Make yourself ready for a disaster
When the next big storm hits, is your business prepared?
The late October storm of 2017, which resulted in over 300,000 Granite Staters losing power, had plenty of folks reviewing or revisiting their storm preparedness and disaster recovery plans. But while making sure one has flashlights, adequate water and a battery-powered radio are good rules of thumb for homeowners, small business owners can face even greater challenges when the lights go out.
If you are a small business and can’t serve your customers — or communicate with your own employees — even a short power outage can have lasting negative impacts. Even more dire, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 40 percent of small businesses never reopen after a disaster.
That’s why developing a business disaster recovery plan (DRP) is critical, and by taking proactive steps, businesses can protect themselves, preserve their reputation and guard their bottom line against the next power outage.
If your business doesn’t have a DRP, it should. It should also be updated annually, and all your employees should have a copy, know what it is and how it works.
It is also vital to test the plan as appropriate so that your response in case of a power outage is as seamless as possible. Finally, while you hope you never have to use it, it is wise to prepare for a “doomsday scenario” where the power outage may be long-lasting.
What are some key things to consider?
• Do you have a way of contacting your clients, patients or others to re-schedule appointments if your office is closed? Your customers/patients are your lifeblood and the ability to proactively and quickly contact them if your business is closed is critical. When someone shows up to your office and sees an “office closed” sign, it can be a hit to your reputation and brand.
• Can your employees work remotely if needed? Ensure key members of your team have the technology to work remotely if there’s no power at your office. And if you have a business with offices in other states, are you able to rout work there if needed in the short-term?
• Do you have an uninterruptible power supply system? Having this technology in place is vital and helps protect against power interruptions, provides adequate power during short-term interruptions and “ride-through” time to either convert to a backup supply, or close your business databases so that no work from that day is lost. Another excellent feature of the system is that it protects computer systems from damaging power surges by refining the quality of the power as it reaches your building, office and equipment.
An Uninterruptible Power Supply System can be anything from a device that sits somewhere near one’s desk and protects a personal computer to the much larger models with the capacity to power businesses. These systems can work in different ways and can be tailored to meet the needs of an individual business.
• For longer-term outages, do you have a backup source of power, such as a generator? Many people don’t realize how much the data-driven world has changed overall power needs, as the internet and big data in general keep driving up demand for cleaner and more reliable power. Energy surges, spikes or dips cause fluctuations and irregularities that can adversely affect your equipment and your data. Having a generator, even a smaller one directed just at your IT infrastructure, can provide a clean, consistent and uninterrupted power flow that protects against those effects.
• If the worst-case scenario occurs and you do lose data or access to documents, do you have a data recovery plan? Another smart investment would be to acquire a cloud-based back-up solution that would enable your business to recover or access data. This solution also offers a secure way to store critical information.
At the end of the day, DRPs are the insurance plan that will keep you in business when disaster strikes. And whether it’s an extreme scenario like the storm in Puerto Rico, or an event less severe, when a business loses power, it is not just an inconvenience, it can result in lost revenue, customer abrasion, wasted overhead and staff time and possible additional restoration costs. Having a workable DRP as part of one’s business plan is a true must-have economic safety net.
Greg Mason, president and founder of Merrimack River Technologies Inc., in Manchester, can be reached through mrivertech.pro.