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Disaster Recovery, No; Business Continuity, Yes

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What would you do if there were a natural disaster – a hurricane, flood, wildfire, or something else that prevented you from accessing your office? These were recently all too real for many people. Is your firm prepared with a business continuity/disaster mitigation plan? I know a number of accounting firms that are still ill prepared when it comes to having a formal plan … after all, firms are excellent in helping their clients, but not necessarily themselves.

Unforeseeable disasters make it necessary for all firms to have a written plan so that every employee knows how to react and what their responsibilities are going to be. There are many items to think about when putting together a plan, but it should revolve around employee safety and business survival.

Do your employees have a contact list for everyone, including cell numbers and personal emails, in case business emails are down? How about a call chain? A number of firms require employees to have a Gmail address to be used in case of disaster, as well as a Google Hangout address as a meeting site. In some cases, texting (which requires less bandwidth than voice) could be used.

All planning should take into consideration the region in which the firm is located and available resources, and at the very least, build a checklist of items to plan for, and steps to be followed, to ensure everyone is accounted for from a personal and business perspective.

For a firm to be up and running in the shortest possible time frame, the plan should make sure all of the data the firm needs is backed up regularly, in addition to the applications.

One of the items to think about is making sure that all your data is backed up regularly in multiple offsite locations so that you can access it easily via the cloud. Making backup copies of all of your data and then keeping it in a safe in the office doesn’t do you any good if the office is under water or in the middle of a fire zone. All applications the firm uses with this data should also be available from a remote site.

Each firm’s plan should be unique and based on the tools available to the employees. If the firm has furnished each person with a laptop, then each employee should be accountable for its safekeeping. Each employee should also be issued instructions on how to turn their cell phone into a hot spot or be given a MiFi card if needed to communicate remotely.

As part of this checklist, clients should be notified how to contact the firm in case there are closings or changes in hours of operation. Internally, names and contact numbers of organizations that assist in times of disaster should be readily available to assist employees if needed. There also should be a designated partner within the firm to assist employees with personal issues such as finding food and shelter.

The bottom line is that all firms should have a written plan that can be tested in advance to make sure it is sound and nothing is overlooked. In addition, firms should back up documents and applications on a daily basis in multiple offsite locations and make sure all employees are trained to follow the plan in an emergency. Checklists can be found from various sources such as CPA Practice Advisor.


Editor’s note: Visit the Intuit Accountant and Tax Professional COVID-19 Resource Center for information and tools to help you and your clients navigate these challenging times.

David Bergstein, CPA.CITP, CGMA

David Bergstein, CPA.CITP, CGMA, is a thought leader in technology issues such as wireless, paperless workflow, apps, cloud and mobile at the Accounting Firm. David has been in the accounting industry for many years and has been a practicing accountant since 1966. While at the IRS he held various positions, including agent, trainer, speaker and technical chief. He received his CPA and a Masters in Taxation from Long Island University’s CW Post College. He was an accounting professor at Suffolk County Community College in New York for more than 15 years. He blogs on technology and new ideas in the global information industry, and has a strong Twitter following. He hopes to help CPAs understand the true power of Intuit’s offerings that allow them to become strategic advisors to their clients and increase their revenues and niche specialties. In 2011, he was the recipient of the ”On the Edge” Innovation Award from the Leading Edge Alliance, which recognizes industry leaders for their vision and significant contributions to the accounting profession. In 2012, he received the "Brand Ambassador" award from Enterprise Worldwide. Specialties: Please contact him if you are looking for a speaker for your group on growing and automating your accounting practice, the future of the accounting profession or top tech tools. You can find David on Twitter @DavidBergstein. More from David Bergstein, CPA.CITP, CGMA

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