Have you got protection?
Have you considered the impact of property damage through a fire or flood, a computer system crash or failing to protect your confidential information? There are many businesses who learn these lessons the hard way, probably thinking, “that would never happen to me”.
Preparing for unexpected interruptions is paramount to growing a successful business. So how can these threats be identified and managed?
Here’s a simple approach: plan for the best, but be prepared for the worst.
Insure your assets
Get the ball rolling by developing a list of all the risks to your business. Then go through the list and prioritise each item. You need to consider what expenses and financial commitments would continue to accrue, even if your business had to close down for a short period of time.
Lesser-known risks can have considerable effect on your business. Spend a few moments working through this list to see if you’ve missed anything:
• Repairing or replacing mechanical and electrical equipment in the event of a sudden and accidental failure
• Loss or damage to goods in transit caused by a collision, overturning, derailment, fire, explosion, or theft; damage to goods during loading and unloading
• Loss or damage to business-related property
• Loss of income resulting from interruption to your business caused by a fire, accidental damage or burglary.
Putting a business continuity plan in action requires time and effort, which is difficult for most growing businesses to find when they’re already wearing so many different hats. Here are some steps that need to be covered:
•List the essential resources of your company
•Determine the maximum time your business can operate without these resources – that includes you
•Develop a set of easy to follow steps, including a list of supporting documents, resources and equipment required to action the plan
•Prepare a communication strategy to let staff, customers and suppliers know what’s happening
•Activate and continually update the plan.
Developing your strategy means first identifying the weaknesses of your business – the worst-case scenarios. What if the power failed? What if your biggest customer was unable to pay you? Could you operate without any staff? How you respond to these types of questions will indicate whether the risk can be reduced or even removed altogether.
Assess your data protection environment
Developing a data protection strategy allows you to gain a clear view into your existing data protection environment, process and efficiency. Without this view, the goals you set might be unrealistic.
This initial evaluation is often revealing. Most operations contain unseen backup failures stemming from faulty hardware, server errors and simple staff mistakes. These neglected and failed backups are often recurring, and remain undetected and therefore uncorrected until something goes wrong.
Align the degree of protection with the business goals
When current performance levels are known, IT management (be it internal, contracted, or the business owner) can determine the appropriate levels of protection, based on the importance of the data to your business.
In case of failure, how recent must the backup be?
The frequency of a backup is highly dependent on how valuable and time sensitive your data is to the business. In the case of contact management, for example, in a business where leads are highly valued, it might be an hour. For other data, daily, weekly or even quarterly may be sufficient.
What makes the perfect backup system depends largely on the quantity and value of your files. If your data is critical to you or your business’ financial wellbeing, you should view backup hardware as only the first layer of protection.
Selecting the right data protection mechanism for your business
Selecting the right hardware and software for your backup can often be a tricky balancing act. Many experts have promised that disk storage would solve all your problems, but nothing's ever that simple — especially technology.
You need to ask what you are actually protecting against.
Some small business back up data 'just-in-case', keeping files locked away offsite on the chance they may be needed in the future. Other businesses might mirror a whole system every night in order to restore data and applications almost immediately in case of disaster.
If you're trying to pick the right backup solution and your business couldn't survive a day or two without quick access to data, an external hard disk if often the best solution. A hard disk can mirror your entire system, allowing data and applications to be recovered quickly without any real technological knowledge.
Online backup services offer another data protection option. While they are often inconvenient and costly, storing your files on these remote servers is the safest guarantee that your data will survive whatever problems you encounter. Some businesses have begun to add this second layer of protection for their most precious files.
Whether you opt for tape or disk or both on the hardware front, selecting the right backup software is equally, if not more, important. Factors such as ease of use, operational complexity and degree of hands-on maintenance should be considered carefully before making a decision. Ask yourself again: What is being stored and why? How soon do you need to recover it?
Resorting to plan B in case of damage and/or disaster
Although not a subject any business owner enjoys thinking about, it is critical to have a clear understanding of how to use your backup to ensure business continuity if disaster strikes. Your business continuity plan must set out the backup methods that would be needed to provide the data at an alternate site.
When it comes to data, protection effectiveness is revealed only in plan testing and procedures. It’s important to remember that just like any aspect of a business, backup requirements change too, so any plan should evolve and change as the business grows.
Published on: Friday, July 30, 2010