How To Protect Your Home Office and Business Against Disasters

Recent big and bad storms like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have taught many a tough lesson in how quickly we can lose everything we have in the blink of an eye. Along with homes, vehicles, and prized personal possessions, those who work at home risk losing their very ability to do business. Then, trying to get back to work becomes a bigger nightmare when you also have to struggle to find temporary accommodations.

Yet there are steps you can take to make it possible for you to get back to business so you can earn the next paycheck you desperately need. If you spend even just a few hours each month to make copies of important material and other prep tasks, you may be well prepared enough to set up shop again from just about anywhere, including a family member’s home or a hotel or motel.

Do full system backups of your computer on a regular basis. Do this at least once a week. You can use this backup to restore the contents of your hard disk to a new computer, if needed. If at all possible, consider storing backup copies at a remote location on a regular basis. You can mail a recorded CD or DVD once a week to a trusted friend or family member, store them in a safe deposit box in a nearby town, or some other avenue that lets you keep a copy away from your physical office.

If you keep all records of your clients, customers, vendors, distributors, and others you do business with strictly on your computer, you want to make at least one hard copy of this information and update the copy regularly, to reflect new additions or remove no longer live accounts. Keep a copy of this with your portable computer, if you have one.

If you have a notebook or tablet computer, have it in good working order and set up with all the programs you need to run your business. For example, if you use QuickBooks to do your accounting, Microsoft Word to prepare documents, and DreamWeaver to manage a small business Web site, have those applications installed on the portable system. When you make backups of your computer drive contents, make an extra copy that you can slip into your portable computer carrying case.

Do you belong to any local, regional, or national professional associations? See if they have a plan to help members in an emergency or suggest other members network with you; a colleague may be able to loan you office space for a week or two if you also promise to provide the same if they run into trouble.

Create an emergency kit, such as a suitcase you fill with basic office supplies, copies of essential paperwork, and anything else you think you need to get your office running elsewhere. Leave room in the case so that if you have time to pack more before you have to evacuate, you can grab your pack of master install CDs, your most recent backup, financial documents including the business checkbook, and anything else that is important to your job. You can also purchase fire proof, crush proof safety boxes to store your emergency kit contents.

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