point Objective (RPO). The RPO will then dictate the resources need to ensure recovery. Even small businesses should strategically plan for this by ensuring all their data is backed up at regular intervals. Even if a business cannot afford a remote data center, there are enough cloud service providers offering data backup services. The cost of such services have fallen over the years and is currently very reasonable.
Train employees to multitask
There should be a clear-cut succession plan for the top executives of the business. However, a business should also ensure that the functions of lower level critical employees too can be taken over by other employees. This will ensure that, in the event of incapacitation or death, others can fill in these roles. To take a case point, if the computer programmer, who has all the passwords in his head, dies in the disaster, then the entire IT department will get hamstrung. Therefore, the passwords should not only be known to other authorized personnel, but they also should be securely stored at remote locations.
Alternate production sites
The entire production site may be destroyed during the disaster. This makes it imperative that the business can be restarted from an alternative site. A business should explore the possibility of having a mutual understanding with a similar business to use each others facility in the event of a disaster. They can also take recourse to service providers who provide alternate facilities for a fee. A business could also have a tie-up with the hotel, convention centers etc. for use as an emergency production site. Critical staff should also be equipped to work from home.
Equip staff with the right equipment to face a disaster
One of the best business tools is the cell phone. Unfortunately, during a disaster, transmission towers get affected more often than not. Therefore, alternate means of communication, such as laptops, Blackberries or systems such as Wallace Incident Communicator etc. should be considered. There are also sites which help businesses to ‘Stay-in-Business’, by means of a program which ensures that the business is able to survive the disaster.
None of the staff should attempt to play hero. Leave the fire fighting etc. to be done by trained professionals from the emergency services. Ensure that first-aid kits are available not only on the premises but also at home and in cars. Since power outages are common during a disaster, every staff member should be instructed to have a flashlight handy. There should be survival blankets, tents, other supplies etc. available in accessible places.
Disasters will happen, but the survival of the business depends on prudent and calculated steps taken by the management beforehand.
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