Down Time: Noun

1. A time during a regular working period when business processes become unavailable.
2. An interval during which a machine is not productive, as during repair, malfunction, maintenance.

For many small and medium sized businesses a disaster recovery plan may seem like an unnecessary luxury, however when disaster strikes, these businesses will quickly wish they had one in place. For many, it may already be too late.

University of Texas

“Only 6 percent of companies suffering from a catastrophic data loss survive, while 43 percent never reopen and 51 percent close within 2 years”

The first step to ensuring a successful recovery plan is in place is the evaluation of your current business processes for keeping your company operational.

Once you have identified the key areas of the business that must be functioning during normal working hours, you can then analyse the cost of not meeting these requirements, and this in turn will determine the value of a disaster recovery plan investment.

For example, if your office is unable to use any electrical equipment for an entire day due to a power cut, would you need to send your employees home? If so, do you know who could continue their work from their home? Do they have the equipment to work from home? Has this contingency been addressed in their employment contracts/staff handbooks?
It is worth calculating the cost of the daily wage for your employees who are unable to work from their home as their cost for the day will have been wasted. Money that could be used to invest in a disaster recovery plan.

At this point we have identified a source for investment without even assessing the cost to the company for the lack of productivity, the potential remedial labour fees, the lost business opportunities, the loss of customer confidence and potential brand damage.

Disaster: Loss of E-Mail/Internet Functionality

The loss of internet access and delivery of emails is unfortunately inevitable!

Even with the most resilient Internet Service Providers for business, your provider will at some point make a change to their services or they may even have a technical problem of their own.

Proactive Measure: Secondary Broadband Line

Some areas in the UK are more susceptible to the loss of internet access than others. If you find that your connection is repeatedly dropping, you might want to consider taking out a secondary, slower and cheaper option broadband line which you can use as a backup when your primary line fails. The cost of this could be as little as £20 per month.
On the other hand, if your internet connection is dropping only once or twice a year, a secondary broadband line would be an unnecessary precaution. Fortunately, there are cheaper alternatives:

Proactive Measure: Alternative Internet Connections

You have most likely heard of mobile broadband but what some users don’t know is that mobile broadband is not exclusive to mobile phones. Whilst the speed of a 3G connection is usually incomparable to a broadband connection, it is still sufficient to browse the internet and to send the email that you promised someone. 3G mobile internet dongles are fairly inexpensive but you will need to take out a data plan with a provider such as EE.

Disaster: Data Corruption to Software (Malware)

Malware (short for malicious software) is a general term used to describe viruses, trojans, spyware, worms and other corruption programs that can affect your software.

In brief: Malware is a virus program that infects a PC and spreads throughout files whilst corrupting them.
Spyware steals your information.
Trojans install an area in which people can access your computer for file access and remote control (like a backdoor).
Scareware is where you receive a message that in effect holds your PC for ransom and demands you pay for fake scanning tools.

Worms attempt to infect the entire network. With an immeasurable amount of malware existing, malware corruption of software and hardware is exceedingly common. Proactive Measure: Real Time Protection Antivirus Suites
Antivirus companies such as ESET, Norton, Kaspersky, Avast and AVG are constantly updating their Antivirus software to keep up with the latest threats to IT.

With a full product antivirus suite such as ESET Endpoint v5, a feature called Real Time Protection will be included. With Real Time Protection, every time a user opens a word document or copies a photograph or downloads a video for example, the antivirus software will scan and ensure that the operation is safe.
Unfortunately, even with the most up to date, state of the art antivirus packages, human error tends to be the main reason that these problems occur. If a user attempts to download a file that is malicious, the antivirus software will alert the user and attempt to stop the operation/quarantine the malicious file but the user can still elect to circumvent the antivirus and continue with the action.

Just one instance of an infection being allowed into the network is enough for your entire company’s IT infrastructure to be disabled. If you download a song with malware attached, your PC might start sending out spam emails all over the world, and you might have no evidence whatsoever that this is even happening. Suddenly, the entire company is unable to send or receive mail. This is because a blacklist company such as Barracuda has noticed what you had missed and has added your IP addresses to their blacklist. Now the world recognises your company as infected and is unable to send to you.

Additionally, the infected PC’s hardware is slowly deteriorating; software and documents stored on the PC can no longer be opened, and other users have reported network slowness. Without IT support, the technical problems will continue to pile up. With IT support your technical engineers will be able to apply to be delisted from blacklists (resuming email functionality), manually locate and clean infections that scanners miss, recover tampered documents, restore PC defaults, identify network weaknesses and revive the network from the brink of total failure.

Disaster: Flooding, Fires and Physical Damage

Taking precautions against physical damage to your work environment is imperative, despite a natural disaster being considerably less likely to occur than a technical one.

Proactive Measure: Backup Procedures

Most businesses will already have a backup procedure in place to prevent data loss due to human error. For example, if a user accidentally deletes an important file, an IT department could recover the file provided that a backup job completed with that file included. A modern backup procedure would make use of external USB hard drives and backup selection software. Tape-based solutions are an older form of disaster protection. Whilst lower in cost and equal in portability, tape-based backups cannot store as much data and usually take longer to complete (this ultimately depends on the type and amount of data).

Alternative Measure: Temporary Work Site

In the event of a natural disaster, if you are able to “set up shop” at a recovery site, this would undoubtedly be a better option than waiting for your usual work location to be repaired. At a temporary work site your employees can resume their usual work and hopefully customers will not even notice a change in service. In the meantime you can concentrate on getting your original work location restored.

The only problem with a Temporary Work Site is finding one. For this to work you will need the new location to be within reach of the old location, so that your employees and customers can travel there with ease. If you work in a large city, your chances of finding a public recovery site increase substantially. On the other hand, if you are situated in a small town or village it may be impossible to find a centre as there will probably not be enough disasters in your area to warrant a recovery site. If this is the case you could approach similar local companies and make an arrangement for sharing office space in the event of a disaster for either party.

Alternative Measure: Working from Home

Check your contracts. Is there a contingency clause for such an occurrence? Perhaps in your bad weather clause? If not, it may be worth considering this as a standard addition to your contract of employment.

Disaster: Loss of Electricity

More probable than an earthquake but less likely than malware is the loss of electricity. Perhaps there is a storm in your region or planned roadwork down your street. Regardless, you will be left incapable of using your electronic devices.

Proactive Measure: Uninterruptible power supplies

If you’ve heard of the term “UPS”, you almost certainly own one as a backup power source for your sever. This is what a UPS is typically used for, as a sudden loss of power to your server can be far more damaging than a sudden loss of power to a PC. However, there is no reason for why you can’t install multiple Uninterruptible Power Supplies for multiple devices. No reason other than cost! The more devices you need to power (consider extra peripherals such as monitors, webcams, dictation devices and so on) and the longer you need the backup power source to last, the more expensive the UPS devices will be.

Disaster Recovery: Backup Generator

The most extreme measure to take as a reaction to a disaster is to buy a backup generator. With a backup generator you could potentially power your entire building, reinstating the lighting and heating that you could not power with a UPS device. This would be indisputably overkill for most businesses which only suffer a power cut every once in a blue moon. Conversely, for businesses in areas prone to the loss of electricity, it is worth considering obtaining a backup generator if there is a realistic space for such an appliance.