Hurricane Katrina was one of the most costly storms in United States history. The storm caused 19,000 small businesses to close their doors permanently. Many of the businesses that survived did so because they embraced the principles of a resilient mindset. This starts with having a disaster recovery plan in place.
Kenneth S. Lamy, president of a small managing and consulting firm in New Orleans, was able to get back to normal operations within three months of the 2005 disaster. He had prepared for a catastrophe long before the event.
As a normal practice, Lamy backed up his firm’s data to an external hard drive that he was able to remove from the city when the storm was brewing. He also exchanged personal email addresses with his employees. He got his business up and running quickly, even though many of his employees remained scattered across the country because they lost their homes. Also, his building was off-limits after suffering extreme wind damage.
He immediately sent communications to his clients that he was operating, and posted updates on his website. He was transparent and notified clients that he had CPAs working in other states.
The company didn’t miss any deadlines. Lamy believes the quick response reaffirmed his company’s long track record as a trusted service provider. “Client loyalty is earned,” he says. “People knew we were going through a major disaster and were patient, but still needed their work done.”
The simple steps Lamy took are far from the norm, though they may seem like common sense. A study by Carbonite found that 58% of small businesses believed they couldn’t sustain any amount of data loss, yet 60% of companies don’t back up their data on a daily basis. A surprising 15% of firms said their backups were at least a month old, which would hinder their ability to resume operations quickly after a fire or other disaster.
Today, companies have even better options for protecting their data than were available to Lamy in 2006. These include: automatically backing up their data to the cloud to ensure it’s available and accessible even if the worst happens. “A business can’t recover from a disaster if their data is old, corrupted, or incomplete,” says Stefanie D’Aulizio, a spokesperson for MyITpros, an IT consulting firm in Austin, Texas.
She breaks down a disaster recovery plan to five steps – steps which Lamy followed to the letter:
Understand Your Business
You need to know how your business works on a day-to-day basis to protect it.
Identify Potential Disasters
Lamy had been through a lot of storms, so preparing for a big one was top of mind.
Implement an Action Plan
The plan should include how to protect your data, how to communicate with clients, and how employees will continue to work.
Manage/Maintain the Plan
Distribute the plan to all employees so they understand how it will work if a disaster occurs.
Practice Makes Perfect
A disaster recovery plan shouldn’t just be a folder in someone’s desk. Instead, you should practice your plan, just like the fire drills you did in school as a kid.
In addition to these 5 steps, the Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a long list of emergency-preparedness resources to protect your employees, lessen the financial impact of disasters, and re-open your business quickly.
Having a disaster plan not only allows the company to resume operations quicker, it also provides employees a sense of normalcy. Indeed, two weeks after the disaster, Lamy himself kept a commitment to fly to Washington DC to speak before an important trade group. “They said they could get another speaker,” he says. “But my word is my bond, and it’s important to get back to a normal workflow as soon as possible.”
Read the introduction of this series, “Developing a Resilient Mindset: 8 Steps to Prepare For Any Disaster,” here.
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