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How to Write a Disaster Recovery Plan

Disaster Recovery Plan: Quick and Dirty

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Disaster recovery planning is the process of creating a document that details how your business will recover from a catastrophic event. All businesses need a disaster recovery plan, but few businesses take the time to write a detailed and all encompassing plan.

There are many different types and kinds of catastrophic events. We are going to focus on creating a disaster recovery plan that you can use if you lose your office, but not the production capabilities of your business. For example, a fire destroys the offices but not the factory.

1. List of Jobs

Submerged House
Paul Taylor/ Stone/ Getty Images
The first step in creating a disaster recovery plan is to make a list of all the office jobs that would have to be relocated to an alternate location so the business can continue to run. Mark each job with a star (or asterisk) that you would consider critical if you were in a disaster recovery mode. In other words, which jobs do you need up and functioning as soon as possible. For example, customer service representatives and accounting personnel should be marked as critical, while telemarketing people making outbound sales calls should not.

2. Inventory Necessary Office Equipment

For each employee, list only the essential office equipment and furniture that they need to perform their jobs. Remember, in the event of a disaster, space, time and money will be at a premium. Concentrate on the truly necessary items and not all the items that they currently use. The disaster recovery list could include the following:
  • Desk and chair
  • Computer
  • Computer Software
  • Telephone
  • Calculator
  • Cash register

3. Catalog of Supporting Equipment

Next, take a look at the essential office equipment that is used behind-the-scenes. The telephone on the service representatives' desk needs to connect to something. The computers in the office must connect to some sort of server or application that allows orders to be taken, materials shipped, services performed, invoices mailed and payroll met. Walk around your office and you will see the things that tie your business together.

Your disaster recovery list may include the following items:

  • Servers
  • Server Software
  • Data backups
  • Business phone system
  • Office safe
  • Daily start up cash drawer money

4. Alternate Office Space

Now that you have a list of people, furniture and equipment, you will need a physical place to put them. This does not mean that you have to rent office space and let it sit empty. What it does mean is that you should have already researched several alternative places to relocate your office in the event of a disaster.

This can include any or all of the following:

  • Local real estate agent with a list of vacant office space available
  • Agreement with a neighboring business to share office space if a disaster strikes
  • Relocation with in your company (i.e. to an empty part of the warehouse)
  • Let employees telecommute to work until the office is restored

5. Insurance and Budget

After you decide where to put people, you will need to start buying them the stuff they need to do their jobs. From the "Necessary Office Equipment" list that you created previously, start estimating how much each piece will cost to buy or lease. The time spent up front on this task will shave days off of the recovery process because you will be able to provide a list to your insurance agent of exactly what you need. You will have the check sooner and then you can start buying furniture and equipment immediately.

6. Share It and Store it Offsite

The best disaster recovery plan won't do you any good if it gets burned up in the fire or nobody can find it. The best strategy is to share it with at least one other person in your business and make sure at least one copy is stored offsite. After you are sure that all your employees are safe and sound, this should be the first thing you reach for after a disaster strikes your business. The odds are stacked against you and time is not on your side. A disaster recovery plan may make the difference between bankruptcy and survival of your business.

Next Step: Disaster Recovery Planning Keys to Success

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