Do you have a formal, written disaster recovery plan? Do you know where it is? Just as important, do others know where it is in case something happens to you?

Keith Ferrell, Contributor

February 20, 2009

3 Min Read

Do you have a formal, written disaster recovery plan? Do you know where it is? Just as important, do others know where it is in case something happens to you?If you have a formal, written, disaster recovery plan, you're ahead of the game.

And probably apart from the pack, particularly for smaller businesses. Recently I informally surveyed a handful of businesses owners I know (each with fewer than 20 employees) and asked if they had a disaster recovery plan (DRP).

One said, straight-faced, "I don't know."

The other five said that of course they did.

When I asked where it was, though, four of the five tapped their heads, and the fifth said that it was in an employee's head.

Not good.

Nobody expects a disaster, and not all disasters are huge regional headline makers like Katrina or the recent ice storms. A fire, even a small one, can bring your business or office to a halt, destroying equipment, rendering the workspace unusable for a time, perhaps a long time.

Reducing the amount of that downtime is at the heart of an effective disaster recovery plan.

Don't have a plan at all? Grab a pencil and start asking yourself:

What are you and your employees going to do to get your business back up and running as quickly as possible?

How are you going to restore data? (And how recent is the latest backup: how much business information will have to be recreated rather than "just" restored?)

What equipment are you going to restore the data to?

Where are your employees going to work?

How will customers and vendors contact you if your phone system is knocked out by the disaster?

Every one of these questions will spark others, and all should be addressed in your written disaster recovery plan.

Along with another crucial question, maybe the most important of all when a disaster strikes:

Where is the DRP located and how can employees gain access to it if you (or the person responsible for the plan) can't?

First things first: while you may write the plan on your computer, don't store it there (your computer may be dis-improved by the disaster, after all.)

Print out the plan, review with it important members of your staff (department heads, managers)and then decide who needs to keep physical possession of a copy.

And that means someone (at least one) in addition to yourself.

You also need to have another copy of the latest iteration of the plan stored in a neutral off-site location (a bank safe deposit box, for instance, or lawyer's files) where it can be obtained by you or by authorized employees if you are unavailable.

The point of a disaster recovery plan is the recovery, something made far more difficult if you and your team can't put your hands on the plan that shows how the recovery will be accomplished.

bMighty Backgrounder: Check out this Small Business Disaster Prep Video

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