You don't know when the next disaster will hit or if you will have any warning at all.

We've included some tips below that you'll want to consider well in advance of any disaster.  The key thing is that you need to start planning now and not wait until it is too late.  Proper planning takes time.

Don't be overwhelmed by how much there is to consider.  If you have questions or don't know where to start, we are here to guide you in the right direction.

Internet Access

With the Internet being increasingly critical to running your business, consider adding redundant connections now.  Fiber optic proved most resilient during and after Irma and it is becoming more widely available by various providers.  Even a slower DSL line could be a blessing if your main connection was down. Comcast has fast and economical options in many areas but may be more susceptible to a power outage than fiber.

  • We can get you a quote for various options available at your location and coordinate the order and installation with the selected provider.  Plan on 90 days or more from when you place an order to when your connection is operational.
  • There are also cellular backup options that may be helpful after a damaging storm.  Cellular was very useful to Acarte and many clients after Irma and Charley. Of course, if the cell towers are not operational you probably have bigger problems to deal with than accessing the Internet.

Data backups are a must!

Possibly the most important thing you must do to protect your valuable business and personal data.  The statistics are alarming when it comes to the percentage of businesses that cease to exist after a major data loss.  There are so many threats that could impact your data and you need a thorough plan to address all of the possibilities.

  • You should have at least three forms of backup with at least one in a different physical location.  It’s probably not a good idea to have all of your backups in the same room and connected to your network.  If the building burns down taking your server and backups with it, that probably was not such a good plan. Ransomware attacks can get to all of the data available on your network and are known to search out backups too.
  • Data file and folder backups are perhaps the most critical.  If we didn’t have a good image and had to build a new server and install Windows we could do that.  What we can’t do is recreate your data, your work product. Think of the time that goes into that work.  You need a solid plan to protect that data at a minimum.
  • Consider what your expectations are when it comes to restoring files.  How much time can you afford to be down? How often do you need your backups to run and what are your needs when it comes to recovering a specific file from a specific day.  Could your current backup method recover a file from two months ago last Tuesday? Many backup systems only keep the last version of a file or only keep a backup from one specific day of the month.  You have to decide what you need. We can give you options to address almost any recovery need but of course, it comes down to budget and a good plan. Now is the time to make that plan.
  • Full system image backups are most useful when dealing with major equipment failure or ransomware.   We have backup options that can get you back up very quickly (minutes) or others that may take days. It comes down to how much data you have, your expectations, and your budget.
  • Are you sure your backups are working?  We recommend daily monitoring and periodic testing of your backup methods.  You don't want to find out your backup was not working when it's time to restore a file or server.

Power Issues

Without adequate power, your office technology is of little value.

  • Generators are a big asset when the power is out but they come at an expense.  We recommend you consult with a specialist in backup generators to see what would be a good fit for your office.
  • Every electronic device should have the appropriate battery backup or at least a surge protector.  Modern computers often call for an active power factor correction UPS so if you have a new PC with an old UPS you need to check to make sure what you have is adequate.
  • Battery backups and surge protectors don't last forever.  We recommend periodic testing and replacing batteries every three years.
  • Legacy internal phone systems rely on power to run.  Without adequate power will you be able to answer or forward calls?
  • Building security - if you have an electronic door access system you should know how it works when the power is out.  Have you installed new batteries lately?  What about the security alarm?

Communication

When dealing with a disaster, communication is critical.  Things you take for granted may not be working and you need to have a plan.

  • Phone systems - do you rely on an internal legacy phone system?  That is not something you can easily pack up and quickly move to a new location.  Consider an upgrade to a modern Internet-based communication platform such as VOIP.  You can seamlessly have your calls routed to cell phones or another location that has Internet access.
  • Text messages - cell tower access may be impacted or overloaded after a storm and text messages may be your most reliable form of communication.  Make sure you have an updated contact list for employees, clients, vendors or anyone else of importance to your business. Make sure your contact list is accessible if your office network is offline.
  • Email - make sure you know the various ways to access your company and personal email.  Most systems have a web interface that can be used from anywhere that has Internet access.  If you rely on your own internal mail server, like Microsoft Exchange, you may want to consider a more redundant system, such as Office 365.  We help clients make that choice and assist with migration if necessary.

Cybersecurity

The bad guys are everywhere.  The Internet has opened your company to the world but has also opened the world to your network.   Are you protected?

  • You need a proper firewall to protect your network.  If you think your Comcast modem is your firewall then we recommend you give us a call.
  • Antivirus, web filtering, and DNS protection are a few examples of endpoint protection that every computer should have.  Look for a system that has a centralized management portal to make sure everyone is up to date and protected.
  • Email spam and virus filtering is a must.  Your email address is constantly under attack by skillfully crafted emails that look legitimate.  One click and your entire network can be impacted.
  • Training is very helpful to keep your employees up to date on what threats to watch out for.  We offer brown bag luncheons to our clients to educate staff.
  • Do you provide wifi access to your employees and clients?  If you let them access the same network as your servers and workstations we recommend changing that now.

Other Thoughts

It's time to make an emergency preparedness plan/business continuity plan for your office.

  • Put together a comprehensive contact list now.  Employee names, phone, address, and personal email address.  Emergency contacts for your employees. Key vendors and services.  Form a plan for who is going to be responsible for initiating a contract and perhaps a call tree.  Consider an online service to make this info secure and accessible from anywhere.
  • Create documentation for planning for and reacting to specific disasters such as fire, flood, theft, vandalism, etc.  Make that document specific to your company and include everything you think might be important if you lost access to your office data.
  • What if your file server is down for a while?  Loss of power, equipment failure, ransomware, and other threats can bring productivity to a halt.  Consider our AcarteSync application that can cloud-enable your server file shares, allowing you to access current data wherever you can get Internet access.  It may not be as fast but at least you have access.
  • If you don't have a plan for working remotely when your office is down please contact us and we can discuss your options.  You don't want to rely on something like remote desktop if there is no power in your office.
  • Equipment location - if you are in an area that could flood, consider having your critical equipment like servers on an upper floor or at least off of the floor.  Keep your onsite backup devices in a different location than the main servers.  If there is a fire in your server room you don't want your backups to get flooded by the fire sprinklers.
  • Photos - keep a detailed set of current photos of your assets.  These would be a big help in the event of any kind of loss. Take the photos now.  Take new photos if something significant changes.
  • Inventory - we keep a list of computers under management and document your network infrastructure but you have more assets than just your technology.  Keep a good inventory that is accessible from your cloud storage.
  • Insurance - know what is covered, who to contact, and know what is expected if you had to file a claim.  Do you have flood insurance?

We've got many more recommendations, tips, and tricks that you can get by signing up for our newsletter in the box to the right of this page.  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn with the links below.

OK, now that you've taken care of the items above (the planning), here's what we do when the storm is imminent (the preparation).