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12 Simple Disaster Recovery Planning Tips for Small Businesses

by Joshua Feinberg

Many small business owners procrastinate unpleasant tasks, such as disaster recovery planning, in favor of more immediate day-to-day challenges. After all, who really wants to consider the outcome of unlikely catastrophes such as a flood, fire, hurricane, or tornado?

But sooner or later your company could become the victim of one of these natural disasters, or something much more common such as a massive lightning storm, downed power lines, or sabotage by a disgruntled employee or sleazy competitor.

Root of the Disaster Recovery Problem

When looking at disaster recovery planning best practices, you'll find only two kinds of small businesses: those that have experienced a data disaster and those that will.

Countless studies have shown that a big percentage of small businesses that ignore disaster recovery planning never fully recuperate. Small businesses without a thorough, regularly tested disaster recovery plan are likely to go out of business within a few months after a data disaster.

Ignoring basic disaster recovery planning can be very dangerous to your company's survival. Just because your company is a small business doesn't mean it's immune to big data disasters.

How to Get Prepared Now For A Data Recovery Disaster

So with these risks in mind, what can your organization do right now with disaster recovery planning, on a small business-friendly budget, to protect against some common hazards? Use the questions below as a checklist for jump-starting your disaster recovery planning efforts.

Data Backup Before A Data Recovery Disaster

Do you know where all of your company's crucial data files are located?

How are these files being backed up?

How often are these data backups run, verified, and tested?

What kind of automation and controls are in place to make sure that data backup jobs run correctly and consistently?

How often do your data backup tapes go off-site?

Physical Security & Data Recovery Prevention

What procedures are in place to guard your data backups against tampering or theft?

Are your critical technology assets, such as servers, hubs, routers, and phone system controllers, in locked areas of your office?

Do at least two, but no more than four, people have physical access to your company's critical technology assets? (Or can "anyone" just walk over and reboot your server just for the heck of it?)

PC/Workstation Security & Data Recovery Prevention

Do your company's desktop PCs and notebooks run a locally securable operating system, such as Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional, Microsoft Windows XP, or Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4?

Are there any desktop PCs or notebooks that have confidential data stored locally? Are any of these systems running an inherently in-secure operating system, such as Microsoft Windows 9x or Microsoft Windows Me?

Are power-on passwords used to prevent unauthorized boot-ups or tampering with BIOS configuration settings?

How does your company go about keeping service packs, critical updates, and service releases current on desktop PCs and notebooks?

The Bottom Line on Data Recovery Prevention

In much the same way that you cannot plan for when you'll need an insurance policy, data disasters tend to strike when you least expect.

Unfortunately, many data disasters can have a crippling effect on your company's immediate prospects, while even threatening your firm's future survival in the days and weeks following the disaster.

However, there are a number of relatively simple, inexpensive steps that you can take right now to fortify your defenses.

In this article, we looked at data backup, physical security, and PC/workstation security. Next time, we'll explore network security and power protection tips to guard against data disaster.

Copyright (C) 2002, KISTech Communications Corporation

Joshua Feinberg is an internationally recognized small business technology expert, consultant, columnist, author, keynote speaker, and trainer. He is a published Microsoft Press author, as well as the creator of and two-year veteran writer of the Microsoft Direct Access "VAPVoice: Notes From the Field" column. Learn what your highly paid computer consultant doesn't want you to know! Subscribe to Joshua Feinberg's FREE bi-weekly Smallbiztechtalk.com "Tips" e-zine at www.smallbiztechtalk.com and receive two FREE mini-reports by e-mail.

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