While almost half of the small businesses in the area hit by Superstorm Sandy expect to be hit by another natural disaster in the next year, only a fifth of them feel that they are prepared, according to a recent survey.

In addition, more than two thirds of the hundred small-business owners and decision-makers surveyed said that they have not created a disaster plan, and nearly half haven’t identified an alternative place to work if their offices are closed by a disaster.

The survey, by Wakefield Research for online backup provider Carbonite, was conducted on the anniversary of Sandy, which hit New York, New Jersey and Connecticut just a year ago. 

On the positive side, nearly 75 percent of respondents back up their data electronically, but the majority (63 percent) are backing up on-site, to external hard drives and the like that reside in their offices.

“We have hurricane season coming up on us. We’ll have floods, power spikes that will burn out computers, buildings will be blown away -- you can guarantee it,” said Carbonite chairman and CEO David Friend. “And if the computer files of those small businesses are not backed up, those small businesses have very little chance of getting back up and running again.”

“People are in denial,” he added. “Around 13 percent of our clients need to do a full restore every year, so you have about a one in eight chance” of getting hit -- and it’s not always natural disasters. Theft, office fires, broken water mains and simple hard drive failure can all create a business continuity problem.

That can mean serious money: The survey found that, on average, small businesses would lose almost $3,000 a day if they were unable to operate -- and that it would take the average business 16 days to get back up and running, for a potential loss of up to $50,000.


Learning the lessons

“Just over the weekend, there were four major natural disasters all over the country -- Hurricane Karen, tornados in the Midwest, fires out West, and heavy snow in the Dakotas. These can happen anywhere,” said Carbonite senior vice president of sales and marketing Peter Lamson. “Business understand the need to back up all their data, they know how devastating it can be if they’re not backed up, but they’re not changing their behavior. Nearly half of small businesses don’t have an alternative place to work. Starbucks may work temporarily, but that’s not a long-term solution. What’s your disaster plan?”

That said, some business owners from the Tri-State Area have learned some lessons from Sandy.

Doug Duncan, president of Talent Value, an online HR and hiring solutions provider in Maplewood, N.J., who had to work out of his wife’s office after Sandy because the power was out at his home office, noted, “I learned that I can never assume anything. There’s three or four parts to disaster recovery -- backup is only part of it. What are you going to do and how are you doing to handle it? There’s a total disaster recovery plan that you need to have, and you’d better have the total picture in place.”

Bob Alfano, co-founder of Advanced Neutraceuticals, had his Moonachie, N.J., office flooded out by Sandy. “We had warning, so we put all of our electrical equipment up four feet -- but the water went up seven feet.”

In the year since, Alfano has taken several steps to prepare for a similar disaster, but his first response when asked what lesson he had learned from Sandy was, “Take an office on the second floor.”

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