Your business may have weathered the latest storm but don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet—hurricane season is in full swing and doesn’t end until November 30. Your organization should be prepared for disaster, but you don’t have to wait for your company’s next IT audit to fine-tune the plans already in place. Now is the time to reevaluate your communication strategy and establish or revise your business continuity plan to keep your company working without interruptions.
Establish or revise your business continuity plan
It’s a common misconception that data backup is a good enough solution for emergency situations—but when it comes to your company, you always want to be in a business continuity mindset. Business continuity and disaster recovery plans are often viewed as interchangeable. While both document strategies that cover where and how employees will continue working during a disaster, the focus of these plans is fundamentally different. A business continuity plan considers the competitive nature of business and is structured to prevent a company from experiencing a significant amount of downtime. Your business continuity plan should focus on the processes critical to maintaining operation if your site or infrastructure is disrupted. When establishing your business continuity plan, determine which personnel, departments, functions, and processes are critical to your operations, and keep in mind how these may be interdependent. From there, construct and fine-tune a step-by-step outline to be followed in the event of a disaster.
Reevaluate your communication strategy
Even though communication is the most important thing in an emergency, most business continuity plans fail to address it. If your office is inaccessible or your business suffers a power failure and you’re forced to work remotely, how will you communicate with employees, clients, and other key business people? Rely on your employees to help your business create its communication strategy. Ask them a series of questions to determine which areas of communication your organization should focus on and tailor your plan around their responses. Find out how your employees worked during the disaster by asking how teams communicated, how files were accessed, if productivity suffered, as well as what worked and what didn’t. There are several tools you can use to facilitate continuous communication in an emergency, including email, instant messaging and text messaging. Email. Consider using an online exchange service such as Office 365 if you aren’t already. This will make email and other business-critical documents accessible for employees working remotely even if your physical servers are down due to a power outage or other disaster. Instant messaging. If email fails, use an instant messaging service such as Skype to fill in the gaps. Employees will still be able to write and call each other, as well as work in groups. Text messaging. Rely on the power of texting if your employees are no longer able to communicate using email or IM. Slack and GroupMe, for example, are two cloud-based messaging and collaboration platforms that streamline communication by allowing you to create groups of any size to share documents. Additionally, you should create a contact list with the names and numbers of key people in your organization and make it available to employees through a global address list or file sharing service such as SharePoint. Be sure to clearly communicate the goals and procedures of the business continuity plan, as well as train employees on how to use any new software or workflow schemes. Remember, a plan is only as good as the people responsible for carrying it out.
What role does IT play?
Utilize IT as a resource in this process. If you’re unable to create a communication strategy or business continuity plan yourself, your IT department or managed services provider should be assisting you. An IT outsourcing provider in Houston can help you identify the services needed to maintain the continuity of your business, as well as handle the testing and training portions of the planning process.
If Hurricane Harvey impacted your business, you may be eligible for disaster recovery assistance. Visit DisasterAssistance.gov and SBA.gov for more information about grants and loans available to your business.