GEEKNOTE: I touched on tropical storm preparation a couple of months ago.
With Issac coming past us this week, I figured it was a good time to expand on the topic a bit.
The National Archives and Records Administration reports that some 93 percent of companies that lost their data for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy within one year of a disaster. These are not good odds.
There are a number of steps you can take to make sure that your business does not become a statistic.
First and foremost, you need to make sure that you've got a good backup of all your data, preferably off-site. Tapes are notoriously unreliable, as are USB flash drives. External hard drives "can" work, but require manual intervention on a daily basis. Even burning data to CD or DVD "can" work, but again, it takes work.
I'm a firm believer in idiot-proofing as much of the process as possible, which is why I like the various online backup options. Carbonite is probably the best known one in the consumer space, but there are others. Pricing starts around $50 a year.
Businesses can opt for one of the backup servers, such as the Barracuda Backup Server, which combine both an on-site backup as well as a cloud backup. Some of the fancier systems will actually let you switch over to them as a virtual server until you get your primary system repaired. Some of these systems also let you do a "bare metal" restore, which saves you from having to reinstall all your programs. Prices go up with how fancy the solution is.
Whatever your backup solution, you need to test it from time to time to make sure you actually CAN recover your data when a disaster strikes. You also need to regularly check to make sure your backup system is functioning.
The second thing you need to think about is an actual inventory of what you have This includes both hardware AND software. If your business is wiped out and you have to file an insurance claim, the insurance company is going to want details about the stuff you want them to pay to replace. You can get this information by going from machine to machine and taking notes, but you might want to ask your IT advisor to conduct a complete network audit and provide you with a written report of what he finds. Depending on how often things change, you should probably repeat this process every six months or annually.
The third thing you need to consider is how fast can you get your critical systems back up and running. For us, that would include getting Quickbooks and our email addresses functioning. Neither is particularly difficult as we've got alternatives lined up even if our office is uninhabitable and our equipment destroyed. You need to think about what else your company might need, but accounting and email are probably right up at the top of the list for you too.
Disaster planning goes way beyond just your computer gear. Have you given any consideration to who is going to be responsible for what in the event of a disaster? You might consider creating a full Disaster Recovery and Preparedness Plan that includes both your computer network AND the other aspects of your business that are critical for your company's surval.
Talk to your IT advisor and get him involved. Talk to your insurance agent as well and see what information he can provide you regarding what your insurance company is going to want in the event of a claim. It has been my experience that insurance companies have a lot of free resources available for their policy holders and those resources can help you reduce your potential exposure down the road.
Stay dry and safe this week.
Feel free to drop me a note or leave a comment here if you have any questions about your computer or your office network.
Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek, Gulfcoast Networking, Inc.
(Rob also serves as deputy mayor of the City of New Port Richey. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the city.)