When developing a continuity plan, critical documents are an important consideration. Make a list of the essential records that must be protected in order for your company to continue to function following a worst-case scenario event and take steps to ensure they will be protected no matter what happens.
Examples of Critical Documents
Not every business will have the same critical documents. Review the list below to determine what ones apply in your situation - and are truly critical - and create a checklist for your own planning purposes. Before finalizing your checklist, consider if there are other records not listed here essential to returning your business to normal operation as quickly as possible following a natural disaster or other catastrophic event.
Paperwork that may be critical to an organization's continuity planning efforts include:
- Banking records
- Business license
- Business plan
- Contact information for key personnel
- Contact information for key vendors
- Corporate charter
- Customer relationship management data
- Disaster plan
- Employee records
- Building lease
- Current contracts
- Equipment lease paperwork
- Insurance policies
- Legal records
- Payroll records
- Property deeds
- Sales receipts
- Service contracts
- Software licenses and product keys
- Vehicle registration information
- Tax returns
- Other documents specific to the operation of your business
Protecting Critical Documents from Disaster
Once you have determined what the critical documents are for your organization, you will need to take steps to make sure they are protected. The best way to accomplish this goal is to store multiple copies of these documents in various locations in both paper and electronic forms to ensure access regardless of what happens.
Consider the possibilities if you don't keep multiple copies of critical documents. If the only paper or electronic copies of your critical documents are located in your office, a fire could wipe them out or they could be stolen during a robbery. If they are in an off-site location in your local area, a hurricane, flood tornado or other event could destroy them. If they are only stored on a server in an off-site location, a disaster in the area where the data storage center is located could result in a total loss.
Options for storing critical documents include:
- Scanned electronic copies of key documents
- Daily backups of business computers
- Off-site non-local server storage
- Off-site storage of server backup media
- Cloud computing data storage
- Laptop backups that stay with assigned personnel
- Multiple printed copies of key documents stored in different locations
- Fire-proof safe
- Bank safe deposit box
Create a System for Updating and Maintaining Critical Documents
Protecting key documents is an ongoing process. After all, many of the documents you need to keep safe change on a regular basis. Business insurance information changes at least once a year, new leases go into effect every few years and employee and payroll records change every week. It's essential to include procedures for maintaining accurate critical document backup information at all times.
A thorough continuity plan includes a system for updating backup documentation regularly and clearly defines who is responsible for taking care of each type of update necessary. The plan should include a schedule for updating critical documents, policies and procedures for performing the work and a system of checks and balances for making certain the work is being performed correctly and in a timely fashion.