- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The kind of loss Francis Ford Coppola suffered last week wasn’t caused by a natural disaster, but in some ways it typifies what a small business could face.

Mr. Coppola’s home in the Palermo section of Buenos Aires was robbed of computers and, most important, a computer backup device containing 15 years’ worth of work and family photos. The five-time Academy Award-winning director can replace the hardware; he said he wants the backup returned.

Whether it’s a burglary, fire, flood or other natural disaster, the loss Mr. Coppola experienced could be yours, and it could be critical if the lost data undergirds a small business.

According to one white paper on the subject, “80 percent of companies that do not recover from a disaster within one month are likely to go out of business,” said Jonathan Bernstein, president of Bernstein Crisis Management LLC, in Sierra Madre, Calif., a Los Angeles suburb.

To make matters worse, said Mark J. Dobosz, vice president for development at the Herndon-based Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), “Small-business owners and entrepreneurs are so passionate about what they do, that their intense focus can often be a double-edged sword for them.” In other words, they’re too focused on their work, sometimes, to think about the worst that can happen until it does.

The nonprofit, which grew out of the U.S. Small Business Administration during the Johnson administration, specializes in offering free advice to small businesses, drawing on the resources of retired small-business owners and corporate managers. These people have “been there,” so to speak, and can help with disaster planning, Mr. Dobosz said, as well as give advice on what insurance might be needed.

“SCORE counselors can work with a small-business owner in understanding what types of insurance are appropriate for their industry, so they make informed decisions when the entrepreneur talks to an insurance professional,” he said.

There’s a high-tech angle, too: Joining SCORE in this is Hewlett-Packard Co., whose director of small- and medium-business marketing, Lisa W. Baker, said the firm is creating workshops where small business can learn what to do to prepare for data loss in a disaster. The firm has already hosted such workshops in Houston, St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Orange County, Calif. Plans for the Washington area are in development.

“What I hear from these small businesses is that they know it is one of the most important issues they face, they know they need to do it, but they just aren’t sure where and how to start,” Ms. Baker said.

“What HP and SCORE bring to the table are the tools, resources and products solutions to bring it all together and make it happen.” Mr. Dobosz added, “Data loss can literally mean the end to an otherwise successful business. One of the reasons SCORE and HP developed a collaborative workshop on using technology to protect your business data was for this very reason.”

Of course, the time to do such planning as the godfather of “The Godfather” movies will tell you is before disaster strikes. Find resources at www.score.org and www.hp.com.

Read Mark Kellner’s Tech blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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