That is a scary question for lots, if not all businesses. We spend so much time focused on getting our businesses started, and then successfully running our businesses, that we give very little thought to disaster recovery planning. Really, planning for disaster sounds like we are betting on failure. Betting against ourselves. Yet we think nothing of getting health insurance and auto insurance and home insurance — betting against ourselves, betting that something bad is going to befall us.

So, why aren’t you betting against your business, as it were? Let’s change the view. Your disaster recovery plan is betting ON your business. You’re now going to bet that regardless of what disaster (natural or man-made) comes your way, you and your business are so successful that you are going to pull through and keep right on going.

Now, when I say disaster, do you immediately go to Hurricane Katrina? Mississippi River flooding? Santa Anna wind-fed wildfires? Yes, certainly you need to have your financials backed up off-site, maybe on a different server, or on some tape drives. Tax records for current and past years should be saved, and supplier and distributor contact information recorded somewhere besides your desktop computer.

But what about the small disasters? Last winter the Northeast states were frozen solid and without power after an ice storm. Here in Eugene in the heart of the Willamette Valley, three inches of new snow and temperatures in the low teens have almost locked up the city because only the skiers have snow tires and know how to drive in this stuff. The rest of us are a hazard. Just a simple thing that we so casually depend on – driving to work – can be a minor ‘disaster’ for our businesses.

Fifty years ago, if we were blanketed by an ice storm we didn’t expect every business in town to be open. We were all in the same boat and knew it. In today’s global Internet economy we expect everybody to be open, busy, and available to us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. How are you going to handle your business needs in times of minor crisis?

As an example, several years ago a summer windstorm blew over many trees around our office which brought down all the power lines. No power to our building at all. No computers, no phones, no lights, no tech support, no customer care for several days. Yet our Internet sales from our off-site servers kept up with business. We ended up buying a portable generator to get just enough electricity to run our phone system to play a specially recorded a message for incoming calls explaining why we weren’t there and available to them.

Small businesses can be just as hard hit if a key employee has a car or bicycle crash and ends up in the hospital, uncommunicative, for days, or if all 3 or 4 employees get the flu at the same time. You don’t want your business operations to slam to a halt because people weren’t cross-trained or no one else knew procedures.

One step you can take is to institute a system of transparent communications in your company, so that incoming and outgoing email communications continue smoothly. With Email Center Pro, email management for businesses, you can manage all of your email queues from one location and efficiently route email from one mailbox to another and from one user to another. Email is securely saved off-site, and, in the absence of an employee, someone else in your company picks up the communications thread immediately.

What would you do to backstop your business if calamity should strike? Give some thought to protecting and recovering your company, your records, your business and your customers in the event of disasters, both large and small.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.