Disaster Recovery: Preparing Your Business for Hurricane Season

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This post was developed in conjunction with Mike Buresh Chief Meteorologist with Action News Jax.

Here we are. It’s hurricane season. It’s that time of year when you see all the news about hurricane parties, filling ice chests, generator mishaps and long lines at the gas station.  This article isn’t about when to evacuate; it will dive into how to ensure your business stays secure and operational no matter what Mother Nature throws our way. 

Researchers from Colorado State University forecast an extremely active 2024 hurricane season driven by record-high ocean surface temperatures. If there is a direct hit on North East Florida, we want you to be prepared to secure your business and focus on your family’s well-being while ensuring your work families and businesses are protected. 

Why Have A Plan For Your Business?

According to ready.gov, a DHS website, 40% of small businesses won’t reopen after a natural disaster, and 75% of those without a continuity plan will fail within three years. As a small business leader, you must consider more than personal preparations; you must also consider what your business should do to prepare. When it comes time to protect your business, there’s no room for panic buying or makeshift plans.”

natural disaster impacts
ready.gov

We sat down with Action New Jax’s Chief Meteorologist, Mike Buresh, to discuss hurricane preparedness for our families and businesses in Northeast Florida. He shared the advice he gives his viewers to help them think about preparing Northeast Florida families and businesses for hurricane season.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.

Resilience – being ready for a storm will ultimately lead to faster recovery independent of outside resources. 

Mitigate – determine what can be done to minimize damage to your home, business, or property.

Communicate – planwith your employees and allow them adequate time to prepare at home and at work. It is equally important to communicate with your own family – what to expect during the storm and what happens after the storm. 

Lastly – stay calm.  It sounds simple, but staying calm and being prepared will benefit everyone before, during, and after the storm.

Key Preparation Steps for Small Businesses

Before any storm is named and the season is in full swing, it’s crucial to have your disaster recovery plans in place. Here’s how to get your business ready:

Employee Safety and Communication:

Ensure employees know their evacuation zones and have clear communication plans. It’s crucial for them to prioritize their personal safety and that of their families. Offering assistance where possible can go a long way in ensuring their well-being. Additionally, keep in mind the impact on your operating hours. Schools often close during storms, meaning many employees might need to stay home with their children. Adjusting your business hours accordingly can help manage this disruption.

When Do You Activate Your Plans?

To assist with this, consider the following timeline based on the cone of concern:

  • 5 days out – Monitor: Begin tracking the storm and communicate with employees about the potential impact.
  • 4 days out – Review: Assess and review your disaster recovery and communication plans.
  • 3 days out – Prepare: Ensure all necessary preparations are underway, including securing data backups and remote work setups.
  • 2 days out – Finalize: Confirm that all measures are in place and that employees know their roles and responsibilities.
  • 1 day out – Shelter: Make final preparations and ensure everyone is safe and informed about what to do during the storm.
cone of concern for hurricane preparedness
understanding the cone of concern and how it impacts your business

Natural Disaster Data Protection Strategies

Protecting your data should be a top priority. Start by considering where your critical business data is stored. Is it on a computer or server in your office? If so, ensure it’s backed up in a way that allows quick restoration in the event of a disaster. Regular testing of these backups is essential. Knowing how long it takes to restore your data and ensuring backups are frequent enough to prevent data loss is vital.

Ways to Mitigate Data Risk:

Cloud-Based Services: Consider cloud-based services like QuickBooks Online, Microsoft 365, or other SaaS products. This transfers the risk of data protection to them.

Understand your providers’ backup policies. Most offer some protection, but you’re responsible for verifying their adequacy. This is crucial for hurricane preparedness even if their data is hosted in a hyper-redundant data center.

Comprehensive Data Protection: Data backups may not be sufficient on their own. Often, they only contain data, not the systems to run the software. Consider the time needed to procure and install new systems if your office is destroyed. During this time, data is useless without functioning systems.

Online or Cloud-Based Backups: Use these backups for critical data to allow data restoration on new systems if your primary systems are compromised to mitigate business interruption.

Critical Questions:

Are these backups working?

Are you sure they are working?

How do you know if they are working?

Have you tested to make sure they are working?

Avoid Blind Trust: Many businesses have discovered too late that their backups were ineffective. Always validate your data backups through attestation, reporting methods, and test restores to ensure data recovery.

Disaster Recovery Planning

Host Servers in a Data Center: Data centers are above flood plains and built like fortresses, ensuring stable power and internet connectivity.

Offsite Disaster Recovery Backups: Even with servers in a data center, send full disaster recovery backups offsite to another data center or cloud system. This captures both data and system states for complete restoration.

Regular Testing: Test your disaster recovery capability regularly. Systems change, and what works today may not work tomorrow. Validate backups and document restore times to ensure readiness.

Employee Accessibility

Ensure your employees can access systems during a disaster recovery scenario. Test remote work setups to confirm they support business operations without performance issues.

According to Insureon, it is not only a good idea to have you a good idea to have your employee’s contact information, but your small business emergency response and post-storm recovery checklist should include information for all of your business partners. These should be updated before each hurricane season. 

Conclusion

Preparing for hurricane season involves more than just personal safety and monitoring the National Weather Service and NOAA. Businesses must ensure their data protection, disaster recovery plans, and remote work capabilities are in place and tested. Partnering with an IT Managed Service provider can streamline these processes, offering peace of mind during hurricane season. To help with this, download our Hurricane Season Preparedness Checklist with emergency contact information for local services.

 By following these steps, your business can weather the storm and maintain operational integrity, no matter what nature throws your way. Remember, seeking help from experts can ensure your technology is safe, secure, and ready for any disaster.

Ryan Drake

Ryan is the President of NetTech Consultants, a Jacksonville based managed IT services provider that serves SMBs and organizations in Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida. Ryan started with NetTech in 2013 and since then has led consistent strategic business growth by modernizing operations before assuming responsibility for all facets of the business in early 2016 and continuing the trend. He holds several high-level industry certifications including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).

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