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Small Business Disaster Recovery

With high-tech gear playing a critical role in the operation of small businesses, planning for potential disasters or tech-related interruptions is an important step in protecting your business.

And with severe weather patterns throughout the United States increasing the potential danger to the operational continuity of small businesses, a growing number of companies are adjusting their disaster recovery plans to include mobility and cloud computing.

While companies of all sizes are vulnerable to natural disasters, the risk is often more acute to small businesses with less geographic diversity than their larger counterparts.

Preparing for technical disaster is a two-step process: taking necessary steps to prevent tech-related problems, and forecasting how the company will respond if operations are disrupted. For many companies, being able to respond quickly is a major factor in determining how well, or even if, they survive an extended disruption.

Understand the Risk

Depending on your location, your primary business continuity risk may come from hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods or other disasters, and it's critical to plan in advance for how your company would respond if the worst occurs.

According to a 2012 business continuity survey by AT&T, 83 percent of the respondents cited business continuity planning as a priority -- a 12 percent increase from the company's 2011 survey. Among the respondents, 38 percent said they planned to increase their continuity investments in cloud computing, with another 34 percent planning to invest in mobile applications. Two-thirds of the respondents said they had included wireless network capabilities in their business continuity planning.

Harnessing the Cloud

Because natural disasters can affect a large geographic region, one of the most important aspects in business recovery planning is taking steps to ensure that critical small business data is not stored in one location.

It's common for small business owners to back up their data to an external device that is stored next to the server with the original data, or at best, taken home by the business owner. While this approach can be effective in protecting against minor incidents, it can still leave a business without access to critical data or applications after a major regional power outage or other disruption.

Safeguarding Data

Small business owners are increasing shifting their data backup and disaster recovery strategies to cloud-based services that encrypt information and transfer it automatically to secure data centers. With cloud backup, files are stored in remote data centers that are protected with uninterruptible power supplies, around-the-clock security, and network monitoring and management systems.

In addition to geographically diverse and secure file storage, the fact that cloud backup services run automatically in the background means small business owners don't have to worry about scheduling tape-based backups or manually transfer data to external storage devices. Once the backup system is up and running, you don't have to wonder whether your critical information is being backed up.

That being said, it's a good idea to periodically check on your backup system to make sure it's running properly and that you know how to recover files. The aftermath of a disaster isn't the best time to test whether your backups have been working or to try to learn the backup service's recovery procedures.

Communications Planning

Discuss your company’s disaster planning needs with your insurance professional to develop industry-specific risk management strategies.

In a workplace emergency, the safety of employees and customers is always the number one consideration. Smoke detectors, evacuation plans, regular safety drills and a posted list of emergency phone numbers are essential in preventing or reacting to a crisis.