Our world is increasingly besieged by hurricanes, floods, wildfires, or another natural disaster. These events are taking a severe economic toll on businesses worldwide, causing billions of dollars of damage. And this cost will only rise. Extreme weather events are accelerating, and they will increasingly pummel communities and businesses.

All businesses need to take the steps necessary to protect themselves and minimize damage to their operations caused by these events.

Unfortunately, too many businesses do not. 40% of companies never reopen following a natural disaster, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). What’s more, the United States Small Business Administration reports that over 90% of companies fail within two years of being struck by a disaster.

The ability to get any business up and running again depends on several critical factors. Perhaps none is more important than the ability to recover mission-critical data and systems as quickly as possible.

Do you have that ability?

Take the three steps outlined below, and you significantly increase your businesses’ likelihood to re-establish continuity and successfully recover after being hit by a disaster.

1: Understand the difference between backup and recovery

Backing up your data to the cloud is a critical and cost-effective first step in any disaster recovery plan. After all, trying to maintain and manage your on-premise disaster-recovery infrastructure can be expensive and labor-intensive.

But it is only the first step. Too many businesses believe that disaster preparedness begins and ends with backing up their data in the cloud—and they forget that backup alone is not enough. You also need a plan to recover your cloud data quickly in an emergency. The reality is that without a solid recovery plan in place, you may not be able to restore the exact version of a file or folder you need following a data loss.

Think about it this way. Trying to restore backed-up data without a recovery plan is like trying to reassemble a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces strewn all over the floor—and some missing. That won’t cut it when you’re in the middle of a disaster, and you need all your data now—not tomorrow or next week. A proper recovery plan can help you seamlessly put all the pieces in place at a time when you cannot afford to waste a single second.

2: Figure out your RPOs and RTOs

Any good disaster-recovery plan includes recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO) and ways to achieve them.

RPO is a critical tool for cloud-based data backup. It’s the metric you set for the amount of data your organization can stand to lose in the event of a data disaster. Your RPO plays a vital role in helping to determine how often you need to back up your data and the infrastructure you need in place to support your backup plan. RPO is less about the actual execution of recovery and more about establishing the framework so that when you do have to recover from a data loss, you’ll be able to get all the data you need to be restored and available.

By contrast, RTO is a metric you can use to understand better the myriad ways that downtime can affect your organization. Once you have established your RTO, you’ll be in a much stronger position to make informed and accurate decisions about your disaster recovery plan. For example, suppose you determine that your business can only handle two hours of downtime. In that case, you should invest in cloud-based disaster recovery technology that enables you to be back on your feet within that timeframe.

3: Slam the door on cyberattacks

Natural disasters aren’t your only problem. The brutal truth is that bad actors will look for any and every opportunity to exploit that disaster and kick you while you’re down. Indeed, when you’re trying to recovery from a disaster, your cybersecurity risk is higher than ever—because that’s when you’re most vulnerable. Cyber crooks are like sharks. They start to notice you once you’re bleeding in the water. And that’s when they come in for the kill.

Having the right cloud backup and recovery plan enables you to protect your data —  even if a ransomware attack victimizes you. Your organization should look for a cloud storage solution with regular backups and that safeguards information continuously by taking snapshots every 90 seconds, with multiple recovery points in the cloud.

Even if ransomware does sneak through and overwrites your data, you can quickly recover your information. Because this kind of cloud backup is immutable, there will always be a series of recovery points, ensuring your data will remain protected.

Your data is the fuel of your business. If you lose it in a major disaster, you can’t power your business forward. But with the right cloud-based disaster-recovery strategy, your business can quickly get critical operations running again—and ultimately survive the worst that Mother Nature or cybercriminals can throw at it.

Bill Hansen serves as Senior Product Manager of Cloud Services at StorageCraft, an organization that provides data management, storage and protection solutions.

Wildfire disaster stock photo by hkalkan/Shutterstock