Imagine your business devastated by a natural disaster like a tornado or flood. All of your hard work, time and energy gone in the blink of an eye.
With the second anniversary of the destructive Washington tornado approaching, that scenario, unfortunately, proved all too real in November 2013, when five lives were lost, more than 1,000 homes destroyed and several businesses flattened.
With area roads closed,and phone, Internet and electrical service down for days, residents and business owners alike struggled for weeks or months to keep their lives – and their livelihoods – afloat.
“That night, Matt and I started triaging,” explains Don Dawson, co-founder of IT360. “We could see our clients going offline; they rely on us to take care of their technology.”
So Matt, Don and the rest of the IT360 team worked around the clock to restore client computer systems and, in some cases, help their clients find off-site locations to conduct business for the time being.
But what can businesses themselves do to prepare for the unthinkable – in the unlikely event the unthinkable happens?
“There’s a lot businesses can and should do to prepare for the impact of disasters like tornadoes, floods and other hazards,” he said. “Identifying critical business functions is integral in resuming operations following a disaster.”
For starters, businesses should assess which business functions are absolutely essential and build a plan to sustain those functions when a disaster strikes. Examples include payroll, priority projects, answering the phones and meeting tax deadlines.
The plan should also identify key individuals to cover those functions – and backup personnel if those in charge are affected personally by a disaster like the Washington tornado.
“It could be as simple as having your business phones forwarded to your cell phone so customers can continue to reach you,” he said. “Answering your phones will give your clients peace of mind that you’re still up and running” – even if it’s from a “virtual” office like your home or a secondary off-site location.
Testing your plan in advance is a critical component of business continuity planning. If your systems went down, how long would it take to get them up and running again, and what would be required to achieve that goal? Are there gaps in your recovery plan, and how can you close those gaps before a disaster strikes?
Testing is the best way to ensure that your business will remain in operation no matter what – or that it can be quickly restored under any circumstances.
Assessing critical functions like servers, PC/workstations, network/Internet, building security, phones/communications, supply chain and workflow/staff procedures is a must. And for prolonged power outages, you may want to consider the purchase of a mobile generator – just be sure it’s compatible with your computer system before you buy it, Don advises.
“You can’t plan for everything, but you need to plan for most things,” he added.
How IT 360 Helps Clients Weather a Disaster – Natural or Otherwise
IT360 provides tailored IT services for small- and mid-sized companies that address the underlying issues with computers, servers and networks before they result in major downtime. All critical data is fully encrypted and backed up on IT360’s off-premise data vault.
The backup offers an image of the entire system state, including operating system, user settings, applications and data. And what sets it apart is that it includes a standby server that allows clients to recover from server crashes or data loss in minutes – not hours or days.
“In the event that a disaster results in extended downtime or inaccessibility to your facility (such as fire or flood), your business may work directly from our vault – significantly reducing your risk and time to recover,” Don said.
Since the 2013 tornado, IT360 now backs up clients’ entire servers vs. select critical data.
“We retooled what we provide to clients,” he adds. “Under our new model, now we can restore the entire server. We’re always thinking ahead and trying to provide even more for our clients.”