We know their names.
Katrina. Sandy. Harvey. Maria. Irma. And now... Florence.
This week Hurricane Florence is approaching and millions of people are preparing for what could be a direct hit. Whether it's hurricanes, tornados or wildfires, as a business owner you not only need to prepare personally. You need to take basic precautions to protect your business as well.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency known as FEMA, 40 - 60% of small businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster. You can avoid being part of that group by preparing ahead of time for approaching natural disasters. Even if you are not immediately facing this type of situation, the following tips will help you when preparing for any natural disaster.
THE STORM IS COMING...WHAT TO DO
- Don't forget about important files stored on any desktops or local workstation drives! These should be copied to your server before backing the server up. Alternatively, for selected local computer files, back them up to another media such as data key, Dropbox, etc. If you don't, you risk the loss of those files if the workstations are inaccessible.
- BACK UP! Not once, but twice.
That seems so obvious, right? Yet it is amazing how many times companies are caught off-guard with no viable backups. You can keep one backup onsite but be sure to backup to a remote location as well. Your remote location backup will be invaluable in the event that your onsite backup is not accessible.
- Is your office susceptible to flooding? If so, move equipment such as your server, desktop computers, monitors and telephones to the highest spot possible in your office. If possible, place the equipment in industrial-strength trash bags.
- Do you have an Uninterruptible Power Supply battery with surge protection, aka UPS, connected to each device? If so, make sure that the unit is connected. Equally important, be absolutely sure that any auto-shutdown software is installed and operational. In natural disasters, sudden power loss is common and often this damages your computer equipment. A UPS helps to prevent this from happening by maintaining power for a short amount of time during which the system can shutdown.
- What if you don't have a UPS battery connected to each device, shut down all equipment! That includes servers, PC workstations, printers, scanners, etc. Disconnect these devices from power source.
- Of course, personal safety comes first! However, once preparations have been made and everyone is in a safe location, some type of normal operations can occur in the time period leading up to and immediately after the storm. Whenever possible, you will want your customers to know that you are still active so communicating with them as quickly as possible in whatever way possible is a must.
- Speaking of personal safety, it is really important to have a complete list of employees with phone numbers so that you can check on each other and also communicate the status of the business leading up to and after the storm.
THE STORM IS OVER... NOW WHAT?
As soon as feasible, you need to go into disaster recovery mode.
- Assess any damage to your equipment. Take photos of all damages. You will need this for your insurance claims. Provided conditions are safe to do so, taking photos as soon as damages are discovered is going to be invaluable later.
- Reactivate undamaged equipment and recover data as soon as practical in order to return to "normal" daily operations.
- If any of your equipment has been exposed to the elements or submerged in flood waters, do not power them on! This can worsen the damage and make it virtually impossible to recover data. Contact your hardware / networking vendor so that they can recover what is salvageable and help you get back to business as quickly as possible.
As Alexander Graham Bell said long ago: "Before anything else, preparation is the key to success." Unfortunately, we cannot control weather events. We can, however, control how we prepare for them.