As home PCs and Internet access have become more and more widespread, the number of home-based businesses has also increased enormously over the last few years. Today it is very easy for many entrepreneurs to run their businesses entirely from home simply because it is possible, as well as cost effective. But working from home is not without its dangers as it brings various major and minor risks not usually associated with working in a regular office.
However, as soon as the words “business continuity” and “disaster recovery” (BC/DR) are mentioned, most home business owners start imagining pictures of a costly and complex rocket science that is only applicable for large companies.
Plenty of home-based businesses and tiny organizations live under the misconception that BC/DR activities are beyond their expertise or affordability. These misconceptions frequently cause many small businesses to lose their data, equipment, or even ruin their business completely for trivial reasons.
Losing a business due to market forces or financial losses beyond your control is understandable. But losing your business due to silly mistakes or lack of basic precautions is a different ballgame that must be tackled by having a proper home-based BC/DR plan.
For example, a particular home-based businesswoman suffered a serious business disruption just because she lost her mobile phone and had no back-up contact list. So how can one implement a BC/DR for their home-based businesses without hiring an expensive specialist? Simple. Just follow the easy precautions below to have a reasonably good BC/DR plan for your home-based business.
- Keep your business materials safe from children and pets. Your child can easily ruin all your business documents for his or her coloring project or paper airplanes. For example, the famous scientist Thomas Edison lost hundreds of his research papers due to a fire accidentally triggered by his pet dog. Have a small fire extinguisher handy.
- When working from home use a separate room if possible. Keep all work documents, computers, diskettes, CDs, phones, etc. in a room that can be locked. Ensure the business room is fire-proof, water-proof, pest-proof, and child-proof.
- Do not load games and other fancy stuff like free screensavers on your business computers at home. Just have the essential business applications. Freeware, shareware, games, etc. can cause freak problems and virus attacks.
- Learn how to configure your Internet connection, install necessary software, anti-virus programs, etc., on your own. Store all CDs, manuals, and license keys of all software safely.
- Take the help of professionals and vendors for software installations you are not sure about, as there could be several post-installation settings and configurations. Do not use old and outdated software. Keep upgrading to the latest versions whenever and wherever possible. Never play around with software settings and features without knowing the consequences.
- Buy a reliable back-up device and back up your data regularly. Have multiple backups for safety. More importantly, learn to verify your backups and how to restore your data.
- Have a print-out of all important phone numbers, e-mail IDs, vendor contacts, etc. and keep it updated periodically. Also save all important numbers on your computer, mobile, and e-mail as a backup.
- Have two business e-mail IDs if possible, and configure e-mail ID1 to send a one-way copy of all e-mails to e-mail ID2 for back-up purposes. But do not have a two-way setup as it can crash the mailbox through the ping-pong effect.
- Have your computers, printers, UPS, etc., under proper hardware maintenance contracts.
- Review your insurance policies. Does your work insurance cover losses at home? Does working at home invalidate your personal and home insurance? Do not leave laptops and other important business material in your car. If the car gets stolen, or mowed down by a truck, you will lose important data. You will probably not be able to claim this under your insurance policies either.
- Ensure that every computer is running the latest version of a reputable anti-virus program. Have a periodic and mandatory update policy to tackle new viruses.
- Ensure that your electrical outlets are safe and properly grounded. Your home probably wasn’t designed to be a work environment, too, so be careful about overloading the electricity supply with too many plugs and extension leads going into too few sockets.
- Scan important documents and store the images on a disk.
- Do not share your business computer with children, friends, relatives, etc. Have a separate computer for them to use.
- Review everything you do and simplify as many things as possible. For example, if you have difficulties in operating a complicated accounting software, switch over to manual methods if possible.
- Learn everything you need to know. Also teach one or more of your trusted family members or friends about running your business when you are sick or traveling.
- Save relentlessly for a rainy day and don’t start leading a lavish lifestyle. Never become overconfident about your competency or earning abilities. Just because you are earning well now does not mean you will continue to do so forever. Markets, economy, health, customers, etc., can take a nose dive and ruin you within weeks.
- Be cost effective to your customers. If you increase your overheads you will soon become unaffordable to them.
- Finally, take any other safety precautions necessary depending on the unique nature of your work, home, location, availability of support, etc.
While the above list is not exhaustive, it can give you a good BC/DR head start for protecting your home business. Just think of all the nasty things that can happen. You need to take appropriate precautions. Essentially, you should learn to think like a coward and implement all necessary safety measures to protect your home business. Finally, we can conclude this article with a great Chinese proverb that says, “Only a coward can create the best defenses.”
Thejendra BS is an IT manager from India. He is also the author of several books, including Practical IT Service Management, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity, and God is No Angel. For more information visit www.thejendra.com.