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Susan Solovic, The Small Business Expert is an award-winning entrepreneur, an attorney, a New York Times best-selling author, a media personality and a highly sought after keynote speaker.

How Many Natural Disasters Does it Take to Ruin a Small Business?

How Many Natural Disasters Does it Take to Ruin a Small Business?

A major hurricane—winds of at least 111 mph—hasn't hit the United States since 2005, and I'm not forgetting about "Hurricane Sandy" and the devastation it caused. Technically, Sandy wasn't even a hurricane.

However, we should take Sandy as a stark warning that stands in the midst of some pretty mellow years in terms of hurricane damage. While I'm not a fan of saying "we're due" for a major hurricane, I am a fan of saying small businesses should take disaster preparedness more seriously.

It's always easy to think that bad stuff is going to happen to "the other guy." But remember, to everyone else, you are the other guy. Many businesses that were caught unprepared during Hurricane Sandy took a long time to recover, even when they didn't suffer substantial damage to their physical plants. We have more on that below.

Hurricanes and more

For East Coast businesses, NOAA offers a general guide to hurricanes and hurricane preparedness that you can download for free. It's good, especially in its ability to scare you into action. To get a more comprehensive picture of natural disasters, including tornadoes, wildfires and floods, go to Ready.gov.

And once you're sufficiently concerned, head over to the Small Business Administration website and go through all the information and materials they have specifically for getting your business ready should a disaster strike.

Hurricane Sandy hit more than 23,000 New York City businesses and most of them had fewer than 50 employees. Disasters like that claim about 40 percent of the businesses they hit, according to FEMA. Just as it takes a solid business plan for success in business, it takes a solid disaster plan to come through these terrible situations and land on your feet.

Please backup your data

It's no secret that many small business owners still refuse to take data backup seriously and when disasters like a Hurricane strike, it's easy to lose valuable business information forever, even if the roof doesn't get blown off your building. Until a few years ago, many backup devices were vulnerable because they were typically kept in the same location as the devices they were backing up.

But now, with cloud backup services widely available and inexpensive, there is really no excuse for any small business to lose important data during any kind of natural disaster. We need to add a word of caution here, however. If you're located in a hurricane or flood zone, it's not very helpful if the data center you use for backup—or your web presence—is only one block away.

When you sign on with any data center service, find out where their facilities are located and how well they are prepared to deal with natural disasters.


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