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What Every Small Business Owner, Manager, and Employee Should Know About Disaster Preparedness

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On Thursday, October 16th, more than 20 million people participated in the latest Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill. Most surprising about this figure, though, is that nearly 10% of the participants exercised disaster preparedness in the Southeast, a region of the country no one ever associates with earthquakes. But as USGS maps show, several high-risk zones run throughout the region. Anyone who remembers the magnitude 5.8 earthquake that struck Virginia in 2011, radiating across hundreds of miles and a dozen states, can testify to that.

What does this have to do with technology? Many business owners overlook remote backup, disaster preparedness, and business continuity planning because they think a natural disaster will never happen to them. The National Small Business Administration’s 2013 Small Business Disaster Survey found that 74% of small business owners don’t have a disaster recovery plan; 84% don’t have natural disaster insurance; and 71% don’t have access to a backup generator.

Many chalk it up to the fact that they don’t live on the coast, or in Tornado Alley, or on a fault line. But the NSBA estimates that 65% of US businesses are situated in geographic areas that regularly suffer from natural disasters. And the data centers that house the bulk of US business information are primarily located in populous states like California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Washington — coincidentally, the same five states that lead the pack in FEMA disaster declarations.

Yet natural disasters fall at the bottom of the pack when it comes to impacts on small business technology. Last year’s Quorum Disaster Recovery Report found that only 5% of reported downtime in the first quarter stemmed from natural occurrences; 55% was attributable to hardware failure, 22% to human error, and 18% to software failure.

So what can you do to give your business a leg up when it comes to preparedness for disasters, both natural and manmade? CMIT Solutions recommends the following 3 critical steps:

  1. Implement off-site, redundant, and encrypted data backups. The vast majority of business backups are done on-site — often on drives located directly next to the computers they’re backing up. If fire, flood, or theft affects your business, you can’t expect that backups to be spared. And if you still use tape backups, consider the fact that, according to conservative estimates, 50% of recovery attempts from tapes result in failure.
  2. Formulate a business continuity plan. Many business owners think that, even if a disaster strikes, they’ll only be affected for a few days. This is one of the indirectly harmful assumptions one can make — take Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy, for instance, which both put over 50% of the small companies in their paths out of business for good. Those that were able to maintain operations via mobile phone, laptop, or even good old-fashioned blood, sweat, and tears were the ones that saw their reputations as pillars of the community strengthen in the wake of those devastating storms.
  3. Create (and test!) a virtualization strategy before disaster strikes. The best disaster preparedness plans include virtualization, which takes the data you have backed up remotely and rebuilds it on existing or backup equipment in case of disaster. But if you haven’t tested your solution to see how quickly it can retrieve information and get you back up and running, you could suffer. Top-tier offerings like CMIT Guardian can perform a full restore in less than 48 hours — and those hours can mean the difference between weathering a storm and succumbing to it.

Even if this information convinces you of the critical nature of remote backup, disaster preparedness, and business continuity, you may be unsure how to put them to work for your business. That’s where CMIT Solutions comes in: we specialize in helping small to medium-sized business prepare for and weather even the roughest storm.

In the last few years, we’ve helped hundreds of businesses survive hurricanes, floods, wildfires, icestorms, along with the day-to-day perils of human error and hardware failure. We take these threats seriously — and as fellow business owners ourselves, the best feeling we get comes from watching you triumph over obstacles, disaster-related or not. Contact us today so we can put you on the path to well-prepared success.

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