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10 Disaster Planning Essentials

If your data is critical to your business and you cannot afford to have your operations halted for days – even weeks – due to data loss or corruption, then you need to act on the information below. A disaster can happen at any time on any day and is likely to occur at the most inconvenient time. If you aren’t already prepared, you run the risk of having the disaster coming before you have in place a plan to handle it.

Most people think of hurricanes and tornadoes when the word disaster is mentioned. But, you’re most likely to suffer a devastating cyberattack that can bring down your entire company. Verizon states that 25% of small-to-medium size businesses that were hit with a cyberattack were forced to file for bankruptcy in 2019.

We can all agree that a cyberattack such as ransomware is a disaster! You need to prepare your business to survive and thrive after one occurs. Here are ten (10) things you should have in place:

  1. Have a written plan. As simple as it may sound, just thinking through in ADVANCE 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 it back fast. At a minimum, the plan should contain details on what disaster 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 web sites. Writing this plan will also allow you to think about what you need to budget for backup, maintenance, and disaster recovery. If you can’t afford to have your network down for more than a few hours, then you need a plan that can get you back up and running within that time frame. You may want the ability to virtualize your server, allowing the office to run off of the virtualized server while the real server is repaired.  If you can afford to be down for a couple of days, there are cheaper solutions.  Once written, print out a copy and store it in a fireproof safe, an offsite copy (at your home), and a copy with your IT consultant.
  2. 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 useful framework from which you CAN restore your network) and experience in data recovery.
  3. Have a communications plan. If something should happen where employees couldn’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.
  4. Automate your backups. If backing up your data depends on a human being doing something, it’s flawed. The #1 cause of data loss is human error (someone not setting up the Backup to run correctly, etc.). ALWAYS automate your backups, so they run like clockwork.
  5. Have an offsite backup of your data. Always, always, always maintain a recent copy of your data offsite, on a different server, or a storage device. Onsite backups are good, but they won’t help you if they get stolen, flooded, burned, or hacked along with your server. In fact, follow the Rule of 3.
  6. Have remote access and management of your network. Not only will this allow you and your staff to keep working if you can’t go into your office, but you’ll love the convenience it offers. Plus, your IT staff or an IT consultant should be able to access your network remotely in the event of an emergency or for routine maintenance. Make sure they can. COVID-19 pretty much forced all businesses to work remotely. If you’re not correctly set up to do so, you’re vulnerable.
  7. Image your server. Having a copy of your data offsite is good, but keep in mind that all that information has to be RESTORED someplace to be of any use. If you don’t have access to all of your software 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 a replica; that replica can then be directly copied to another server, if you have Bare-Metal-Restore capability,  saving an enormous amount of time and money in getting your network back. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about losing your preferences, configurations, or favorites.  To find out more about this type of backup, ask your IT professional.
  8. Network documentation. Network documentation is simply a blueprint of the software, data, systems, and hardware you have in your company’s network. Your IT manager or IT consultant 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 don’t have to spend time figuring out where things are located and how they are configured. And 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.
  9. Maintain Your System.  One of the most important ways to avoid disaster 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. That’s why it’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.
  10. Test, test, test! Studies found that 14 percent of companies never test their plan. If you are going to go through the trouble of setting up a plan, then at least hire an IT pro to test your Disaster Plan at least annually. Also, your Backup System should have the capability of automatically testing backups daily to make sure they’re working. After all, the worst time to test your parachute is AFTER you’ve jumped out of the plane!

XSolutions is an Elite Partner of Datto, the world leader in Hybrid-Cloud Business Continuity solutions. We provide Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), Backup as a Service (BaaS), Cloud Data Protection (CDP), and Managed I.T. Services (MSP). Call (845) 362-9675 for a free consultation. Backup & Disaster Recovery| Cloud Data Protection |Managed I.T. Services