Experts: Some Small Businesses Lack Disaster Plans

While most Houston-area residents at least have an idea of what they'd do if a hurricane or other natural disaster hit our city, many small and medium sized businesses don't, leaving them vulnerable to the whims of mother nature. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, experts say protecting valuable data and documents can be the difference between a recovering business and a failed one.

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A recent report by the Gartner Group found that half of businesses that don't recover their data within a day after a natural disaster, like a flood or a hurricane, go out of business within three years. Many small businesses have no plan to deal with lost data or even ways to contact employees after a disaster. Keith Montgomery is the head of Compass Bank's insurance division in Dallas.

"What we saw a lot of after Katrina and Rita was that businesses were really struggling, especially service-oriented businesses because they couldn't locate their people. People didn't know if they should come to work. There weren't telephone trees set-up to where if something happens you call me and I'll call so-and-so and that sort of thing. Those things weren't set-up, very fundamental disaster planning was really not done. We see a lot more people thinking about it now. But that was the type of deal where if you're running a business and you can't find your people, you can't run your business."

Montgomery says some businesses do back-up their data, but then leave the back-up server on the premises, instead of keeping the data somewhere else away from the business.

"If the back-up is on the premises and you get flooded-out or blown-away by a storm or a fire or whatever the disaster is, you really haven't created any kind of a risk management process to save you in that case. It's critical to separate that back-up, for example, from the premises that might or might not get damaged as a result of the storm."

Companies like Syracuse, New York-based Rescuecom, provide remote data storage services and also data recovery experts for damaged systems. CEO David Milman says another smart thing to do if possible is to take the actual server with you when you evacuate the business.

"When that evacuation order comes most small businesses, most companies, have all their information stored on a server and when you shut that server down, just take the box out and bring it with you."

Other tips include simply shutting a system down before evacuations and designating a person to be in charge of securing data.

"A business should identify a designated data protector so that that person is responsible for making sure that the data is backed-up and that the company knows exactly what do to so that there's a plan."

Milman says many more owners of small and medium-sized businesses now realize that having a disaster plan should be a critical part of their long-term strategy.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...