Where Were You When the Lights Went Out
By June Campbell
August 2003 will be remembered as the month when North
America's East Coast suffered massive power failure, rendering
cities, communities and businesses without power.
The repercussions of that localized event affected Internet
users on a global level.
Web sites went down. Email servers were rendered inoperable.
Online businesses were unable to provide customer support,
process credit card transactions, fulfill orders or process
My friend in Vancouver was without email for almost a week.
Her ISP's email server is situated in the East. It's a small
world, after all.
It was business as usual on my web site, since it is not
hosted on the East Coast. However, there could have been
problems. InternetSecure, the company that processes my
online credit card transactions is situated in Toronto -- a
city that experienced the blackouts. Thanks to
InternetSecure's backup power supply, there was no break in
their ability to provide service. Obviously, they had done
their homework and implemented an excellent disaster recovery
I wonder how many of us have done the same?
It's equally important for small and medium sized businesses
to implement a disaster recovery plan as it is for big
businesses. As we see only too clearly, the unexpected can and
will happen. What can we do to be ready for it?
Consider the following:
- When purchasing services from a web host, credit card
processing company or ISP, ask about THEIR disaster recovery
plans. Your online business depends on your suppliers' ability to
survive natural and man-made disasters including power
failures, floods, fires, hackers, vandals and more.
- Back up your computer data regularly. How many days' worth
of data can you afford to lose? The answer to that question
tells you how often you need to back up. And, equally
importantly, store your backed-up data off site. If fire or
flood damages your computer, it will also damage the stack of
backup tapes sitting beside it.
- Protect your computer with anti-virus software and
firewalls. Please note that you must update your anti-virus
software regularly or it will be close to useless. Typically,
when you purchase anti-virus software, the package will
include a year of updates. It's a good idea to update twice
weekly and daily when a major virus outbreak is occurring.
- Install security updates to your system and other software
as these patches become available.
Appoint someone to look after your business in the event
that you are unavailable for any reason -- death, illness,
accident, crime victim, extended vacation, etc. Draw up a
Power of Attorney giving that person the legal right to manage
your affairs should it ever be necessary.
- If you have employees, develop a written plan to be
followed in case of disaster or emergency. Stipulate who
should be notified, who is responsible for doing the
notifying, who is responsible for contacting emergency
services, etc. Without this information, your employees are
likely to delay acting, believing it is someone else's
responsibility. Ensure the disaster plan includes phone
numbers and full contact information. Lastly, be sure your
employees know where the disaster plan is stored.
Ensure your insurance needs are covered. Do you have
business insurance? Disability insurance? Do your policies
cover loss or damage to expensive technology equipment?
Ensure that your physical setting is protected adequately
against fire, vandalism, theft, etc. Are your fire alarms
functional? Do your employees know how to locate and operate
fire extinguishers? Do you know exactly who has keys to your
business location? Do you change the locks from time to time?
- Before disaster occurs, locate a business or service that
provides disaster planning and disaster recovery services.
Consult with them to ensure that your disaster recovery plan
is comprehensive and suited to your individual requirements.
Google for "disaster recovery service" and you will find an
assortment of businesses. As always, apply due diligence and
research the company before signing a contract.
No disaster recovery plan is foolproof, but it can go along
way towards protecting you. Ask Air Canada personnel. They're
struggling as I write this to recover from a computer hack
attack that demolished their online booking system, leaving
travelers grounded for days. One can be sure the national
airline will be revising their disaster recovery plan in the
Do yours now.
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