How to Create an Effective Business Disaster Recovery Plan

Disaster isn’t a matter of if – it’s a matter of when. Smart business owners understand this and take proactive steps to prepare for it. A business disaster recovery plan is a valuable document that reflects a company’s commitment to its long-term viability.

When the critical moment occurs, a business disaster recovery plan provides guidance that employees and leaders need. A well-considered plan will have procedures for the most likely contingencies that might arise, making it easier to respond calmly and effectively to an emergency.

If a business disaster recovery plan isn’t already a part of the company’s core documents, then it’s time to develop one and prepare for the worst.

What Disasters Affect Businesses?

Businesses, like private individuals, can fall victim to a variety of disasters. Generally, a business disaster is an event that disrupts the processes which are critical to driving revenue. This might include:

  • Power failures or mechanical failures
  • Cyberattacks
  • Natural disasters
  • Supply chain disruptions
  • Social disturbances
  • Contagious sickness
  • Cash flow interruptions
  • Fires
  • Lawsuits

Emergencies can arise from numerous sources, many of which lie wholly outside of a company’s control. In these instances, it can be incredibly challenging to determine the best course of action unless thought has been given to a situation beforehand. A disaster recovery plan is designed to help a business get back on its feet and resume normal operations as quickly as possible.

How to Create an Effective Business Disaster Recovery Plan

The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that as many as a quarter of all businesses close for good following a significant disaster. Possessing a disaster recovery plan can help keep a company from becoming a part of this statistic. While disaster planning looks a little different for each business, the USSBA’s disaster recovery checklist involves five key elements that every plan contains.

1. Consider the Disasters Most Likely to Affect a Company

Since it’s impossible to prepare for every disaster which might occur, research the most common types of disasters which occur to companies in a specific industry or geography. For example, businesses in the southeastern United States may wish to include a plan for hurricane preparedness while businesses in southern California may want to consider the potential of a devastating wildfire.

In addition, consider the disasters most likely to occur within an industry. A company that specializes in cloud services may want to make plans for a server outage, while a manufacturing company may wish to consider the impacts of different types of accidents in the warehouse.

2. Inventory the Company’s Critical Functions and Infrastructure

All good disaster plans document the components of a company upon which it relies to function correctly. Take stock of things like:

  • IT infrastructure
  • Digital assets, like websites or software
  • Machinery or hardware
  • Buildings
  • Vehicles
  • Utilities
  • Employees
  • Trade secrets
  • Customer or patient records

Once identified, rank them in terms of how damaging a disruption would be if it involved each. Determine what should be evacuated, recovered, or replaced.

3. Develop Emergency Response Procedures

When responding to an emergency, it’s essential to consider two things: what the law requires a business to do, and what is necessary to minimize the loss of life, followed by the loss of data. Then, make plans to resume operations in a modified form while the company works towards a return to normal activities. 

These procedures should include all of the information to resume business operations, even if a person knows almost nothing about the company. Be specific. Establish instructions regarding evacuation routes, contact information, safe meeting points, and what not to do. For instance, during an emergency, employees may try to grab documents or computers that they feel are important. Account for this behavior ahead of time.

Consider also establishing a chain of command along with a dedicated emergency response team within these procedures. This will help keep the response organized, cohesive, and centralized.

4. Create Document Backup Solutions and Outline Restoration Processes

Create a document backup solution that accounts for all of the most critical pieces of business data. This includes things like financial records, trade secrets, patient or customer records, employee records, and anything else which is essential to run the business.

Off-site storage may prove wise in areas where natural disasters are expected. Contact a document solutions expert to discuss the best options. 

5. Test, Examine and Refine the Plan

No plan is perfect, but with practice and consideration, it can become a useful tool for addressing a disaster. Roleplays can prove especially helpful in refining disaster recovery plans. With a staged scenario, it’s easier to see where bottlenecks or impracticalities in processes may lie before a real-life situation occurs.

Get Started with Your Business Disaster Recovery Plan Today

A business disaster recovery plan can help a company save a lot of grief when the worst-case scenario occurs. It’s a valuable and worthwhile exercise that can significantly impact a company’s ability to get back on its feet rapidly following a disaster. The steps of a disaster recovery plan may vary from business to business, but they all have one ultimate goal in mind: increase business security by creating a viable strategy for the future no matter what happens.

Are your documents digitized and backed up? James Imaging can help. Contact us today to discuss your digital backup options.