As tropical storms and hurricanes threaten coastal areas across the U.S., some business owners are on high alert. Such a storm could knock out power for days, leaving businesses unable to connect with the customers that support them. If a business's building is seriously damaged in such a disaster, it could be months before the building is once again habitable, leaving the business scrambling to find a new place to work in the meantime.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which as everyone knows is under the constant threat of large earthquakes (although not larger than a magnitude 8.2). The threat of major disasters provides a great excuse for businesses to stop to consider what they would do in such a situation. Here are a few tips on preparing your business for a debilitating disaster.

Develop a Disaster Recovery Plan

Every business needs a disaster recovery plan, from small startups to massive government organizations. In creating the plan, you'll take an in-depth look at each of your processes and consider how they'll fare in a disaster such as a fire, flood, hurricane, earthquake, or tornado. This in-depth review will often highlight steps you need to take today to make sure your systems are safe no matter what happens.

There are templates available that will walk you through the process of creating a disaster recovery plan that will safeguard your organization. However, even once the plan is in place, it's important to realize that the work has only begun. You'll need to revisit the plan each year and adjust it to match any changes you've made in your environment. If you shift to cloud applications or add numerous new devices to your network, you'll need to account for that in your plan for it to be most effective.

Ensure Access from Anywhere

The biggest problem business have when disaster strikes is business continuity. How can employees continue working when roads are impassible or a building has been destroyed? For that reason, today's cloud-focused environment is a positive for businesses. Employees can access documents and applications from anywhere, using any Internet-connected device. This not only keeps operations going while people are traveling, but it also helps things run smoothly when disaster strikes.

For best results, businesses shouldn't wait until a disaster happens to test out remote connectivity. If employees aren't currently allowed to work from home, they should be set up to do so and asked to test things out on a periodic basis. To ensure data remains safe, businesses should allow employees to connect to networks using a VPN client installed on each device.

Set Up Alternative Work Space

If your business relies on a physical location to conduct business on a regular basis, you should take some time to consider workspace alternatives. While working from home may be a great fix for a couple of days, your employees will likely eventually need access to conference areas and office equipment. For businesses that have more than one location, employees can often be temporarily squeezed into available space in other offices, but many small businesses have only one leased space available.

A co-working space could be a great option, as long as a local center has space available. However, if a disaster impacts multiple local businesses, space may be at a premium in the months following. Instead, check with other local businesses in a different area of town that might be able to share space with your business. You maybe able to strike a mutual agreement that will allow you to borrow space temporarily should either of your locations be rendered uninhabitable due to a disaster.

While a disaster likely won't strike your business, it's important to prepare. Failure to put a plan in place could force your business to shut its doors if any type of disaster affects it. A disaster recovery plan that is regularly revisited can help prevent that from happening.

Published on: Sep 17, 2015
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