Hurricane Season is Here -- Are Your Computers Ready For a Disaster?

Every year when hurricane season arrives, the discussion turns (at least for a short while) to the topic of disaster recovery.  What would happen to your business (or home) records if your computer systems were destroyed in a disaster?  Here we will discuss how to plan for such a situation.

There are many parts to a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.  In addition to thinking about your computer data and equipment, you also need to consider access to your paper records, personnel shortages, and alternative locations among other things.  You also need to develop procedures according to a timeline -- what are routine procedures (like backups) that are followed daily, what to do prior to an anticipated situation (like a hurricane), what manual procedures to follow during an emergency, and what to do after the emergency passes. While those other topics are necessary to consider, in this article we will focus only on the preparation phase for computer data and equipment.

The first thing to consider is: what kind of disaster do you want to plan for?  Planning for every conceivable disaster, however unlikely, is possible but very expensive.  So think about which scenarios seem most likely for you, such as: the computer's hard drive crashes, no electricity in your office for an extended period of time, flooding which prevents you from getting to your computers, or a fire which destroys all of your computer equipment.

Regardless of what disaster you are preparing for, you always need backups.  There are two main types of backups -- local and online.  A local backup is where you use a local device such as an external hard drive or DVD to copy your data.  An online backup is a service which uses a secure web server to store your important data.  If you use a local backup, be sure to store these backups in an off-site location such as a bank safety deposit box.  Regardless of the type of backup, you also should store a copy of all your operating system and application CDs in a safety deposit box.  So if your computer's hard drive crashes, you can install your applications onto a new computer from the CDs, and recover the data from the online server.

To plan for no electricity in your office, you need to have an offsite location available.  That offsite location (somebody's house, another office location, etc.) would need access to the Internet.  Then you can take your computers from the office that doesn't have electricity and set them up in another office that does have electricity.

If you don't have access to your computers, your business could be in big trouble in just a few days.  So your disaster recovery plan should include the option of borrowing or purchasing computers if necessary.  Then you can setup these new computers in the offsite location, install your applications from your CDs, and restore your data from the online backup.

Similarly, as long as you have a copy of your CDs in another location and access to your online backup, you can purchase a new computer and recover from a fire in fairly short order.

So regardless of the type of emergency, as long as you have a copy of your application CDs and access to your data, you can easily recover from just about any disaster.  For help with setting up and testing your own disaster recovery plan, please call our office at 713-861-4183.  We have the experience and knowledge to keep you protected.