By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
As I write this, all eyes are on Texas and Florida, where Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have devastated thousands of homes and businesses. In Southern California and across the Pacific Northwest, wildfires threaten thousands more. No matter where you are, natural and manmade disasters can strike. Is your critical business data protected?
Thanks to cloud-based technology, pervasive Wi-Fi, and widespread acceptance of flexible working arrangements, many small businesses can still keep running even if their physical locations are temporarily compromised. The key to making this work is putting the technology in place before disaster strikes — before it’s too late.
Here are six ways to ensure your small business is in a good place in case of an emergency.
1. Protect your people
Should a disaster strike when you and your staff are in the office, have an emergency escape route established and do some practice runs to make sure everyone is prepared.
Stock up on basic emergency supplies, including water, flashlights, batteries, and food, in case you get stuck in place for a while. Finally, set up communication tools, like a group text or email, to quickly get in touch with employees outside the office.
2. Figure out what you need to keep operating
In the event you can’t get to your business location or if it was destroyed by a fire, flood or earthquake, what tools and information would you need to get back up and running quickly?
For example, most businesses would need access to client and customer contact information, accounting and invoicing records, business bank accounts records, employee and vendor contact information, HR records, business insurance documents (for filing claims for the damage), and any communication tools other than cellphones. Beyond that, the information and tools needed will vary depending on your industry and your business. So make a list of what matters most and then rank it in order from most to least important.
3. Store your data in the cloud
Working your way from most important to least important, digitize that data and upload it to one of the many cloud-based storage and collaboration tools out there, from Box and Dropbox to Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.
Investigate your options to see which one is the best fit for the type and amount of information you have to store and the way your team likes to work. You’ll also want to know how the solution you choose backs up your information and how quickly it can be restored.
If your business is still using software that’s only stored on computer hard drives, consider switching to cloud-based versions of those programs. You’ll gain “anywhere access” and likely save money. For example, if you’re still using paper-based tools for tasks like time tracking and scheduling, say goodbye to the old-fashioned time clock and upgrade to a time tracking app that lets your employees clock in from their laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
4. Equip your teams
Find out what technology your employees have access to at home. You probably don’t want to buy everyone a laptop on the off-chance they have to work at home for a week. However, you do need to make sure everyone has adequate equipment to work remotely in an emergency.
5. Get insured
Last but not least, don’t forget to check with your business insurance agent to make sure your policy is up to date and provides adequate coverage for the risks associated with doing business in not only your industry but your region.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.