Thursday, June 12, 2008

Creating a Backup Plan

What if your studio or office is destroyed by natural disaster?
What if you are in an accident and permanently disabled?
What if your hard drive unexpectedly fails?
What if your flight gets cancelled?
What if your equipment is stolen or damaged?
What if a vendor stops offering a product that is core to your business?

While these are scary questions to ask, it's much easier to face them while they're merely hypothetical questions versus when they become a reality. Having a contingency plan for many different aspects of your business will help you quickly overcome obstacles that may come your way. Here are some of the things that every business needs in order to make it through unforeseen difficulties..

1. Insurance
It seems like such a simple answer, but it's amazing how many businesses aren't properly insured. Having proper insurance is one of the biggest things that can help a business succeed in times of crisis. There are many different types of insurance to protect you and your business in a variety of ways, so it's important to know which types of insurance you need. You may want to start by talking to your current insurance agent to find out if they can cover all of your business needs and what they might suggest for you. It might not be necessary to change insurance agents, but it could be helpful to shop around in order to find a company that can give you the best deal on bundling your insurance needs. Here are just a few policies to consider and ask your insurance agent about....
- Building and Equipment Insurance: in the event that any damage is done to your business assets
- Liability Insurance: should you or your equipment cause harm or damage to someone or something else.
- Disability Insurance: to help preserve your salary in the event that you become disabled and unable to work
- E-Commerce Insurance: to protect electronic documents and recovery of websites or online servers

2. Off-Site Storage
If you store important documents and information about your business and clients on your computer, than you will want to have an off-site backup of that information in the event that anything happens to your onsite hard drives and servers. Likewise, if you have all of your information stored in paper documents, you'll either want an electronic copy or a second paper copy stored offsite. One method is to perform a weekly or monthly backup and physically store your backup drive somewhere else that would not be likely to suffer similar natural disaster to your current location, or you can use an online backup service, such as Egnyte, Mozy, or Carbonite to create regular backups to offsite servers of all the important information on your system. If you need to have an onsite backup, you may want to consider having a fire proof and water proof safe for on-site backup storage.

3. Operations Manual
Many business owners who have no employees or very few employees may not have an operations manual. However, if something fatal were to happen to the owner of the business, would anyone else be able to contact the clients or fulfill the outstanding orders? Creating an operations manual can not only help the business run in the absence of the owner, but it can also serve as a reference manual for everything from a listing of assets, to needed passwords, and valuable vendor information- all of which may be needed in the event of an emergency. For extra assurance, you may want to review these documents on an annual basis with someone who could step in for you in the event of an emergency.

4. Emergency Finances
Whether it's an open line of credit or a healthy savings account, having access to cash when you need it most can be one of the quickest ways to keep your business running smoothly in the event of an emergency. To find out how much is appropriate, you may want to consider how much cash you would need to keep afloat if the absolute worst case scenario happened.

You can never be too prepared, but you can be easily caught off-guard and under-prepared. Obstacles and challenges are inevitable and facing them is not a matter of "if", but rather a matter of "when". Success is measured by your ability to overcome the inevitable challenges of running a business.

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years in the corporate & non-profit world before pursuing her passion for photography. When not behind the computer or camera, she can be found exploring the world with her husband. Follow her on Twitter.