Get Your Business Ready with Proactive Disaster Preparedness
Although the official start of the 2022 hurricane season is still a week away, the first tropical system of the year formed in the Gulf of Mexico this weekend. Upper-level winds prevented the system from developing into a named storm, but it still threatened to bring gusty winds, heavy rainfall, and localized flooding to the Southeast United States.
Believe it or not, that wasn’t even the biggest severe weather story last week. Destructive windstorms moved across Canada last Saturday, tracing a 1,000-kilometer-long path of damage that included a handful of deaths and power outages for more than a million people around Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa.
A few days before that, a rare EF3 tornado struck northern Michigan, killing two people, injuring 40 more, and leaving wrecked houses, cars, and lives in its wake. Wildfires are starting to flare up in California, and two weeks away, a nor’easter swept several oceanfront homes in North Carolina into the Atlantic Ocean.
This kind of extreme weather poses a significant risk to businesses, too. It also presents an important opportunity for companies to assess their incident preparedness, data backup, and business continuity plans—before disasters strike. Ongoing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain interruptions, and even rapid inflation all provide extra incentives to be prepared.
What Should I Prepare For?
That depends on your geographic location, the industry in which your business operates, and your company’s need to preserve day-to-day operations. But with so much uncertainty dominating the headlines, you need to be ready to respond to any kind of event. After all, it’s not a matter of if but when your business will face a challenge: responding to a cyber incident, planning a return to the office or a continuation of hybrid work schedules, hiring new employees, or simply trying to keep things running smoothly,
Here’s How Technology Can Help:
1) Data backup is the most important part of the plan. Losing access to important data is often the first domino that falls for a business. That makes reliable, regular, and remote data backups so important. A trusted IT provider can help you assess your information and determine whether it’s being securely backed up—and how quickly those backups can be restored if disaster strikes. Many businesses like to have both comprehensive image backups on-site (on physical hard drives) AND off-site (safely stored in the cloud). That redundancy is particularly important in the face of severe weather, like when a fire or flood, for instance, wipes out all machines. With automatic backups stored in a combination of physical and cloud locations, you can be confident that your data is there when you need it.
2) Data recovery and retrieval are important, too. Understanding how to access and restore those redundant data backups is the next step. An immediate return to day-to-day operations can often be achieved if on-site backups are available—but restoring from the cloud is often more difficult or even out of reach for the average employee. Good disaster preparedness plans should outline exactly what steps are required to reinstall important data, who can perform those steps, and what the chain of command should be to make those decisions. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) always highlights these two statistics to hammer this point home: 40-60% of small businesses often fail to recover from a disaster—and 90% of smaller companies fail within a year if they can’t safely resume operations five days after a disaster.
3) Virtualization may sound complicated—but it’s critical. This advanced part of many disaster preparedness plans details which computers can be used to reinstate and rebuild compromised data—and what happens if a company’s physical infrastructure is damaged to the extent that no functioning machines are immediately available. Often, virtualization can be completed remotely, with a key computer in an external location designated as a failsafe option in the case of significant damage. Since this is more of a worst-case scenario step, often it won’t be tested or fully planned out. But you don’t want to wait until a disaster strikes to find out whether virtualization actually works or not—and through testing, you’ll know exactly how long it takes to restore systems. A shift of just a few hours in one direction or another often means the difference between surviving a disaster and losing it all.
4) Business continuity is another jargon term, but it spells out a plan for success. Recovery, virtualization, and continuity mean different things—and it’s easy to be confused about how they work together. The easiest way to understand things is that recovery and virtualization tell you what to do at specific moments in the wake of a disaster, while business continuity details the plan ahead once recovery and virtualization have occurred. This often spells out the short-term and long-term steps needed to get a business back on its feet and then keep things running in challenging environments. Different contingencies can even be drawn up based on past disasters that your company has faced. If, say, you’ve lost power for five days in the past, you can reflect on what worked and what didn’t in the wake of that incident to prepare for losing power for seven or even 10 days in the future.
5) Incident management helps your employees understand their role in disaster response. All the steps outlined above apply mostly to technology—but incident management helps the human beings you work with to play their part, too. Naturally, this part of the plan can’t be schemed up perfectly. Based on past experience and personal resilience, everyone reacts differently to certain types of disasters. When it comes to weather, there’s only so much that preparation can cover. Again, depending on your geographic location and the disasters your business has faced in the past, good incident management plans will include defined roles and responsibilities for your employees so everyone knows what to do in the face of a disaster.
At CMIT Solutions, we’ve worked with thousands of businesses across North America to respond to hurricanes, fires, floods, earthquakes, ice storms, pandemics, cyberattacks, and more. The biggest lesson we’ve learned is that preparation is critical—and the more time you spend prepping for a possible threat, the better off you’ll be when scary things happen.
No matter what threats your company faces, our network of independent franchisees and skilled technicians in the United States and Canada can help. We pride ourselves on being proactive in the face of natural and manmade disasters—that means getting the best data backup solutions and incident response plans in place, long before a disaster strikes.
If you want to be better prepared for severe weather, summer storms, and every other threat under the sun, contact CMIT Solutions today.