According to Business SA, South Australia’s peak business lobby, the unprecedented state-wide blackout following severe storms in September 2016 cost companies approximately $367 million.* While businesses of all sizes can be impacted by a natural disaster such as this, the aftermath for SMEs can be particularly devastating.
At any one time, parts of Australia may be experiencing bushfires, floods, severe storms, heatwaves and cyclones. Whether an SME is in the path of a raging bushfire or rising floodwaters, or is affected by a resulting outage, the potential impact in terms of disruptions to business continuity and downtime (which translates directly to lost revenue), is a serious issue.
It’s important to prepare for the worst, as from my experience, those that don’t will never fully recover from a natural disaster.
Look after your people
First things first, the physical safety of employees during a disaster should always be the number one priority. Prepare and practice evacuation plans – they’re important!
So that you can concentrate on looking after your people when disaster strikes, it’s imperative to ensure you have systems in place for peace of mind during an outage. This may include: a communications plan to alert employees to stay home should a warning be issued outside of business hours; internal communications for keeping employees updated on things like resource availability and recovery status; and arrangements for employees to work remotely, should they be able to do so.
Maintain basic business processes
At a minimum, your business continuity plan should ensure that your company can perform basic operations such as communicating via email and phone, processing orders and issuing cheques. It also should provide a detailed, easy to follow plan for returning to normal business operations.
In the event of a regional disaster, you should also prepare to help nearby customers and partners get through the crisis. Planning may include: communications in advance with local customers, partners and suppliers; and pre-determined policies regarding order and services turnaround times, invoice processing, and other activities likely to be affected by a natural disaster. Most importantly, proactive communication regarding the status of the business and the progress of recovery is key.
Have the right technology in place, or on stand-by
Business disruptions caused by natural disasters can vary widely. For example, a bushfire threat might result in a short evacuation period with no property damage, or it could lead to facility loss and long-term downtime. To be prepared for extended or permanent facility damage, businesses should maintain continuous off-site backups of data, applications and server images. Invest in a data protection solution, many of which offer the ability to run applications in the cloud following a disaster event. These solutions allow businesses to continue operations while primary servers are restored. It’s also worth investing in on-demand availability of failover IT infrastructure in the cloud or at an alternative facility, and failover voice/fax call switching, such as a hosted PBX service.
Natural disasters can impose serious damage to the livelihood of your business. It’s imperative that you have a continuity plan in place to ensure your business can weather the storm.
Various natural disasters wreaked havoc and left billions of dollars’ worth of damage in their wake in 2016. View some of these events and the associated total financial loss on our interactive map.**
James Bergl, Regional Director – Australia and New Zealand, Datto