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  • Writer's pictureJack Arnston

Preparing for a Disaster Before it is too Late

In what has become a recurring headline across the globe and here in the United States, natural disasters are occurring at an increasing rate. Hurricanes ravage islands, nor’easters punish the East Coast, wildfires destroy large tracks of land and tornados destroy the heartland. Here in Madison, Wisconsin, we were reminded that Mother Nature can strike with all of her furry with little warning. Recently, our area was hit by reported rain totals of 13 inches in just 12 hours. What transpired was mass flooding and unfortunately one drowning.

As the area cleans up and tries to get back to normal, reports of businesses experiencing catastrophic damage are widespread. Water-logged vehicles littered the streets and wreckers worked day and night to remove them. Road beds were lifted and moved while bridges and train trestles washed away. The local Costco went without power for 12 hours and had over a foot of water in the warehouse. All of the perishable food had to be thrown away. Other, smaller businesses and restaurants lost not only inventory but mission-critical documents vital to running their company.

Which brings me to a message we constantly share, but one that is seldom acted upon. According to a report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40 percent of businesses do not reopen following a disaster. Add to that, an additional 25 percent fail within one year. That is an astounding 65% that will fail following a disaster. However, this does not need to be the case.

The majority of the companies that fail do so because of the loss of critical information necessary to run the company. However, it does not have to be that way, not now, not in 2018. With the maturity of cloud services, there are many cost-effective options for storing information that is mission critical to a company. In addition, processes that dictate how an organization conducts its daily routines can also be saved, managed and used from the cloud. Workflow is an excellent example of this. Processes such as accounts payable approvals, employee hiring and onboarding, vendor management, loan approvals, and contract management, just to name a few, can be deployed and used over the cloud. This option provides a number of benefits that include lower costs, redundant and backed up systems, mobile use outside the walls of the company and security of mission-critical procedures and information. Add to that you have a built-in disaster plan for both information and processes that allow organizations to remain “open” even when a physical location is no longer available.

So, let’s take a quick test to see how prepared you are for a disaster.

· Do you no longer rely on paper documents for mission-critical applications?

· Are your mission-critical applications available immediately beyond your office walls should your office experience a catastrophic event?

· Do you have mobile access to your critical documents with the ability to retrieve them anytime and anywhere?

· Are your mission-critical processes and documents backed up off-site?

· Do you have a written disaster recovery plan for your organization?

If you answered “no” for any of these questions, you have potential vulnerabilities within your processes and systems that could render your company incapable of performing mission critical work in the case of a catastrophic event. Now is the time to examine these weaknesses and react before it is too late. There is not one solution that can solve all of your issues, but taking the time to research the use of a cloud-based Enterprise Content Management solution may address most of them. Not only will a well thought out ECM solution provide you with peace of mind for catastrophic events, but it will also pay immediate dividends in process efficiencies, records management, decreased liabilities and best practices for your organization.

Jack Arnston is a Principal at The Priton Group. He can be reached at

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