Disaster Recovery

March 9, 2009

Recently, there have been a couple articles on bMighty dealing with Disaster Recovery (Q&A with Kelly Lipp and Disaster Preparedness for Small and Midsize Companies).  Both hit on a very important theme, especially for Small Businesses.  When most companies, specifically technology related companies, develop their disaster recovery plan, or even just think about it, the first thing they include in the plan is data backup and recovery.  While this is a very important topic, as the first article points out, many companies, especially small companies, spend too much time and money on data backup and recovery and not enough thinking about business continuity in general.  Another common mistake both articles touch on is that, when creating a disaster recovery plan, most companies create the plan to protect against large scale natural disasters and forget to think about the much more likely small scale disasters.  As the second article points out, large scale natural disasters accounted for only 23% of business continuity/disaster recovery activiations reported by small businesses.

So, with those two articles in mind, what sort of things should a small business consider when creating a disaster recovery plan?  The first article gives some good pointers on this.  Some key things to consider.  First off, if you’ve spent the time to ensure your data gets backed up, be sure it is actually usable and ensure you have a place to use it or plans to aquire a place.  Having a secondary cold backup site can be expensive, but having a plan of equipment that will need to be purchased, potential locations it could be used, and the available funds to purchase the equipment.  Documentation on how the equipment needs to be setup and configured also needs to be included.

Another very important thing to keep in mind when planning for business continuity is every company’s most important asset, its employees.  Many times, in small businesses, there are a few key individuals that have a lot of knowledge.  Sometimes there are individuals that are the only person that knows how certain things work.  Planning for these people being unavailable is one of the most important things a small business can do.  Maybe you have on IT person, or a main IT person, that is the only one that knows how the network is setup and all the administrative passwords.  Maybe you have on developer that is the only one that really understands how your key applications work.  What would your business do if they were unavailable?  Maybe they have a family emergency and they are off for a month.  Maybe, God forbid, they have a heart attack or a car accident.

In many cases, mainly depending on geographic location, the scenarios described above are far more likely to affect your business than a large scale natural disaster.  Data is important, but without a few key people, sometimes that data is useless.  These sorts of scenarios are what you should really be considering when creating your disaster recovery plan.  If you do have these sort of key individuals, ensuring you take precautionary measures to minimize the impact to your business if the unfortunate does occur can mean the difference between a primarily emotional setback and a complete collapse of your business.