Businesses affected by natural disasters could face huge financial costs, but smaller incidents such as vandalism, theft of company data and power outages can also have a serious impact.
Regus said in a study released yesterday that almost one in three Australian businesses had no disaster recovery plan for their information technology.
And one in two businesses had no continuity plan for their workspace requirements.
"Time is critical. When you have to recover from a disaster, if you don't have a plan, you have to expend energy asking where are we going to go now," said William Willems, Regus regional vice-president of Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
"That's going to cost you a lot of money. You have to set up board meetings and go through the decision-making process.
"If you don't have a plan, you're going to lose many, many hours, if not many, many days. That will be very, very expensive for the company."
The Regus study found that small businesses in Australia were less prepared than bigger ones.
Thirty-six per cent of small businesses lacked a disaster recovery system to revive computer systems within 24 hours, compared to 16 per cent of larger firms.
"The research reveals that in spite of reports indicating the average incident can cost up to US$500,000, disaster recovery plans among Australian businesses are not as widespread as imagined, particularly when it comes to the workplace," Willems said.
Regus surveyed more than 12,000 business people in 85 countries, including more than 400 senior business professionals in Australia, to ascertain their preparedness for disaster.
In a city-by-city comparison, 72 per cent of firms in Sydney and Melbourne are likely to have an information technology recovery system up and running within 24 hours, compared to 67 per cent in Adelaide, 64 per cent in Brisbane and 63 per cent in Perth.