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By Brad Bellew

Last year’s hurricane season devastated thousands of small businesses in the Gulf Coast region. It spotlighted the need for business continuity and disaster recovery, areas sometimes neglected by small and midsized businesses (SMBs), whose IT departments and resources are limited. This year’s hurricane season is fast approaching, and serves as a reminder that businesses should be considering implementing an enterprise-wide disaster recovery plans before it is too late. For many SMBs, the loss of data is a substantial business risk, but one that can be preventable with careful planning.

CDW has seen many companies take steps to prepare for emergencies by acquiring mobile devices, SANs (Storage Area Network), power, and connectivity as part of an overall strategy. However, while technology is an important part of an emergency preparedness plan, there are other factors SMBs must consider prior to purchasing equipment.

Here are five tips to protect your data and your business:

Conduct a business impact assessment: Because even the most thorough disaster recovery plan often won’t justify the cost of including multiple business processes, it is important to take inventory and prioritize critical companywide business process needs.

Small business owners can easily tier data based on its importance to overall operations. For example, processes that need to be resumed within 24 hours to prevent serious business impact, such as revenue loss or major impact on customers could receive an "A" rating. Processes that need to be resumed within 72 hours could receive a “B” rating, followed by those “C” functions that can take more than 72 hours.

Take steps to protect data before disaster strikes: Back up data frequently to ensure complete records are kept. Consider upgrading the backup equipment to reduce the time it takes to complete a backup cycle. Automated remote backup services are available from many vendors, at a cost that is reasonable even for the smallest business. Add uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) for critical servers, network connections, and selected personal computers to keep the most essential applications running. UPS devices provide battery backup when electrical power fails (e.g., power surges, brownouts, blackouts) and can last from a few minutes to several hours.

One option is to store multiple copies of data offsite and a long distance from the primary data center. Outsourcing this service may make more sense budget-wise for a small business that does not currently have a suitable alternative location. Ensure there is a plan to test and retrieve the information in a practical manner. Include the same architecture in the disaster recovery site as in your primary data center—if you use a WAN (Wide Area Network), the Internet, an intranet portal, and telephones to take customer orders, build the same infrastructure at your backup facility.

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Brad Bellew is a Storage Systems Engineer with CDW.
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