Flirting With Business Continuity
The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina brings with it a fitting time to talk about disaster recovery — or, to use a more appropriate term, business continuity. Disaster, after all, connotes an event with low odds of occurring, such as an earthquake or a hurricane. But more than nature contributes to business continuity issues — the failure of a water main flooding your street, or a police action closing it off.
Take a look at the Web site of the Institute for Business and Home Safety [www.disastersafety.org] to get a sense of just how many things can go wrong. And remember the U.S. Department of Labor statistics estimating that, after a disaster of any kind, more than 40% of businesses never reopen, and of those that do, another 25% will close within two years. These statistics include larger businesses, but small businesses with just a few locations, or a single one, are more susceptible to problems when something goes wrong.
Here are some tips for business continuity planning.
Start thinking about contingencies. Check out this recent article, “Is My Business Ready For A Disaster?”, on developing and testing a plan by Craig Augenstein, practice partner for Eddsa, an IT support organization on Columbia, S. Car.
Turn off the computers. One of the smartest pieces of advice that came out of the mess that was Katrina came from the chief information officer of a midsize bank just outside New Orleans. He put in place a plan that one day every six months, employees would have to conduct business without their computers (i.e., with pencils and pads); that way, in the event of the loss of their computer system, they could still serve customers.
Set up an exchange program. Find another business owner in a different region and set up a mutual-aid pact. If something goes wrong with either one’s facility, you have a place for employees to meet and continue doing business.
Think about mobility and accessibility. With mobile computing devices — either laptops or smartphones — and options for cloud computing (where your data is stored somewhere else and accessed over the Internet), location no longer matters. Consider these technologies for optimal flexibility.
Most important, don’t create a plan and then stick it into a drawer. Review it every six months, just as you would your business plan (in a sense, it’s a key part of your business plan). Make it a part of new-employee orientation. Don’t think of it as something like insurance that you buy and remain protected. Think of it as contingency planning. You have a contingency plan if you lose your biggest client. You have a contingency plan if you lose your biggest supplier. Have a contingency plan if you lose your access to your physical location and the computers you rely on.
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- Tags: business planning