Continuity planning for small business

Dear Professor Bruce: Superstorm Sandy has me thinking about how I could keep my small business running if hit by a natural or man-made disaster. I know “business continuity planning” is a big business buzz phrase and it seems overwhelming to me. How do I go about building a business continuity plan?

Jim Geiger, founder, chairman, president and CEO of Atlanta-based Cbeyond, offers
some excellent disaster recovery and business continuity planning advice,
highlighting five basic preparation tips teams can implement now to minimize
disruption should an event occur:

1)     Build Your Plan – Simply start identifying ways to protect those critical business assets – the following tips will help with specifics. You should also confirm that your IT security services, such as anti-virus and firewall software, are properly installed on
all company computers and are up-to-date so they are guarding against network
threats. Don’t just assume these tools – or the employees who use them – will
automatically update them when needed. As the same survey found, nearly 32
percent of businesses learned this the hard way last year, as they were victims
of cyber-security issues and breaches.

2)     Back up Off Site – If you are only backing up important files on-premise, you put them at greater risk against floods, fires and other events that can threaten your physical
office. Transferring these files to an off-site backup solution helps reduce that risk. Off-site storage alone is a great way to minimize the interruption of your business if a catastrophic event occurs at your physical location.

3)     Embrace the Cloud – The cloud remains a popular off-site backup choice, but the continuity planning benefits it provides extend much further than just storage. When a business jumps into the cloud by moving to cloud-based storage and cloud-based
applications, the cloud creates a true virtual workforce, giving you and your employees anywhere, anytime access to vital business systems.

4)     Make the Connection – Ensuring your business can communicate with key stakeholders during and following a disaster is critical to recovery. Connecting with
employees, customers, partners, investors and others likely will determine your ability to bounce back from any disaster. Solidifying your communications ranges from both the highly technical to the tried-and-true. Evaluating the benefits of redundant connectivity services like a wireless backup system to get your network running should normal lines become disrupted, and ensuring all employees can access email and voicemail remotely, should be at the top of most organizations’ priority lists. However, low-tech tactics such as maintaining a contact list of employees, clients and stakeholders off-site are simple, yet
both practical and necessary.

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