Is Disaster Planning a useful exercise?  For this business, the worst nightmare possible happened last weekend.  They had a major fire!  What actually happens when a fire occurs in a business and is it something you should plan for? Today we look at planning for the worst-case scenario from an IT perspective and determine what you need to do now in order to make recovery a possibility.


Last weekend I looked out of my home office window and saw billowing smoke rising up from the forest.  My heart sank, my home overlooks Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean, it is an amazing ancient woodland and has been a film location for everything from Star Wars and Harry Potter through to TV series such as Game of Thrones and Merlin.

I decided to drive up and see if there was anything I could do to help but was pleasantly surprised to find that the woodland was not ablaze but still looking as amazing as ever. However, a local business that utilises industrial units half a mile from the forest was certainly alight and had gathered a large number of firefighters and police. With roads blockaded and the fire being fought by the professionals I returned home to reflect.

I wondered, had the owners of the business made a plan for this sort of disaster? Had they got insurance? Had they got a back-up of their data?

Disaster Planning

If you own a business long enough the chances are at some point it will have a disaster that needs to be dealt with.  I guess it depends on how you define a disaster but in my world a disaster might include:

  1. A fire.
  2. A flood.
  3. Break-in / robbery.
  4. Ransomware attack (such as the one shown in our video)
  5. Failure of a significant piece of equipment.
  6. A member of staff that damages data by maliciously or accidentally deleting.

Why would you do this before an event?

There are a lot of reasons to spend some time thinking through your business response to a disaster.  The obvious ones are around making decisions upfront.  Have you ever been in overwhelm?  Trying to make any decision when deprived of sleep and facing potential ruin is difficult and I have personally made some wrong decisions “in the moment” only to regret them later. But there is a secondary reason for taking time to make the plan before it is needed; it is about the availability of information.

Do you have a record of insurance phone numbers and policy numbers?  Can you recover information even if a fire destroys your entire office? How about details of companies that have supplied equipment you might need replaced?  Even minor details like the name and out-of-hours phone number of the company that can fit emergency doors at 2am can be really useful.  If you have this information upfront your disaster might be nothing more than a slight blip to your day.  Without this information you might spend hours going in circles.

What is in a disaster planning document

A disaster planning document, fundamentally, is a reference point in the case of emergency.  The aim is to pre-think about all of the things that might need to happen both during, immediately after and in the long-term.  It is useful to break this up into different disasters and although there will be some overlap and repetition, you will find having the right information for each disaster will make the recovery much easier.

Smaller business have a small management team (sometimes one person) but that doesn’t mean that all staff cannot get involved.  By having a defined outcome required for each task and ensuring the right information is available it is possible to get everyone involved, share the workload and get back to normal as quickly as possible.

As an example, let’s take a fire to an office, tasks here might include:

Task Outcome Info Needed Estimated Cost (1) Day
Phone Insurance Company Open case and get reference what next / when Phone number
Policy number
Policy documentation (to check clauses)
Phone staff Instruct staff to work from home until further instructed Mobile numbers of staff
List of people on holiday
Locate computer to work on

Need at least one computer with ability to access documents and email for each member of staff operating on this document.


IT Company phone number   1
Divert Phone Calls

Divert all phone calls to call answering service and have them answer most of the questions based on script

For specific questions that need to be answered in-house have calls transferred to mobile


Phone number of Telecoms provider

Phone Number of outsourced Call Answering


Script for Call Answering


Mobile numbers

Email to customers

Inform customers of fire and extent to which it might affect delivery of goods / service


Inform them how they can help – phone a number / send an email / do nothing for a few days.


List of customers awaiting goods / services


Pre-scripted email that has been agreed by management team

Find new office space Locate a new office to work from

How many staff


Equipment supplied as part of rent


Internet connectivity – is it fast enough


Furniture – is it included?


£3000 up front 1
Order new IT kit

Ensure new IT kit can be delivered to new office


All equipment to have programs restored

What type of computers are need (PCs / laptops / servers etc)


List of software needed for each computer


List of locations to download software e.g. Sage Line 50c


Usernames / Passwords / licence keys for software


£1000 / computer



Data Restored

Ensure data is restored to last known good copy and identify anything missing.

Needs to be done ASAP to allow time for download to local equipment.


Who backs up data.

Which computers / servers need what data


Ability to host the data in the cloud as a short term measure



(1) Obviously, costs should be paid by the insurance company but it may be necessary for the business to pay up-front for certain items and claim this back a few weeks later. This means this document can help to plan a financial contingency as part of the process.

This table needs a lot more thought but to be fair it is possibly the biggest disaster most businesses will have to deal with and from this many other disaster plans can be created with ease.

What Data to Backup?

Check back next week when we will look at the type of data you need to be backing up, where it should be stored and the importance of testing procedures to ensure data can actually be used in an emergency.

How can I get help

A good IT support company will be able to assist you with planning for a disaster.  If you would like us to check through your IT disaster planning document we have engineers available.


What next?

If your business would like to talk about planning for disasters or secure data storage then fill out our contact form, phone us or click on the appointment button below and lets start a conversation to see if we are able to help you and your business.

Our guarantee:

  • There are no hidden charges – this is a 100% free 15 minute consultation with no hidden charges.
  • We will never spam you or sell on your contact details.
  • We will treat your information with absolute confidentiality.

Other Posts for you to Enjoy


Let’s operate in the “Arena”

  Introduction Back in 2002 the media did their usual frenzied attack on Donald Rumsfeld after he introduced them to the conept of "Known Unknowns" and "Unknown Unknowns": “Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as...

Happy Birthday Absolutely PC

Absolutely PC celebrates its 18th Birthday in March 2023.

Averting Disaster with a Checklist

Often a check list, when done regularly, will show early signs of issues. Acting on those issues whilst they are small saves a bigger problem or potential disaster.

What is the difference between a MSP and IT support

What is the difference between IT Support and a managed service provider (MSP). By understanding the difference you will be better able to choose the right type of support for your business.

LastPass Security Breach

LastPass is a password management utility and application allowing companies and people to store their passwords. After a recent breach there are some serious security issues that need attention. This article looks at what these issues are and how to re-secure your passwords.

Backup Disaster Recovery – Protected

Backup disaster planning allows your business to recover quickly and simply and has an affordable budget which is consistent. Choosing what, how and where to backup will be explained within this series of articles and allow you as a business owner to make an informed choice about how to protect your business.

Backup Disaster Recovery – Backup Options

Backup disaster recovery includes onsite and cloud-based backup options. Which is the best option for your business and what is the difference between them.

Super Deduction, HMRC pays for IT

HMRC have a tax relief available called super deduction. Super deduction allows your business to buy IT equipment and offset 130% of its cost against your corporation tax. In order to take advantage of this relief you need to purchase equipment before 31st March 2023.

Backup Disaster Recovery Plan – Data

“What data to backup” is the first step in backup disaster recovery planning and is a key part of your IT emergency response plan. This article looks at some of the data that is often forgotten. By ensuring you include all of the data your business depends upon, you maximise the chance of recovery when it is needed.

IT Security: Folina Vulnerability Fixed

IT security update: Folina vulnerability has been fixed by Microsoft. How to ensure your system is protected and reverse the temporary fix we suggested.

IT Security: Zero Day Attack – Take Action Now

A new zero day attack is in progress and it threatens all computer systems that have Microsoft Office installed. A simple piece of code will thwart this attack until Microsoft have had a chance to release a patch

WordPress Security – Attacks leave 1.6 million sites damaged

Are you confident that your WordPress website is secure? Yesterday, on the 9th of December 2021, 1.6 Million WordPress Sites were Hit With 13.7 Million Attacks In 36 Hours From 16,000 IPs. It’s safe to say this is a major concern to businesses everywhere. WordPress...

Cyber Security Infographic

With cyber attacks becoming increasingly common for businesses of all sizes, it is critical that your organisation understands the most common types of cyber attack and what you can do to protect yourself. Take a look at our cyber security infographic which takes you...

How To Fix Windows ‘PrintNightmare’ Vulnerability – Video

Microsoft is warning Windows users about a currently unpatched security flaw in the Windows Print Spooler service which is being actively exploited. Whilst waiting on a fix from Microsoft, Window's PCs are potentially vulnerable to be hacked whenever they are switched...

LastPass Security Breach

LastPass is a password management utility and application allowing companies and people to store their passwords. After a recent breach there are some serious security issues that need attention. This article looks at what these issues are and how to re-secure your passwords.

New Password Management Tool Available from Absolutely PC

With cyber attacks on the rise and remote working becoming commonplace, now, more than ever - businesses need to keep on top of the security of their passwords or be at risk of suffering a costly data breach. A study by Verizon Data Breach Investigations found that...

Can your business cope with winter disruption?

Thanks to the unseasonably mild weather we’ve enjoyed this autumn, it’s easy to forget that winter, and all the potential havoc it can wreak, is soon to follow. It’s hard not to feel that our weather has become more unpredictable and freak storms just aren’t, well,...

Eternal Blue – Behind the Hack [Video Guide]

What would you do if a hacker had access to all of your sensitive documents and data through a machine that they had exploited, with access to control your webcam as well as monitor the screen and keyboard? It’s not something out of action movie, what we’re describing...

IT Security: Folina Vulnerability Fixed

IT security update: Folina vulnerability has been fixed by Microsoft. How to ensure your system is protected and reverse the temporary fix we suggested.

Man In The Middle – Behind the Hack [Video Guide]

Cybersecurity (cyber security) is a buzzword that seems to have appeared relatively quickly in the world of business IT.  If you search the term “cybersecurity” or “cyber security” on the BBC News website, there are currently 29 pages of articles from the last 2...