The recent dramatic flooding and storms, which have cut off large parts of the country and caused many people to evacuate their homes and businesses, may have prompted you to ask yourself what you would do in a similar situation. How would you keep running your business if your server was washed away in a flood?

A disaster-recovery plan sounds like the answer, but it also sounds as if you are preparing only to clean up the mess after the disaster has happened. Really you should be thinking about Business Continuity: that means, setting up your IT systems in such a way that you can still access your data and emails in the event of fire, flood, break-in or other calamity.

So how should you ensure that your IT keeps going, even when your office doesn’t?

The key thing is to protect your data and emails. You need to make sure that you have an up-to-date duplicate copy of all your data and emails stored somewhere else, that you can access immediately if your server goes down.

Copy your data to the cloud

Nowadays, if you wish to keep a copy of your data for business continuity purposes, you will probably use one of many cloud-based solutions. You can set up your IT systems so that they will automatically copy all data into the cloud – Friday-night manual backups are a thing of the past. However, the process does still have to be monitored daily. If you are a small company, it is worth outsourcing this to an IT support company.

At First Line, for example, we monitor our clients’ systems on a daily basis. If something goes wrong, , our engineers get straight on to diagnosing and fixing the problem so that everything is back to normal and all is running well within 24 hours . From time to time we will also do a test recovery. All of this goes on in the background while our clients get on with their businesses – but it means that they’ll still be able to get on with their businesses even if disaster strikes. Having a duplicate server in the cloud is an excellent way of protecting your data and ensuring that you can just keep working seamlessly.

Use a cloud-based email continuity service

You can protect all your emails by sending them through a cloud-based continuity service. The service will keep receiving emails even if your server is offline for any reason, and will store them for at least seven years. Your staff can continue sending and receiving emails through the internet for as long as it takes to get the server back up and running. It’s also a handy solution for office moves – everyone can work from home while the kit is being transferred.

This is usually sold by providers as a subscription-based service and the price depends on the number of email addresses you need. It is not massively expensive – about £5 to £10 per month for a single email address, and you can usually get a discount for volume, so that a 40-person company is paying about £250 to £300 per month. This includes spam-filtering and anti-virus protection so is a good deal if you don’t have an in-house IT department.

Protect your telecoms too

For many companies, particularly those with in-house customer service departments, the telephones are at least as important as email. Once again, the cloud is your friend, with hosted telecoms systems that can keep you in contact with your customers even if traditional telephone lines are down.