How to Create a Disaster Recovery Plan for Your Business

disaster recovery plan is a document that details how your business will recover from a catastrophic event.

When you're sure that all of your employees are safe and sound after a disaster strikes, implementing your disaster recovery plan should be your first order of business. A timely and well-planned recovery can make the difference between bankruptcy and the survival of your business.

There are many different types of catastrophic events. The following steps 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, an approach similar to the one below would be appropriate if a fire or another event destroyed the business offices for a manufacturing business, but not the factory.

01
Make a List of Critical Jobs

Woman making a list of claim loss items to get insurance claim settlement

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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.

Then, mark with a star or asterisk those jobs that you would consider critical to keep functioning if you were in a disaster recovery situation.

For example, customer service representatives and accounting personnel should be marked as critical, while telemarketing people making outbound sales calls might be secondary.

02
Inventory Necessary Office Equipment

Catalog Office Equipment

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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, money and time will be at a premium.

Concentrate on the truly necessary items and not every item they currently use. The disaster recovery list could include the following:

  • Desk and chair
  • Computer
  • Computer software 
  • Telephone
  • Point-of-sale system

03
Inventory Supporting Equipment

Man in office on the phone
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Next, take a look at the essential office equipment that is used behind the scenes. The telephones on the service representatives' desks need to connect to the phone network.

The computers in the office must connect to some sort of server or application that allows orders to be taken, materials to be shipped, services to be performed, invoices to be mailed or payroll to be 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:

  • Back-up servers
  • Copies of important software
  • Data backups
  • Business phone system
  • Office safe
  • Daily start-up cash drawer money

04
Plan for Alternate Office Space

Vacant Office Space
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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.

Alternatives can include any or all of the following:

  • Local real estate agent with a list of vacant office spaces available
  • An agreement with a neighboring business to share office space if a disaster strikes
  • A relocation option within your company (for example, relocation to an empty part of the warehouse)
  • A plan that allows employees to work remotely from home or from a local rented space until the office is restored
  • A list of coworking spaces in the area

05
Insurance and Budget

Banknote

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After you decide where to put people, you will need to start buying them what they need to do their jobs if it has been destroyed.

Estimate how much it will cost to replace each piece from the list of necessary office equipment that you created in step two.

The time you spend now on this task will shave days off of the recovery process later on because you will be able to provide a list to your insurance company detailing exactly what you need, and you will likely receive an insurance check sooner.

06
Share It and Store It Offsite

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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 your disaster recovery plan with at least one other person in your business and make sure at least one copy is stored digitally or offsite.

Store copies of any critical software, data backups and necessary files or documents digitally using a cloud-based service, or store them on a backup hard drive that's kept in a secure place outside of the office.