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How to Keep Your Small Business Running During a Power Loss | Business Hub |®

How to Keep Your Small Business Running During a Power Loss

Power losses due to storms or other emergencies can put you and your data at risk. Learn to keep your small business safe.

Mother nature doesn’t always play nice. As we’ve seen several times in the past year, snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes can wreak havoc on our communities. They can knock out our power and we can lose our ability to communicate with each other through cell phones, landlines and email.

We might prefer not to think about these kinds of natural disasters—or even worse, some human made disasters—but staying prepared is the best way to weather any storm. You can prepare your business by creating a plan that will help safeguard its assets, allow it to function (at least partially) during an emergency and let you get back to business as soon as possible after the crisis has passed.

Preparing for emergencies now will save you an enormous amount of energy, time and money later on, and may even prevent you from having to close your business for good.

Have An Emergency Plan in Place

If your business were struck by a flood or covered with four feet of snow tomorrow, would you know how to protect your computers, your network, your data? Who would you call? What would your employees do?

Every small business owner should create a step-by-step list of things she should do when faced with an emergency situation. Start by considering what types of disasters you might face. While flooding and fire can happen anywhere, some threats, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, vary by region. Create a separate protocol for each contingency: one for major flooding, another for a simple power outage and another for a hurricane.

You, and your employees, should know how to turn off the gas, electricity and other utilities in your office. You should know which data backup drives can be taken with you as you leave the building and where they are located. Of course, you and your employees should know how to safely exit your building.

Once you are free from danger, you should have a list of people you will contact as soon as possible, including your insurance agent, any key employees and your data backup service. Since your network may be down and email communication blocked, create a virtual meeting place for you and your employees on an online, third party bulletin board or server. Staying in contact will let you coordinate the process of recovery and getting back to work.

Essential Emergency Equipment for the Small Business

Writing your emergency plan will help you make decisions during the first critical minutes and hours of an emergency. Doing so will also help you to decide which kinds of emergency equipment you will need to have on hand, both to prevent loss of your critical assets, as well as to protect you and your employees from harm.

Asset Protection 

Every small business has its critical assets, those goods without which it cannot function. Some businesses may have inventory of some sort and most will have computing and networking equipment. Comprehensive, up-to-date insurance is thus key to the health of any company. Make sure your plan insures you from loss in the event of a disaster.

Today the most valuable asset of any business is often its data, the information created, stored and shared across your network. The small business must have the tools that will keep its data safe, no matter what the emergency.

  • Data backup. When the power goes out in your business, you are in danger of losing critical business data. For this reason, data duplication is a necessity, and there are several tools you can use for this task. To start, back up your hard drives with additional drives or data storage systems. Make sure that changes made to data are automatically updated in these systems. Many companies with large networks will also want backup servers that can continue to distribute data during or after an emergency. 

Of course, if your business is hit by a tornado or another force of nature, these backup solutions may be damaged as well. Thus, if possible, data backup should occur offsite as well, whether in one of your own offsite servers or through the services of a data backup company. Data may also be saved to the cloud, for virtual backup. This last has the advantage of allowing you to access data wherever you may be should you have to relocate after an emergency.

  • Power backup. Should your power fail, data can be corrupted or destroyed, and therefore it is necessary to prevent sudden power surges or failures in your computers and servers. To start, each computer station must be equipped with surge protectors to prevent electrical overloads. 

Second, the use of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) will keep electricity flowing to your hardware during the first critical minutes or hours of a power outage. The UPS is placed between your computer and the wall socket, much like a surge protector, and automatically supplies power to the PC when the lights go off. When your power returns or your generators kick in, the UPS automatically transfers to that source. Although the UPS will only supply electricity for a few minutes or a few hours depending on the model, this can be long enough to get other power sources running.

Last, many small businesses will benefit from the use of electrical generators that kick in a minute or two after power failure. Generators will not only keep your network powered during emergencies, thus minimizing your downtime, they can also prevent your heating and air conditioning from failing. Servers and computers can be badly damaged by running in extreme heat or cold.

Personal Protection 

When that big thunderstorm or earthquake hits, you will also need to have on hand the tools that will help keep you and your employees safe. These are the emergency supplies every small business should have on hand:

  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • First aid kits
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Portable tool sets, including wrenches to turn off natural gas lines
  • Bottled water and nonperishable food for your employees
  • Safety gloves and supplies such as caution tape, high visibility safety vests and traffic cones
  • Rain gear
  • Battery powered weather radios and two way radios for staying in communication should phone service be interrupted

Stay Prepared and Stay Safe

Knowing what to do when an emergency strikes, and having the proper tools on hand, can mitigate loss and protect your critical assets. Keep your emergency plans up to date and use the latest in data protection tools.

We may wish for a world without natural disasters, but at some point most of us will come face to face with a bad storm or earthquake. Preparing now will allow you to respond quickly, calmly and effectively.

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