If your data is important to your SME and you canâ€™t afford to have your business halted for days, or even weeks, due to data loss or corruption, then you need to read this report and act on the information shared. A disaster can happen at any time and is likely to occur at the most inconvenient time. If you arenâ€™t already prepared, you run the risk of having the disaster occurring before you have a plan in to handle it. This post outlines 10 things you, as a business owner of, say, 20 to 80 computers, should have in place to make sure your business is up and running again in the event of something going wrong.
Have a written plan
As simple as it may sound, just thinking through in advance about what needs to happen if your server has a meltdown or a natural disaster wipes out your office, will go a long way in getting your business back up and running fast. At a minimum, the plan should contain details on what risks could happen and a step-by-step process of what to do, who should do it and how. Also include contact information for various providers and username and password information for various key websites.
Writing this plan will also allow you to think about what you need to budget for backup, maintenance and disaster recovery. If you canâ€™t afford to have your network down for more than a few hours, then you need a plan that you can follow so that you can get back up and running within that time frame. You may want the ability to virtualise your server, essentially allowing the office to run off of the virtualised server while the real server is repaired. If you can afford to be down for a couple of days, there are cheaper options. Once written, print out some copies to store in a fireproof safe, off-site at your home and with your IT consultant.
Hire a trusted professional to help you
Trying to recover your data after a disaster without professional help is business suicide; one misstep during the recovery process can result in forever losing your data or result in weeks of downtime. Make sure you work with someone who has experience in both setting up business contingency plans (so you have a good framework from which you can restore your network) and experience in data recovery. If you have a Managed Service Provider, an MSP, ensure they have experience in these areas.
Have a communications plan
If something should happen where employees couldnâ€™t access your office, e-mail or use the phones, how should they communicate with you? Make sure your plan includes this information including multiple communications methods.
Automate your backups
If backing up your data depends on a human being doing something, itâ€™s flawed. The #1 cause of data loss is human error, such as people not swapping out tapes properly, someone not setting up the backup to run properly, etc. Always automate your backups so they run like clockwork.
Have an offsite backup of your data
Always, always, always maintain a recent copy of your data off-site, on a different server or on a storage device. Onsite backups are good, but they wonâ€™t help you if they get stolen, flooded, burned or hacked along with your server.
Have remote access and management of your network
Not only will this allow you and your staff to keep working if you canâ€™t go into your office, but youâ€™ll love the convenience it offers. Plus, your IT staff or an IT consultant like an MSP should be able to access your network remotely in the event of an emergency or for routine maintenance. Make sure they can.
Image your server
Having a copy of your data off-site is good, but keep in mind that all that information has to be restored someplace to be of any use. If you donâ€™t have all the software disks and licenses, it could take days to reinstate your applications, like Microsoft Office, your database, accounting software, etc., even though your data may be readily available. Imaging your server is similar to making an exact replica; that replica can then be directly copied to another server saving an enormous amount of time and money in getting your network back. Best of all, you donâ€™t have to worry about losing your preferences, configurations or favourites. To find out more about this type of backup, ask your IT professional.
Network documentation is simply a blueprint of the software, data, systems and hardware you have in your companyâ€™s network. Your IT manager or IT service provider should put this together for you. This will make the job of restoring your network faster, easier and cheaper. It also speeds up the process of everyday repairs on your network since the technicians donâ€™t have to spend time figuring out where things are located and how they are configured. Finally, should disaster strike, you have documentation for insurance claims of exactly what you lost. Again, have your IT professional document this and keep a printed copy with your disaster recovery plan.
Maintain Your System
One of the most important ways to reduce risk to your business is by maintaining the security of your network. While fires, floods, theft and natural disasters are certainly a threat, you are much more likely to experience downtime and data loss due to a virus, worm or hacker attack. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s critical to keep your network patched, secure and up-to-date. Additionally, monitor hardware for deterioration and software for corruption. This is another overlooked threat that can wipe you out. Make sure you replace or repair aging software or hardware to avoid this problem.
Test, test, test!
A study conducted in October 2007 by Forrester Research and the Disaster Recovery Journal found that 50 per cent of companies test their disaster recovery plan just once a year, while 14 per cent never test. If you are going to go through the trouble of setting up a plan, then at least hire an IT pro to run a test once a month to make sure your backups are working and your system is secure. After all, the worst time to test your parachute is after youâ€™ve jumped out of the plane.
Want help in implementing these 10 essentials? Call us on the number above to discuss how we can tailor a plan that suits your individual business needs.