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By Tom Serio

In the event of a natural or technology disaster, do you have a business continuity plan to safeguard your employees and your business? Are you backing up files on a routine basis, and could you recover them in an emergency?

Last year’s devastating hurricanes heightened everyone’s awareness of the importance of disaster planning for businesses, large and small. But destruction of your company’s infrastructure is not limited to a natural disaster – it can happen anytime and without warning. If you are a small business owner, you can’t afford not to be prepared.

Disaster recovery planning is about business survival. A contingency plan can ensure that your business operations won’t come to a halt when faced with unexpected events. It comes down to having a process aimed at avoiding preventable disasters and for reducing the impact of those events that are unavoidable. Having a sound and well-tested plan can help your business “weather” any storm.

Having weathered four major hurricanes last year alone at its corporate headquarters in South Florida and across nearly 100 stores in the Gulf region, Office Depot has real world experience in disaster planning and recovery. With those lessons learned in mind, we teamed with Jon Toigo, IT expert and author of numerous books on disaster planning and recovery, to launch an educational campaign about disaster preparedness. We know from our own experience how important it is for businesses to be prepared and we have compiled a variety of simple and affordable tips and recommendations in a free brochure entitled “Disaster Preparedness: Advice You Can Depend on to Weather Any Storm” and available at Office Depot'ssite.

The overarching principle in disaster planning and recovery is to protect your most valuable assets: your people and your data. Here’s how to get started.

Create a Plan

The first step to creating a disaster plan is to get a commitment from upper management for resources. To do so, you would be most successful by establishing a business argument that outlines the value of the program. Remember: a disaster recovery plan is not “just more insurance” so you want your rationale to go beyond just risk reduction. You should begin identifying the mission-critical business processes, the technology that supports those processes, the data these processes produce and use and finally, how that data is being stored. Once that has been assessed and you know how quickly your key business processes need to be back up and running, you can begin to implement the appropriate recovery strategies.

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Tom Serio is the Director of Global Business Continuity Management for Office Depot.
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