What is a business disaster recovery plan, and what should it include?

Stephen King has said, “There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.” In business, preparing for the worst can make the difference between survival and failure.

Surprisingly, a large portion of small businesses have no plan in place for handling a major disaster or disruption to their business. Seventy-five percent of small businesses lack a business disaster recovery plan, according to Apruve, a credit management platform for businesses. About 20 percent of companies will endure a fire, flood, power failure, or hardware/software disaster. About 80 percent of those that experience “significant data loss” will go out of business within one month. Also, 43 percent of businesses that do not reopen within 10 days of a disaster do not ever reopen, according to Apruve.

The best way to survive a disaster is to prepare ahead of time. A disaster recovery plan can help a business survive anything from a data breach to a fire or major storm.

“You need to start by having a written plan in place instructing key staff members on how to handle a situation, whether it be a natural disaster or the inability of an officer to fulfill his or her duties at the company,” says Elona Hamilton, Managing Broker at Hamilton Realtor Group in Grayslake, Illinois.

A Cloud of Protection

When it comes to disaster recovery planning, Hamilton says, “The first thing you need to establish is how you will preserve and or access your data in the case of a disaster. Hopefully, most companies are majority paperless at this point. Subscribing to a good reliable cloud-based server is really essential. You need to make sure the service you use is secure, so you do not have a breach of data.”

George Green of Exit Realty Cutcher, The Green Team, in Louisville, Kentucky, also advises agents take data protection seriously. To protect the data for his three offices, he has cloud backup in two locations and a main server offsite. He adds that his pay processes and contract implementation are electronic. With these protections, Green says, “Literally, the scale of an event to hurt us would probably halt the sales in an area first.”

A Guardian for the Company

“Another important component of your disaster plan should be a trusted person, with the knowledge for your business,” Hamilton says. “This person should be capable enough to take over the reins if something happens to the main officer of the company, such as the managing broker. You need to have written instructions that this key person has in their possession. So that way the business can proceed as usual in an almost seamless manner.”

Maintaining Connection

Living in an area with harsh winters, Emma Djiya, broker of three offices of 1st Class Realty in northeast Pennsylvania, learned that staying connected is the best way to keep her business running and service her customers without interruption. “Our IP phone system was a tremendous help and communicating with our cell phones does the job,” she says. “We service our customers without missing a beat.”

It is important to have all updated contact information, not only for employees but also for clients and vendors, easily accessible in order to navigate the emergency and respond afterward.

Physical Defense

In addition to securing and protecting information, the business must address the physical aspect of the disaster. Assessing the damage is the first step.

“I get out of bed and go check my properties,” says Gary Ferrara of Atlantic Florida Properties in Lake Worth, Florida. Agents need to check on each property after a major storm or disaster, assess damage, and contact asset managers and vendors both to prevent further damage and resolve the damage that has occurred.

Brokers also, of course, have to address their office and equipment. Keeping a list and photos of equipment can help make insurance claims easier and also help provide a list of what needs to be replaced after a disaster that impacts the office.

A Basic Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist

A few key elements to include in your disaster recovery plan:

Communication – Make sure to have updated contact information for all employees, vendors, and clients. Have a way to contact them quickly in an emergency.

Role Assignment – Have a list of what each employee should do during or after a disaster to keep the business operating and get the office up and running again.

Office Equipment – Keep an inventory of your office equipment in case of a natural disaster or fire. Take photos of equipment to make it easier to file insurance claims.

Property Checks – Check each property to assess the damage.

Data Backup – Conduct regular data back-ups, especially if there is a pending threat, such as a large storm approaching. Be sure files are stored in the cloud so they are not damaged by physical threats.

Safeguarding the Plan – A disaster recovery plan is only helpful if employees know that it exists and can access it when needed. Keep your plan handy and accessible, and review it with your entire team.


About Author: Krista Franks Brock

Krista Franks Brock is a professional writer and editor who has covered the mortgage banking and default servicing sectors since 2011. Previously, she served as managing editor of DS News and Southern Distinction, a regional lifestyle publication. Her work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, including Consumers Digest, Dallas Style and Design, DS News and DSNews.com, MReport and theMReport.com. She holds degrees in journalism and art from the University of Georgia.