If you are in business, you need a Disaster Recovery Plan.  The bigger the business, the more complex the plan needs to be.  For an individual working from home, it may not be more than some ideas jotted on the back of an envelope.  Disaster recovery planning for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) requires something in between: a well-thought out plan that is within the budget, easy to understand and which can be carried out by anyone left standing.

This may be over-dramatic, but some attention must be paid to the human factor. What if avian flu finally strikes and two-thirds of your staff are ill, or worse?  Who knows what to do?  What if the boss is hit by a bus? Can the staff carry on?  What if your business is without power for an extended time?  Where will you work?

As important as these questions are, the bulk of planning for disaster recovery revolves around how to recover data or replace software and hardware lost in a disaster, whether natural or manmade.  The most common disaster facing SMEs is a hard drive crash. A computer hard drive is a spinning disc, constantly revolving at high speed. Just above the disc is a magnetic “head” which reads and writes data to and from the disc. It is the most vulnerable part of the computer and a crash can occur for a number of reasons, including the head bumping into the disc.  More often than not, a hard drive crash leads to total loss of data.  Furthermore, experts agree that it is not so much a question of if your hard drive crashes, but when.

The consequences can be so dire that there is now a website, www.worldbackupday.com, dedicated to making sure that individuals and small businesses regularly back up their data. It follows that backing up data should be central in any disaster recovery plan.  Depending on the size and staff of an SME, an efficient backup system may be the only disaster planning that is needed.

The more dependent on constant access to datathe business is, the more elaborate the recovery plan needs to be.  This is especially true in businesses which are regulated, such as the financial or real estate sectors, where businesses are required to retain records for a given period of time. You may think that this is unaffordable, but given that more than 40% of businesses without a recovery plan do not reopen after a disaster, you cannot afford not to have a plan.  And you cannot afford to lose required data without which you could face hefty fines or even time in jail.

As part of the process of deciding how much disaster planning “insurance” you can afford, it is useful to calculate the value of your data and the cost of downtime.  Developing a plan will costs little more than some hours of manpower.  Deciding on a backup system can be more difficult.  The most cost-effective way is probably to consult an IT expert who is familiar with different systems and suppliers, and will work with you to design a system geared to your needs and within your budget.