It was September 9th, 2018 and we found ourselves facing a very dangerous weather situation. There was a category 4 storm coming and this time on the east coast of the United States. This particular season is unique in the fact that more than one storm headed towards United States.

The result was a few thousand dead, hundreds of billions in losses and business that will never open doors again and we wonder if this is our new normal. If it truly is our new normal the question you have to ask yourself is are you susceptible to a catastrophe?

The Optimism Bias

If you live off the east coast and perhaps as far north as New York City or you live in the gulf states, that answer is probably yes. In reality, though many continue to treat business continuity and disaster recovery as a needless extra expense to the business. This could not be further from the truth!

In a February 2017 Huffington post article by Laurie Burrows Grad called “The Optimism Bias: It Won’t Happen To Me“, Laurie talks about a sometimes misunderstood cognitive process called Optimism Bias. She says of optimism bias that its “more as a self-protective touch of positive narcissism.” She claims that we think more about how great we are: “It is good to imagine we are smart, healthy, popular, and attractive. This is the optimism bias with an encouraging tweak. It is wonderful to sail through life imagining lovely things.” However, here is the reality, “The bad part of the optimism bias is that we disregard the reality of an overall situation because we think we are excluded from the merciless nightmares of life.” She goes on to say “The optimism bias at its worst, is when we tend to disregard warning labels in life and falsely assume we are invincible”.

How is this applied to business continuity? We have convinced ourselves we are at lesser risk of experiencing a negative or catastrophic event! This is so true when it comes to understanding the need for disaster preparedness for our business. We lie to ourselves and say, “It will never happen to me so why bother to prepare”.

A Simple Dose of Reality

How can this be a benefit instead of allowing human nature to lead you to a denying what we know to be true? You prepare well! You assume this is not some random act of nature (or of God) but something that will inevitably happen in due course of time. What needs to be done?

If you know you are in an area where a catastrophe could happen then do something about it. Don’t be that guy or gal that suffers from optimism bias and sticks their head in the sand. Make a plan and understand your risk and here is how you do it.

First, understand the value of your business and what can truly be lost in the event of a catastrophe. Seats and tables can be replaced with insurance but other things can not. Therefore, a business impact analysis is the first step. Now you might say, “Mike I have ZERO time for this and especially something I don’t understand.” However, a business impact analysis can be really simple. It allows you to note (on paper) what parts of your business are of the highest value, what is critical to recovering your business and things you could live without for a period of time.  It also allows you to focus your disaster recovery plan on only the most important resources. For example, if you know that you have two computers that have ALL your CRM data on it or maybe all your accounting records, those are critical to you. If you lose them, you’re basically out of business. However, maybe the loss of a filing cabinet that has your tax returns (and no doubt very important), though the loss would be tough, you know you can simply order copies from the IRS and replace them. Those are not as high value to you.

Second, know what is required of you from a regulatory compliance perspective. If you’re in financial services, medical, utilities etc, you should know the law. This will be for those systems and data that are the most critical, that the government has determined you have to keep safe and protect. What do you think will happen if medical records are found floating in the flooded river in the back of your office?

Third, know what’s available to you to protect your investment. Ignorance is bliss until it’s not! I was talking with a wife of a doctor who ran a local chiropractic office. I asked her what she was doing about disaster recovery. She said, “well I’m doing nightly backups”.  I said to her “well you really should think about getting those backups offsite just in case the office building burns down, floods or is blown away”. She politely said “the cloud is not safe for HIPPA data” and she promptly sent me on my way. How sad! That thought could cost her and her husband their business. So you see education can help also to contain optimism bias.

In conclusion, be honest with yourself and expect a catastrophe. Know what your business is worth. Prepare for what will come. As I write this story, there are two Hurricanes and two tropical storms heading for both the mainland United States, Hawaii and territorial islands. This has to be a call to action. If you do not have a disaster recovery plan in place, do so immediately by talking with people who are experts in this area for the preservation of your business.

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