10 STEPS TO PREPARE YOUR BUSINESS
1 PREPARE A PLAN AND PRACTICE IT!
Plan, prepare and practice. This is the foundation of business continuity and the only effective way to diffuse the impact of a hurricane. Although today’s technology allows advanced warning of approaching storms, there is little that can be done to continue business operations if no contingency plan is in place. I’m not just speaking of knowing the hurricane routes out of town, but planning an overall strategy that extends to all parts of your business.
You should consider identification of critical mission applications, selection of essential backup data
(Don’t forget those PCs and Networks!), storage of data offsite, relocation/placement of end users, remote equipment and access to that equipment (networking), and identification of key personnel and beyond (in case these employees are unavailable). These are fundamental planning elements that cannot be accomplished when you are under the gun of an impending hurricane. They should be addressed long before. And remember PRACTICE makes PERFECT! No plan is effective, if it is not practiced and properly executed. Organize a planning team of key individuals within your business.
Test your plan. Educate your team through training, drills, recovery testing and mock disasters. Your plan is only effective if it can be properly executed. Consultants are available to assist in this effort should the basic skills not exist in your company. Always remember to plan, prepare, and practice!
2 BACKUP YOUR DATA
To remain competitive in today’s business society, businesses depend on information technology. The technology centers around software, hardware, and data. Without access to data, business quickly comes to a screeching halt.
Work with your IT team at Solutions Squad to ensure that backups are performed in a timely manner and that they are stored in a facility that is safe, secure and dependable.
Make sure you have a dependable backup system in place, like those offered by Solutions Squad that not only backs up locally, but also to the cloud and allows you to operate in case of disaster.
3 PROTECT YOUR SITE
Protecting your site facilities and equipment is instrumental in continuing or restoring operations in the event of a hurricane. Ways to do this include Uninterruptible Power Supply (batteries and generators), backup water source and a supply of gasoline powered pumps to keep the lower levels of the facility clear of flood waters.
Boarding up of windows and other vulnerable apertures can protect a building from high-speed flying debris which has been known to severely damage structures in a severe hurricane. Mitigation should also be a consideration.
If facility shutdown must occur, work with your team to establish shutdown procedures and ensure that they are part of your overall recovery plan. Don’t forget to include post procedures (start-up) to facilitate re-occupation of the site after the storm has moved on.
4 OPERATE REMOTELY
Inability to access your facility is a highly probable occurrence when a hurricane approaches. Roads may be flooded or closed by authorities. Employees may be unable to leave their homes in a state of emergency or may be unwilling to leave their families. It is very important to plan for this scenario in which your business facility is operational but the employees are unable or unwilling to get there.
One way to prepare for this contingency is to develop a method to operate the critical components of your business remotely. Modern technology will allow a laptop computer to function almost anywhere and software exists that will permit that laptop to emulate a system console. In addition, most business functions of end users can be replicated on a laptop from the employees’ homes if the event is anticipated, planned for and tested in advance.
5 DECLARE EARLY
During Hurricane Andrew, many businesses waited to act. This decision proved costly and contributed to the billions of dollars in costs associated with the hurricane. Fortunately, they learned from this experience. I was pleased to see that during Hurricane Erin, businesses declared emergency status well in advance, activating recovery plans, vendors, and action teams quickly. Don’t worry or wait. It is important that you do not hesitate to act.
6 IMPLEMENT AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY
Communications are important to any business entity. In the event of a pending hurricane, it becomes even more crucial. Communications are needed to coordinate emergency activities, to implement the recovery/contingency plan, to warn employees of impending danger, to inform families and off-duty personnel about what’s happening, to maintain contact with customers and suppliers, as well as proactively maintain an information line with the media.
You should keep in mind the normal everyday functions performed by your facility and consider all types of communications, especially voice and data. Be cognizant of the impact if communications were inoperable and establish procedures and action plans to accommodate this occurrence. Communicate with your communications vendors on options and alternatives.
Establish backup communications and ensure that a procedure for restoring communication services is in place.
Some communications options include cellular phones, radios, point-to-point private lines, walkie- talkies (check those toy boxes at home), high-frequency radio, and satellite communications.
Radio and television stations are excellent community resources in the event of a hurricane. Identify a communications contact within your company to maintain a relationship with key stations. They can communicate important information to your team, customers, and vendors, as well as report business impact status.
7 PROTECT YOUR EQUIPMENT
When it comes to your IT equipment, water and lightning can be your worst enemy. If you are evacuating due to a storm, make sure to turn off all critical equipment and unplug them to prevent damage. Also pay attention to where your equipment, such as workstations and servers are located and make sure they are not at risk for flooding
8 PLAN ON BEING WITHOUT POWER
Power becomes a luxury during a storm. Make sure you have your portable devices fully charged and if possible, with spare batteries. You can also utilize portable battery packs to power up your mobile devices.
Don’t’ forget to keep an ample supply of batteries on-hand for portable radios and TVs as cellular networks can also go offline during a storm and sever communications.
9 HAVE THE RIGHT I.T PARTNER
Make sure you have partnered with the right Managed IT Solutions provider like Solutions Squad who is local, and knowledgeable in the backup and disaster recovery filed. They can help your business continue operations before, during and after the storm.
10 EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Murphy ’s Law does apply to hurricanes. Remain flexible and adaptable. You should also remember that the nature of the hurricane will influence your recovery direction. The impact of senior management, customer, and employee decisions (or personal impacts) may also alter your plans. Try not to make assumptions and do not hesitate to act. The best defense against the unexpected is the “P” cubed principle…Prepare, Plan, and Practice (reference number one). Continuously update your plans after each practice or recovery activity and capture any lessons learned. This helps to keep Murphy in check…
As you can see, business continuity before, during, and after a hurricane takes preparation. While a hurricane does provide some advance warning, this warning does not provide enough time to adequately prepare for continued business continuity.
What is required is a serious, thoughtful and committed approach to the challenge of recovering your business, whether your company is in a hurricane risk area or not. Make hurricane preparedness your business…BEFORE THE WIND BLOWS!