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Disaster recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

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Texas has been devastated by Hurricane Harvey, the strongest hurricane to hit land since 2005. Although Austin was outside the hurricane’s direct path, MyITpros’ clients and colleagues alike were impacted by the effects of the storm. For many business owners taking stock in the wake of such an event, questions that typically arise include “Were we prepared?” and “Did we have the correct measures in place to protect our data and minimize loss?” Whether you are a business owner with the chance to be affected by natural disaster, times like these are always a good reminder that disasters come in all shapes and we need to be prepared.

Knowing your disaster

It’s almost impossible to identify every potential risk to your businesses, but you should still try your best to account for as many as possible. Some common threats include:

  • Natural disasters: It may surprise you to learn that natural disasters such as hurricanes account for less than 10% of unplanned outages. With this in mind, it’s important not to overestimate the frequency of weather-related events when trying to quantify risks and costs, even in areas prone to hurricanes, earthquakes or tornadoes.
  • Human error: “To err is human,” and this makes users a very real risk to any business. We have seen major problems occur due to incorrect system changes without backups, accidental deletion of critical files and system errors made by rushed or overworked IT staff. As it’s impossible to completely eliminate the chance of user error, the best you can do is put together a robust recovery plan.
  • Internal mechanical or system issues: These account for the largest share of unplanned outages. The term “mechanical” refers to an external event that causes hardware to malfunction, such as HVAC issues (e.g. a leaking AC unit or an overheated server room) or internet problems resulting from a physical disruption like a cut cable. Meanwhile, the phrase “system issue” pertains to a hardware failure, such as a network outage or memory error.

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Planning for the disaster

You may have heard the terms “business continuity plan” (BCP) and “disaster recovery plan” (DR) used interchangeably, which leads many business owners to ask “Which one do I need?” and “Is there a difference?” The fact is that BCPs and DRs are different and depend on one another, which makes them both an essential part of your recovery strategy. 

Simply put, a BCP is a plan created in advance to ensure the necessary processes and procedures are in place for a company to continue doing business not just in the wake of a catastrophe, but after any long-term disruption or smaller incident. This plan will cover things like customer communication and phone hierarchy, and encompasses all employees and departments. A DR is a specific subset of your BCP that lays out what needs to be done immediately after a disaster occurs. Its purpose is to define how to recover data and resume operations.

At MyITpros, we understand it can be overwhelming to create this type of plan from scratch, or even to revisit and update an existing one, but the recent disaster in Texas serves as a reminder that such an exercise is critical. We’ve put together a free template to help you jump-start the process of figuring out the who, where and when of taking action after an unforeseen event. As well as covering the basics, the template offers specific suggestions for how to structure your plan and what to include in it.

Whenever there is a major disaster, it’s advisable to revisit your recovery plan and make sure your business is prepared for the worst. Our hearts go out to all Houston residents and businesses suffering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey.

For information on how to donate and volunteer, please visit the Austin Disaster Relief Network.

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