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No. 3. Safeguard Your Supply Chain
All businesses should calculate the cost of business interruptions in varying degrees: a day, a week, a month, six months, according to the Small Business Administration. Knowing that information can help a company identify an appropriate business continuity policy.
In that regard, Louisiana Technology Group did not calculate the cost of losing business and suffered more than physical damage when it also lost some of its own suppliers, including its ISP and e-mail provider.
The provider's building had partially collapsed and water had destroyed the first-floor data center, leaving Romanos without a website or a way to communicate.
"Techwise, we were a small business. We had to start from scratch. Whatever we had on laptops, that was the only thing left," he said.
Louisiana Technology Group rented a virtual server and slowly started to pick up and assemble the pieces.
"We kept everything centralized. We started copying over documents, QuickBooks, contracts, everything we had," Romanos said.
But contracts weren't worth the paper they were written on because the customers were gone.
The key to survival, Romanos said, was leveraging the skills that had gotten it this far and evolving the business to meet the new market dynamics.
Romanos' wife bought most of the shares belonging to his former partner, who had left the business after Hurricane Katrina, and became president. Leveraging its status as a woman-owned small business, Louisiana Technology Group acquired a GSA schedule and went to work with Oracle, Hewlett-Packard and EMC to target federal customers and prime contractors.
Romanos also hired an office manager who became director of operations and had some government contracts. The company expanded its reach into Maryland and Mississippi as well, where more business was available.
It took about three years, but the solution provider started winning deals with federal agencies and in 2009, Louisiana Technology Group reached $10 million in revenue, double its peak before Hurricane Katrina.
"It's going to sound like a stupid cliche, but we never stopped believing. We just pulled it together, even while everything was crumbling," Romanos said.
Solution providers should at least be wired for two ISPs should something happen to one, said Mike Semel, vice president and chief security officer at Business Continuity Technologies, a Las Vegas-based solution provider.
"Get firewalls that have the WAN ports and get two providers. In Vegas, we have CenturyLink and Cox. It's unlikely something would take both of them is out. Wherever you can, have redundancies," said Semel, who holds several industry business continuity and security specialist certifications and speaks to more than 100 solution providers annually regarding business continuity.
Safeguarding your supply chain means making sure there are no single points of failure, Semel said. "Those are things you have some control over," he said.
In addition to two ISPs, solution providers -- and all businesses, really -- should have multiple supplier relationships to ensure continuity, he said.
"It makes sense from a business standpoint and that extends to business continuity to have multiple relationships," Semel said. "Some of the issues people run into are with certain products that you kind of marry yourself to in this business, like firewalls. Most businesses take a firewall and stick with it. Even PC and server [vendors] are more interchangeable than firewalls."