If you work from home, you’re in good company. A recent survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that one in five employed Americans do some or all their work at home. And a report by consultant IDC said that the number of home-based businesses and telecommuters will increase by more than 10% over the next four years.
For the increasing number of us who work at home, a power outage isn’t an inconvenience; it’s a threat to our livelihoods. With that in mind, here are five things you can do to help prepare your business for a power outage.
1. Back up Your Data Regularly
Can your home-based business survive the loss of critical files? If you lose power, you’re just a hard disk crash away from disaster. Protecting yourself is easy. You should regularly back up all important data to an external drive, NAS (network-attached storage) device, or online. There’s a strong argument for double back ups — redundancy as additional insurance. And, of course, one set of back up data needs to be stored off-site or online.
How frequently should you back up? It depends on how much data you can afford to lose. Some data-driven businesses back up in real time. Others schedule automatic back ups at the EOD (end of day). Some just perform a back up every Friday or every month.
2. Protect Your Electronics
A power outage — think lightning, downed power lines, distribution issues — is the most likely time for transient voltage, the spikes and surges that can fry or damage voltage-sensitive electronics. You really do need surge suppressors.
3. Prepare an Emergency Storm Kit
Think ahead and prepare for a power outage by packing a plastic bucket with all those “I wish I had” items before the power goes out. Think flashlights, batteries and a first aid kit. You’ll also want protective gear like raincoats, gloves and goggles in case you need to remove debris. Large plastic freezer bags will keep important documents (including phone numbers and insurance info) dry. And a disposable camera can document damages for an insurance claim even if your cell phone is out of juice. Speaking of phones, consider including a land-line phone that doesn’t require power to function.
You might want big magic markers and paper or cardboard to write a note or sign. And, of course, duct tape for everything else. The bucket should have a secure lid to keep everything dry, and the bucket itself will come in handy if you need to transport water.
4. Have a Backup Power Plan
Will a portable generator be enough? Portable generators can deliver limited power for relatively short outages. But they’re well-suited for construction work, field work or recreation. A standby generator can offer a more comprehensive backup power solution for the devices your business relies on.
5. Business-Specific Requirements
How much power does your business need? That depends. A home-based tailor may only need power for a few lights and a sewing machine. A caterer with a commercial kitchen needs to refrigerate thousands of dollars of perishables. No matter your needs, a standby generator can supply power to the equipment your business relies on.