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As an entrepreneur based in the hurricane-prone state of Florida, I know about natural disasters and their impact on businesses. The immediate damage is obvious, but the biggest and longest lasting impact comes from not being prepared in the first place.
Indeed, while the immediate damage is relatively easy to repair, the more insidious impact of not being prepared can destroy a company’s ability to function well in the future. Not being prepared can undo years of hard work, prevent you from serving your customers, and destroy your company’s reputation in an instant.
This is essential because keeping a business in operation during a natural disaster is not a question of what to do. after a disaster has occurred. It’s about what to do before it happens. But the good news is, the prep is pretty straightforward. By taking these steps, you will build a stronger business that will survive not only natural disasters, but whatever the world throws at it. Hopefully you will never be faced with a disaster, but if you do, you will be ready.
Almost everyone today has dozens of websites that they need to log into on a regular basis to run their business. Quickbooks, Facebook, Google – the list goes on and on, especially if your business relies heavily on technology. Most people simply store their credentials for these sites in their web browser. As long as you store them in the cloud, which is done by logging into your browser and turning on sync, you should be able to resume quickly. However, you may still run into an issue here due to two-factor authentication (TFA).
If you are not familiar, TFA is a technology that sends a code or a prompt to your mobile device when you try to login to a particular site. This is to ensure that the person trying to log in is who they claim to be, as this requires you to have your mobile device present.
First of all, I want to be clear: while it can be painful at times, you absolutely must should have TFA set up. It provides an additional layer of security which is essential given the constant threat of hacking that we all face today.
Second, you should know that you will run into problems if the device you are using for TFA is damaged or destroyed. And by problems, I mean you won’t be able to log in.
The only way to fix this is to contact the support team at every website that has TFA enabled and prove to them that you really are who you say you are. Usually this can be done by providing a photo of yourself with government ID held by your face.
But there is an alternative that allows you to avoid this altogether. Keep a second, up-to-date, waterproof device in a safe place. This way, you can still receive TFA related messages or prompts even if your primary device is damaged or destroyed. Your old cell phone or tablet should be more than enough for this.
Related: Who to Turn to When Natural Disaster Disasters Your Business
I’m old enough to remember when computer file storage was tiny, expensive, and software came on CD-ROMs that you either had to buy in a store or have it delivered. Times have changed dramatically since then.
The first real computer I bought (1996) had a hard drive with a total storage capacity of 1 GB. Today I regularly work with individual files larger than that, and my office has 8,000 times more storage space! But the biggest problem back then was that if anything happened to that physical hard drive, those files were gone forever.
Then came cloud storage.
Now, instead of just storing our files on our own local computers, removable media, or even a local server, we have the option of storing them in a secure data center. Here, they’re protected by multiple backups, uninterrupted power systems, fire suppression, and enterprise-grade cybersecurity.
In other words, it is virtually impossible to lose our files when they are stored in the cloud. It’s a game-changer when it comes to keeping your business running through a natural disaster. The same goes for SaaS or Software as a Service applications. You may not be familiar with the term, but I know you are familiar with the tools. Google Docs and Microsoft Word are examples. The same goes for Quickbooks, SEMrush, Teamwork, and thousands of other software tools that businesses use every day. These applications are available to be used directly through an online interface without having to download anything to your computer.
And this concept can be applied right down to your workstation. Today, Microsoft Windows can be run in a virtual environment, often referred to as a virtual machine, where you use a simple, inexpensive laptop to run an instance of Windows (and all the programs you need) in the cloud on one. dedicated server. Think of it as a desktop in the cloud.
By leveraging the power of cloud storage, SaaS applications, and virtual machines, entrepreneurs have the ability to simply connect to another computer and be fully up and running in just minutes.
When a disaster strikes, it is almost certain that communications will be interrupted due to damage to cell phone towers and Internet lines. So what? Once that happens, you’ll end up with one of two options:
- Do nothing and hope that everything will recover quickly. This is obviously not a good option. Hope is never a reliable strategy.
- Make sure in advance that you have the option to forward all calls to another number.
The latter may or may not be an option depending on your provider. That is why you should check in advance, and if you do not have this option, you should immediately transfer your number to a provider that offers this feature. This allows you to operate your team elsewhere so that you can still communicate with customers, even if the phone and internet fail in your area.
It’s also important to educate your customers before and during a natural disaster so they know what to expect from you. Remember: many of them may not be local, so they may not even realize that you are facing a disaster. By informing them in advance, they will be more forgiving in the event of delays, unavailability or errors.
I recommend a combination of email, text, and in some cases phone notifications to ensure no one is falling through the cracks.
Cash and credit reserves
The Federal Reserve reports that 39% of Americans do not have enough cash on hand to cover a $ 400 emergency, and 22% of Americans have between $ 1,000 and $ 5,000 in savings. It’s pretty risky during the good times, but it can be devastating when you’re faced with a natural disaster. This not only results in additional costs to get back on the road, but often a loss of income.
Having a reasonable financial cushion can be the difference between staying in business or closing in these situations. You want to be able to cover running costs for at least three months. Even more ideally, six to 12 months, even if no income is involved.
Cash reserves are the best way to handle this, but in a pinch, you may be able to rely on credit. Before tapping into credit, however, it is essential that you assess any use of credit very carefully. You never know how long your income may go down, so you could dig a deeper hole. It’s critical to make sure you’re able to handle the extra payment even if things don’t improve for a few months.
Related: What Entrepreneurs Can Do to Overcome the Impact of Natural Disasters
Natural disasters are beyond our control, but our company’s ability to minimize collateral damage does not have to be.