For persons and businesses in the path of the many grass and forest fires extending from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border, the situation certainly qualifies as a disaster or a potential disaster, depending upon how close you are to the fire line at the time. A little shift in the wind and a business can be lost.
Whether that disaster is fatal for your business depends upon the amount of effort that went into planning for the disaster and how long you can afford to be unable to conduct your business.
Larger companies can afford to have an entire staff dedicated to Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity. They will have detailed documented plans for backup and recovery of destroyed hardware, software, and data, as well as for alternate locations where the business can operate until the primary location is reestablished and operational.
The alternate site would have been chosen to be physically apart from the primary location to make it unlikely that the same disaster would destroy both locations. The automatically backed-up data files from the primary site will have been stored at a third location. In the event of a disaster, the disaster recovery plan would contain policies and procedures that would be implemented that would mitigate the amount of damage and allow the business to be back up and running with the least amount of interruption.
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Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plan
Small- to medium-sized companies, however, seldom have the staff and resources to create a formal disaster recovery and business continuity plan. The results can be, well, disastrous! To recover from a disaster such as a fire, some form of a plan is essential! The plan may not be as formal or as detailed as a business continuity plan, but a plan there must be. Without one, a business will not know where to start in the process of reconstituting your business.
The plan entails gathering, in one document, the information about the hardware, software, data files, and contact information of the people necessary to conduct your business.
Below are some of the things that need to be included in this document:
- A list of the critical hardware and software, its configuration, and its location. This is necessary for the reestablishment of the physical components of a business.
- A list of critical people (including their contact information) necessary for the emergency operation of your business.
- A list of one or more sources of hardware and software with which you can replace your destroyed equipment.
- A written policy and procedure for backing up critical data on a regular basis.
- A policy and procedure for storing (off site) this critical backed-up data.
- A policy and procedure for retrieving that backed-up data and transporting it to either the alternate site or to the original site once the primary site is again operational.
- A policy and procedure for notifying customers and suppliers of the interruption of your business and how you can be contacted for further information.
- An agreement for the availability and use of an alternate site during the business interruption. This agreement may include the providing or renting of the computer equipment necessary to operate your company until the primary site can be restored.
- A policy and procedure for the restoration of the data and equipment when the primary site is restored to operation or when a new primary site is established.
- A procedure for notifying your customers and suppliers that the business interruption is restored or that you are terminating business (which could easily happen if you have no plan to handle a disaster).
The complexity of the disaster recovery plan depends upon the size and complexity of your business. But no matter how simple or complex your business, one only needs to look over to the mountains of Southern California and see the smoke blowing in our direction to know that disaster is not that far away.