Hurricane season doesn’t end until November 30th, which means your business is still at risk for data loss, facility damages, downtime, and the many other inconveniences that accompany a natural disaster. Your organization should do a thorough examination of its processes and data to develop a Business Continuity Plan that can support operations when a disaster occurs.

How will your employees continue working if your worksite is inaccessible?

If working remotely, how will they access the information and applications they need to do their jobs?

These are only a few of the questions your organization needs to ask to assess its ability to maintain functions in the event of a hurricane. The sections below outline a few steps your company should take to prepare for the unexpected.

Business Impact Analysis: Understand how a hurricane will affect your business

Your business is unique and so are the ways you use your data and technology. If an attorney cannot access their case files in the event of a disaster, they’re losing money, time, and credibility. Thus, companies today must be prepared to keep working, no matter the continuity plan

The first step in preparing for a disaster is a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). Ask yourself the following questions to begin understanding what your organization needs to do to prepare for the unexpected:

  1. Where and how is business-critical data stored?
  2. What departments/employees require business-critical data to do their jobs?
  3. What processes are necessary to keep the business running?
  4. Which business resources are interdependent?
  5. What financial, legal, and operational risks does a disaster entail for the business?
  6. How long will disaster recovery take?

Ensure data backup and continuity

Data backup is an important component of your company’s ability to recover from a hurricane, but it’s not all you need. Your employees need to know where copies of business-critical data are stored and how they will access the information in the event of an emergency. This requires more than data backup. Your organization needs a secure data continuity solution that will enable employees to do their job from any continuity plan

For example, you may have copies of your critical files stored outside of the disaster impact zone, but how will your employees access that information? Do you have a reliable remote access solution in place? Is the data stored in the cloud? Below are some of the questions your company should ask to assess the reliability of its data continuity solution.

  1. What data is critical to your business functions?
  2. Is your business-critical data stored outside of the disaster impact zone?
  3. Which departments use what data?
  4. How will employees access the data they need to do their jobs?

Create a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)

Data backup and continuity combine to support your company’s Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP). Essentially, disaster recovery focuses on your company’s business-critical information and systems, as well as how these functions will be recovered in the event of a continuity plan

An effective Disaster Recovery Plan will ensure multiple copies of the company’s business-critical data are stored off-site, outside of the potential hurricane impact zone. In addition, it will require that sufficient planning, infrastructure, and processes are put in place to facilitate the restoration of business-critical data. To begin creating a suitable Disaster Recovery Plan, take the following steps:

  1. Compose a formal disaster recovery document that outlines disaster response protocol, roles, and responsibilities of those involved in the Disaster Recovery Plan, critical contacts, and any additional information pertinent to the process.
  2. Assess potential threats that can affect the daily operations and success of the company in the event of a disaster.
  3. Outline measures to prevent, detect, and resolve disaster-related issues.
  4. Establish a geo-redundant data backup solution that can be accessed and utilized with minimum downtime. Geo-redundant refers to the storage of business-critical data in more than one location, ideally outside of the company’s disaster impact zone.
  5. Have a thorough understanding of what data your company has, who uses it, and whether it’s critical to the organization’s operations.
  6. Test the Disaster Recovery Plan regularly and inform employees as to their roles and responsibilities in the event of a disaster.
  7. Regularly review and revise the Disaster Recovery Plan to align with changes in your business.

Create a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)

Companies often confuse a Disaster Recovery Plan and Business Continuity Plan (BCP) as being one and the same. However, unlike a DRP, which focuses on systems-centric planning, a BCP focuses on business-centric planning. In other words, a Business Continuity Plan concerns the processes established to maintain business operations if a disaster occurs, not just the continuity plan

For example, what if your customer service center is flooded when a hurricane strikes?

How will your employees answer calls when the facility is inaccessible? Will a temporary office space be configured until the site is restored?

How will employees get there if they can’t leave their homes?

These are questions centered around how the business operates and are just as important as the technical considerations a company must make before a disaster occurs. Below are a few steps your organization can take to begin developing its Business Continuity Plan.

  1. Establish what departments in your organization are critical to business operations.
  2. Establish what functions and processes are critical to business operations.
  3. Develop an understanding of how different departments and functions are interdependent.
  4. Determine the maximum amount of downtime each business-critical function can endure.
  5. Outline a step by step plan to maintain operations while the normal facility is restored.

To best prepare for a hurricane, your business should consult with each of its departments to develop an understanding of the technology, functions, and processes necessary for a business to continue, no matter the conditions. However, this planning is comprehensive and requires not only business and technology knowledge but experience in managing these two elements to support your company’s goals and ensure its continuity. Our IT consulting services can help prepare your business for the unexpected.