Protecting Vital Business Data from Natural Calamities

The past decade has seen an increase in natural disasters: Perception or reality? Regardless, it only takes one hurricane, tornado or flood to devastate your organization. Here’s how to assess your overall disaster readiness.

FAST FACT: In 2011, Hurricane Irene caused $15 billion in damages in the United States, according to Munich Re.

DID YOU KNOW? Besides creating a business continuity plan, many companies are developing crisis communications plans to deal with natural disasters or violent events.

If you’ve been asking, “Is it just me, or is the weather getting weirder?” it’s not just you. According to global reinsurance firm Munich Re, 2011 was the most expensive year ever for natural disasters, with global damages totaling $380 billion. That’s well over the previous record of $261 billion in 2005, and includes damage from geophysical events (earthquakes and tsunamis), climatological events (droughts), meteorological events (storms) and hydrological events (floods).

It used to be that a high-fatality storm was called a “1,000-year event.” Now it seems as if we experience a 1,000-year event annually.

When Munich Re’s data is charted out, it’s clear that the meteorological and climatological events are the two categories with the largest increases. We’ll leave it to the scientists to decide why it’s happening—our concern is to point out that smart companies of all sizes should start putting together a business continuity plan or improving their current one to deal with potential disasters.

The Case for Business Continuity

Many parts of the country are susceptible to some type of extreme weather or natural disaster, whether it’s hurricanes in the Southeast and along the East Coast, earthquakes on the West Coast, or tornadoes in the Midwest.

You can’t do anything about the weather, but you can plan for the worst. In the terrible event that the next storm of the millennium wipes out your offices and computers, it’s your business continuity plan that will save you. That plan is the business equivalent of jumper cables, there to get everything started again in your darkest hour.

Plenty of companies so far have avoided creating a business continuity plan. But consider the following statistics from a Society of Human Resource Managers survey on how businesses’ continuity plans have changed since September 11, 2001:

  • In 2001, just 54 percent of companies surveyed had business continuity plans
  • In 2011, 76 percent did
  • Despite that increase, however, only 33 percent of companies think they’re well prepared for a natural disaster
  • 42 percent say they are moderately prepared
  • Larger companies take the threat of attack or natural disaster more seriously, and are more likely to put in place a business continuity plan

Make an Assessment

Depending on what stage you’re at in your business continuity plan, it’s time to make an assessment. If you have a plan, assess it to ensure its efficacy. If you don’t, it’s time to assess your information and devise a means of protecting it.

Consider these areas during your assessment:

  • Document the full scope of your network. Determine what it would take to complete data recovery after a disaster.
  • Identify business continuity “musts.” What resources does your company absolutely, positively depend on? What parts of the network rely on what other parts? Look closely at your various business systems and determine the critical resources they need to operate.
  • Where’s your data? Does your company keep all of its digital information in a central repository, or is it filed away on a multitude of computers, hard drives and servers? Talk to your IT department about where it stores your information. After you’ve mapped it out, you may want to invest in an offsite tape vaulting service to keep your information safe.

Take Action to Protect What’s Yours

Once you know where your company stands, you can begin to put a continuity plan in place—one that will ensure your company survives no matter what Mother Nature hurls at it.

Make sure these elements are part of your action plan:

  • Cast everyone’s roles. Create a plan that spells out exactly which employees are responsible for what duties in the event of a crisis. Then document and share this information.
  • Check in with your insurance company. Be sure your policy covers business interruption as well as physical damage.
  • Safeguard all your important data with an offsite tape vaulting service. You’ll want to conduct regular backups to a trusted third-party offsite data protection partner outside your area. That way, whatever storms touch you won’t affect your stored data.

Iron Mountain Suggests: Plan for a (Very) Rainy Day

The number one concern for any business in the event of a natural disaster is to get up and running again as quickly as possible. One great way to do that is by storing business-critical information with an offsite tape vaulting partner.

Choose a company that excels not just in storage, but also in helping companies recover from calamitous events. With the right partner you can:

  • Mitigate the risks of losing essential business information
  • Recover quickly after a disaster and restore your network
  • Unify storage efforts across departments and locations, so the entire company backs up to a central location

Do you have questions about data backup and recovery? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s Data Backup and Recovery team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.

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