DO YOU have a technology disaster plan?

Technology disasters come in all shapes and sizes. From something as simple as hard disk failure to something as significant as an emergency affecting critical community infrastructure, disasters are difficult to predict and are often catastrophic when they occur.

Some businesses don't survive, simply due to lack of preparedness.

Planning for almost any kind of disaster frequently boils down to a handful of steps you might already be familiar with, but used in ways you might not have considered.

Here are seven steps that can help your business, large or small, survive in the face of unexpected adversity:

1. Back up your data regularly

This should be obvious, and yet it is one process that too many individuals and businesses, particularly small businesses, fail to put into place.

More than any other action, simply backing up regularly can protect you against all kinds of disasters.

With a solution in place, what might otherwise be a business-threatening disaster can often simply be an inconvenience.

Backups be online or offline, hourly, daily or monthly, whatever is appropriate for your situation.

The important thing is that they must happen, and regularly too.

2. Back up your data off-site

Backing up is a start, but it only protects against certain types of catastrophes.

If your building burns down, taking all your computers and backups with it, you are no better off than if you had no backups at all.

Ever so often, depending on your business needs and ability to recover from data loss, make sure to send a copy of your backed-up data to some other secure location. Whether it is across the town or across the country does not matter nearly as much as the location being "somewhere else".

You can also consider online backup solutions if they are appropriate for your needs.

3. Encrypt your data

In addition to helping to keep those off-site backups more secure, it is important to acknowledge that laptop and portable media loss and theft are at epidemic proportions.

If having your information in the hands of unauthorised strangers would be a disaster for you or your business, you must ensure that your data is encrypted when not in use.

There are many solutions available. Some of the best are even free.

4. Have an alternate power plan

How long can your business survive without something as fundamental as electricity?

Even many "low-tech" retail stores are often brought to a complete standstill when the power required to run their point-of-sale and other equipment breaks down.

Backup power supplies, generators or perhaps the ability to operate out of an alternate location are all potential solutions to consider.

5. Have an alternate connectivity plan

In this wired age, many businesses are as deeply reliant on Internet connection as they are on electricity.

Losing that connection for a period of time is not unheard of and can have serious repercussions.

It may be enough for you to have an account ready to tap into the local coffee house's Wi-Fi, or you may need to consider more robust backup connectivity solutions on-site.

6. Choose services that match your tolerance for disaster

Disasters need not be local to affect you. Many companies skimp when it comes to the services they choose to outsource to other locations.

When key services like websites, credit card processors and other real-time services suddenly go off-line, the results are often disastrous.

Make sure you understand what you can realistically expect from every service you outsource. Choose providers who match your needs and have appropriate strategies in place for their possible failure.

7. Have a "I can't get there" plan

When disasters are local and involve community infrastructure, sometimes simply getting to your place of business can be an issue.

The growth of information-based businesses has actually made recovery somewhat easier by virtue of remote access.

If you have ever considered setting up remote access to your information technology infrastructure, using it as part of your disaster plan might be an incentive.

You don't have to have a big set-up - it can be as simple as remotely accessing a single computer.

Even if you cannot physically get to your place of business, remote access can allow you or your employees to continue to work.

Exactly which of these and how much you actually need is a function of your business, of course. You may be able to close down for a period without disastrous ramifications, but that is not a common scenario. These are critically important scenarios to consider.

Do you know how your business would weather a disaster?

Would any of the scenarios above be the end of your business, or only an interruption?

And if it is only an interruption, how long an interruption could you tolerate?

Being prepared may be key to your business's ability to survive a disaster.