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Iowans Often Afforded Minutes to Plan For Disaster – Not Days

Disaster & Recovery Planning in Iowa Requires Extra Steps

As we learned with Hurricane Sandy, mother nature wins – every time.  No matter how advanced we think we are, we always seem to be caught off guard.  In my home state of Iowa we’ve experienced catastrophic flooding more than once. But more often, Iowa confronts a human and business killer who rises with very little warning…and sometimes while we sleep – the tornado.

There were 50 tornadoes in Iowa during 2011 – a relatively mild season. But many of those spawned overnight or with just enough time to hear the siren and get to safety.  Iowans often have only a few minutes to assess what’s critically important to grab.  To ensure your Iowa based business doesn’t become casualty take these proactive steps today and rest easier tomorrow.

Top 7 Disaster & Recovery Planning Steps for Iowans

    1. Go paperless and digitize your workplace. If you have paper records or documentation at your office (don’t forget home offices count too), think about all of it being gone tomorrow.  Patient records, tax records, and HR files containing highly sensitive information may end up blocks or miles away in someone’s yard.  Is it OK for you to lose all of your paper files tomorrow? A micro-business can use simple tools like Shoeboxed and Evernote to archive key paper records.  A larger business will require some kind of scanning and storage protocol.
    2. Back up your server and/or desktop computers with an external hard drive and/or tape system. Grabbing a 3 terabyte drive as you head to the safe room or basement is cheap insurance.  In larger business environments this isn’t plausible so you must have some kind of backup (tape or hard disk ) which is taken offsite at regular intervals.  Again, make sure those tapes aren’t stored in a drawer at someone’s house.  Is the storage location impervious to disaster?  In my experience less than 50% of SMB’s back up their data in a meaningful way and those who do violate their own protocols for taking data offsite.
    3. Utilize a cloud backup / storage solution. This is the most amazingly under utilized disaster planning resource available today…but it is being adopted rapidly.  For under $100 /year many online services like Carbonite will backup a machine for you (servers and larger data needs obviously up the investment).  In the cloud backup scenario, it make take days or weeks to get your data back. Will you have power and high Internet bandwidth to transfer your data back to your new computers?  You can also leverage something like Google Drive, iCloud, or Amazon’s S3 storage service to store data “in your own cloud drive in the sky.” Drop Box’s 500GB single user plan is only $100/year and their team plan for 5 users to share 1TB is only $800/year (and DropBox says your storage is really unlimited if you just call and talk to them.)
    4. Store software DVD’s and manuals securely. Having your data back will be a wonderful thing.  Not being able to use it will be tragic.  Thankfully today there are numerous online ways to access word docs and excel files which don’t involve having the program.  But don’t assume that your new replacement laptop will come with Office and don’t assume you’ll have Internet.  Go old school and save the install disks.  As double insurance, create an “image” of those DVD’s online so you have an additional copy.
    5. Get some kind of redundant Internet connectivity.  We recommend that businesses acquire some kind of wireless Internet option as a compliment to their wired solution (usually DSL or cable).  If you read some of the articles about Hurricane Sandy, you’ll see that wireless companies added mobile cell towers with their own power to compensate for tower failures and destruction – but they had service.  Maybe you grab a MIFI device so 5 people in your company at a time can get online and do business.  Maybe you leverage a private wireless Internet connection like we do.  Keep devices charged up and available in case you have to move out quickly.  Consider grabbing a solar charger or “mega life” battery extender for your phones too if you can tether them to get a data connection.
    6. Plan to generate your own power or plan a move to a place with power.  Again we need to make sure we know how to use our generator, that we have fuel for our generator, and that our generator didn’t blow away with our computers.  If a tornado wipes your town clean, there will obviously be some time required to get your life in order.  I can’t fathom the devastation of losing everything like this.  But if you must support your customers, get your core team to a place where they can work each day and generate enough power for them to limp until the infrastructure is repaired.  Don’t forget – where will you store the fuel you need?
    7. Consider a move to a full cloud environment.  My bias will come through here but I’m passionate about making people successful, removing I.T. from their lives and turning it into a utility with limitless scale.  If a business is running on a full cloud platform, their chief concerns are:  Does my cloud provider have power and Internet connection.  After that, you need power and an Internet connection and your business is fully operational from an I.T. perspective.  This may sound over simplified but it’s absolutely true.  Good data from the Aberdeen Group shows that the average outage in non-cloud situations is 4X longer than in cloud operations, likely because cloud operations must plan ahead religiously.  Even large providers like Amazon and Google have outages, but they are down hours most often – not weeks at a time.

Imagine grabbing your iPad, getting to safety and an Internet connection, and logging on to your network after disaster has struck.  All of your data, applications, documents, and systems are fully functional.  You didn’t have to grab or move anything.  You are not bound by geography in case you have to go stay with family.  If you stay in a hotel during the rebuilding phase, you can continue doing business, sending emails, and helping customers wherever they may be.

This scenario is what I call Total Work Environment backup (TWE).  To me, this is the most reliable, affordable, and business saving disaster and recovery plan one could ever design.   I recommend at the very least, you put some kind of business continuity / disaster plan in place.  Involve everyone in the company.  Decide who does what now before next Spring.

Reach out to me and we can have a chat about these topics.  Designing a simple plan for you and your business is something we can do easily.

Will you attend a free workshop on the topic of business continuity and disaster planning here in Central Iowa?

I’d love to put one on soon.  If yes, please fill out the small form below and I’ll be in touch with details.  Stay safe.  Plan ahead.


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