There’s a reason why a business plan is considered the most vital tool in any new startup’s arsenal:
A lot of things could go wrong. Mistakes can -and at some point usually are- made.
When that happens, it pays to have contingency measures in place so that you can quickly correct course and avoid serious disaster.
No matter what stage of the startup process you may be at, there’s a good chance you’ve already tackled a good percentage of your business plan…
…But have you thought of everything?
Even if you believe you have, it’s worth checking again.
Because a surprising number of new business owners make one fatal mistake that could end up costing them the company they worked so hard to create.
In fact, in a large number of cases, that’s exactly what happens:
A simple mistake -an oversight even- made in the early planning stages ultimately spells disaster somewhere down the line.
The good news, is that it’s not too late for you to avoid making that one big mistake.
What is it?
Failing to Create an IT Disaster Recovery Plan
In its most basic sense, an IT disaster recovery plan is exactly what it sounds like:
A well thought-out strategy which outlines what you’ll do, and how you’ll do it, should your mission-critical technology fail, become damaged or lost -or worse still- stolen.
For small businesses and sole traders, that might be as simple as determining what you’ll do should anything happen to the laptop you create your invoices on, whilst larger SMBS that rely on a proper IT infrastructure to operate will need a much more comprehensive approach to IT disaster recovery.
Developed together with your overall business continuity strategy, this plan will outline the step-by-step process that you’ll take should things go wrong.
A little later, we’ll discuss some of the essential things to consider when planning a disaster recovery solution of your own, but first, let’s look at some of the preventative measures you can take to limit the impact -and likelihood- of an IT disaster.
Offsite Data Backup
Always thought your inventory was the most valuable asset your business owns?
Though nobody will ever say losing their inventory is fun, it can still be easily replaced. Your company’s data, on the other hand, is sacred.
It’s the one thing you need to keep operating, so making a backup copy should that data (and/or the device storing that data) be stolen or destroyed is essential.
Backing up your data regularly, and storing it in a secure, offsite location, means you’ve always got a copy to hand should the worst happen.
Speaking of the worst thing that can happen, if you thought losing your data was bad enough, the consequences of having that data stolen or otherwise compromised don’t bear thinking about.
Angry customers are one thing, but the legal ramifications of having the sensitive data you hold stolen could be enough to put you out of business, either directly, or as a result of the irreversible damage done to your reputation that causes customers to leave you en masse.
That’s to say nothing of the potential consequences of cybercriminals infecting your system with a virus, spyware, or other malicious programs.
With that in mind, investing in solid IT security is essential.
Firewalls, 24/7 monitoring, and powerful antivirus solutions should play a major role in your IT infrastructure.
Working in the cloud
Whether it’s investing in Virtual Private Servers (VPS) to serve as the backbone of your entire operation, or making use of cloud productivity tools like Microsoft Office 365, working in the cloud means having 24/7 remote access to files, data, and applications.
As a preventive measure, this ultimately means that -should something happen to your onsite hardware- everything is still safely stored in the cloud and you can continue working as normal from a different device.
Regular IT Maintenance
On the subject of hardware – keeping essential hardware in tip top condition can go a long way to reducing -if not entirely eliminating- the risk of hardware failures that take your whole business offline.
Just as you’d take your car in for regular servicing to ensure it’s roadworthy, investing in regular IT maintenance can ensure your vital equipment continues to perform at its best.
What to Include In Your Disaster Recovery Plan
Whilst these four measures alone can prove invaluable in preventing most common IT disasters from affecting your business times, the possibility of some unexpected emergency happening does still exist.
That’s why creating an IT disaster recovery plan is essential.
Below, we’ll look at some of the most critical things you’ll need to include as part of your recovery strategy.
Clear, Step-by-Step Instructions for All Eventualities
It pays to start any IT disaster recovery planning by thinking long and hard about all the different types of disaster that could occur, and what you and your team will do in each scenario.
No matter how slim the probability, think of everything from natural disasters like Earthquakes to floods, fires, thefts, and of course, basic human error.
For each one, write out a plan with clear, step-by-step instructions, including who is responsible for every action.
Your Priorities – Set Down and Defined
In making your plans, you may find it helpful to set down your priorities.
Think of your business as your home on fire. You only have limited time and resources, so what do you grab as you’re running out the door of that burning building into safety?
What is absolutely vital your business and should be the number one priority when your business continuity strategy is put into place?
What can you afford to let go?
Sensitive customer data is naturally going to be your top priority, likely followed by mission-critical applications, but items like marketing materials and non-sensitive internal communications will probably go on a list of things that, whilst it would be nice to recover them, aren’t vital to the running of your business.
If you have outsourced your IT disaster recovery to an IT Support company, then they will naturally be your first port of call, so ensure you always have the relevant contact details to hand.
Your IT specialists will take care of contacting third-party vendors and anyone else associated with your actual IT infrastructure, but you’ll still have people you need to contact.
For example, if you’re going to be offline for the entire day, do you need to communicate with employees to tell them not to come in?
Do you need to inform your customers?
Will there be a public relations emergency?
Have a list of all the relevant contacts you may need, and who responsible for making contact.
Of course, having a plan is one thing, but if it isn’t effective (or, worse, if you’ve no idea whether it’s effective or not)then what’s the point?
Before signing off on your business continuity strategy, run a drill to ensure that it actually works. Even if it does, running it through may reveal areas for improvement.
Once you’re completely happy that you’ve got the best recovery plan possible, schedule in repeat drills to ensure it remains effective even if personal, property, or the applications you use change.
Speaking of changes
Plans for Updates
If you make changes to your IT infrastructure, whether that’s by migrating to the cloud, investing in new servers, or simply updating your software, then your disaster recovery plan should reflect that.
Likewise, should the people listed in your plan as having certain responsibilities leave the company or even just switch roles, you need to update your plans accordingly.
Rather than waiting until a change is made and hoping somebody remembers to update your plan, schedule in times to go through the plan and ensure that it still accurately reflects your business.
Do that, and you’ll avoid making the one fatal mistake that could otherwise end up costing you that new business you worked so hard to create.