Businesses should plan for a disaster

Businesses should plan for a disaster

Published in The Tennessean November 17, 2014

By Ed Rappuhn SCORE Nashville

“Floods, tornados, hackers, Ebola … how do we protect our business?”

You’ve been following the news and are rightfully concerned about these potential disasters. While you’ve listed some major catastrophes, you missed the most common disaster to hit a business, a simple hard drive crash.

A hard drive crash can cause considerable, even irreparable, damage. I can tell you from experience that the loss of your company’s billing data can be a major blow. We once lost a month’s worth of data because we were lax in our back-up frequency. Luckily we had paper backup and after many hours of reconstruction we were able to recreate most of our missing receivables and billing data. Back up computers frequently and store the back-ups off-site to prevent data loss. Cloud-based services can provide for off-site back-ups without physically transporting devices or media.

Consider the damage that a computer virus or hacker can cause. Software can help protect you from these problems but it is not flawless and must be updated regularly. Develop a plan for recovering from malicious damage to your systems.

Power outages are more common than destruction of physical structures. Would a power generator allow you to continue operations in the event of a disaster? It’s much easier to have the generator installed and tested prior to a problem than after it occurs.

Natural disasters are less frequent than simple computer crashes or power outages, but potentially more damaging. Start with business interruption insurance. Because of infrequent claims, it’s usually priced reasonably and is a potential financial lifesaver.

Then have a plan for how to restart your business. Is there a way to work from home? This might not be so great for a restaurant or factory, but it’s quite feasible for a service business if you plan ahead. Even a retail business can operate on-line while structures are rebuilt.

Hard copy lists or electronic versions of contact information for employees, clients, partners and vendors are vital when in recovery mode. You need to update these lists frequently and keep them in an easily accessible location away from your business. In the event of a disaster contact everyone on your lists to let them know what will happen next and to show you care.

Testing is a critical piece of any recovery system. Proper testing gets your team involved and helps them understand the process. You’ll learn where you have weaknesses and be prepared for a smooth recovery.

In Nashville’s 2010 flood, businesses, individuals and others worked together to everyone’s benefit. Now local groups plan what would happen if a disaster occurs in the future. Whether a city, business, or individual, planning ahead is key to recovering from a disaster.

Ed Rappuhn is a mentor, workshop facilitator, and the past-chair of SCORE Nashville. SCORE mentors guide entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses. Sign up for a free SCORE mentor, find out about our reasonably priced workshops and other services, or volunteer to become a SCORE member at www.scorenashville.org.