As far as disasters are concerned, it is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. For businesses, surviving a disaster means being prepared. Nowhere is this more true than with today’s complex IT systems, especially those in use by SMBs. Natural disasters and accidents may be the root cause for many of those disasters.

However, small businesses are also targets for cyber-criminals, which potentially creates another type of disaster that impacts business. More than 1-in-10 SMBs have fallen victim to hackers. Any way you slice it, SMBs are more prone to disasters than large, distributed enterprises, meaning SMBs must take disaster recovery planning a bit more seriously. How serious? Small Business Trends reports that 58 percent of SMBs are not prepared for a data, loss, and 60 percent will go out of business within six months of a loss.

Being prepared for disaster starts with a plan, which appears to be something that 58 percent of SMBs do not have, and where MSPs can offer a valuable service. For SMBs, numerous excuses abound, from lack of time to lack of expertise to even fear. However, for MSPs this presents numerous opportunities. Very little in the realm of IT is as scary as a disaster and having no way to recover from it. Creating a disaster plan is not as difficult as it sounds. All it takes is MSP expertise and a commitment to following some best practices around:

Inventory: Create a complete inventory of all systems, software, services, and operations. Knowing what systems are in use is the first step to protecting them.

  • Backup: Institute thorough backups, where all critical systems are regularly backed up.
  • Off-Site Storage: Critical data and applications should be backed up or replicated to an off-site facility. Cloud-based backup offers several advantages here.
  • Priorities: The importance of line of business applications should be prioritized. For example, the applications needed to run an online store or process orders may be of the utmost importance, while systems such as accounts payables may be less critical and not needed immediately.
  • Assignments: Many disaster recovery plans fail to recognize one of the most important elements of any business, the employees. Knowing who is responsible for what and how to contact them could prove to be critical for restoring services as quickly as possible.
  • Facilities: Knowing what can be done on-site and what can be done at an alternate facility proves critical when recovering from a facility-centric event.
  • Contingencies: Understanding alternatives to normal operations or having access to alternate operating facilities can speed restoring business operations.
  • Conceptualizing: Thinking ahead of a disaster and taking into account the practices and policies needed for the business to remain operational could lead to new ideas on how to deal with different disasters.
  • Partners: Work with vendors that can provide the software and services to ease the inventory and backup/restore process.
  • Practice: Once a disaster plan is created, it should be frequently tested, even if only using virtual systems.

Disaster recovery plans should incorporate as much detail as possible so that critical systems are not overlooked. What’s more, a disaster recovery plan should not be something that is written and locked away, it is a living business document, and it should be modified whenever there are any operational changes to the business.