TECHNOLOGY
by Dave Greenbaum – DoctorDave Computer Repair

One of the greatest risks businesses face today isn’t theft or fire, it isn’t lawsuits or regulations, but the loss of data. Data loss is actually a component of all those other risks and can amplify problems. While data loss is incredibly easy to protect against, a majority of business people aren’t adequately protected due to a combination of fear and ignorance.

No matter what business you are in, you’ve got data. At the bare minimum, your financial records are a key piece of business data. Typically you’ve also got your email contacts, your customer lists, and your complete financial history. For those in intellectual property fields, your computer data includes product produced for you and by you. All this critical information is held inside a fragile device. When information is lost, you may be subject to lawsuits by vendors and clients, audits by the IRS, and a significant loss of ability to do business.

ll computers fail. It’s a fact of physics and the way hard drives work. The hard drive, which stores your valuable business information, is a mechanical device like your car. Use it enough and it will break. Actually you don’t even need to use it because when the computer is turned on the drive is spinning and eventually it will fail.

When I discuss backups with clients, the most common response is "our computers won’t fail." That’s unfortunate, because, as mentioned earlier, all computers fail. Whether you use a Mac, defrag constantly, or avoid Facebook makes no difference. It’s only a matter of time. The second response I get is "I have nothing important on my computers." If that’s true, then why are you even using a computer? In reality, even the smallest or most "analog" of businesses using computers have information that if lost, would impair their ability to make money.

 

ANY BACKUP SYSTEM MUST HAVE 3 KEY COMPONENTS:

1) Automatic
Backup systems that aren’t automatic simply cannot be trusted. Humans make mistakes, they get busy and distracted. Murphy’s law dictates the time you forget to do the backup is not only the instance your computer fails but also at a mission-critical time (and because it was a mission-critical time, you were distracted and forgot to do the backup!) Honestly, if it’s not automatic, it really isn’t a backup.

 

2) Off-site
While an automatic backup protects you from computer malfunctions, it doesn’t protect you against any maladies that could occur on site at your place of business. When disaster strikes, the impact is business-wide. A power surge, a flood, or a fire will damage your computer and the backup system sitting right next to the computer. This seems obvious, but when I’m meeting with clients and see a backup hard drive sitting right next to the computer I cringe a bit.

Ideally, you take at least one backup off-site on a regular basis. This can be done by either swapping backup devices or constantly burning DVDs. However, per step one, if it requires human intervention it’s less likely to be done and therefore not as reliable. That’s one reason I prefer on-line backup services such as Mozy, Carbonite, and Crashplan. These systems are both automatic and keep your data safely away from your location. These services average only $5 – $7 a month and provide incredible piece of mind. However, they aren’t perfect, which leads to the most important part of any backup system

 

3) Testing
I remember the old 80s slogan "trust but verify." Uttered by President Reagan in relation to nuclear weapons, it’s applicable to many things in life and can be traced to an old Russian saying. It’s great you have an off-site backup system, but unless you test it, you don’t know if it will perform in a crisis.

If you don’t know how to restore your files in a disaster, a backup system does you little good. It’s important you know the exact procedures of how to get your data back and you attempt to do so on a regular basis. Do you know the website to restore the files? Do you have the passwords?

I recommend at least twice a year attempting to restore some of your critical data. This serves two purposes. First, it makes sure you actually know how to find your critical data and practice retrieval. Secondarily, this testing process verifies the proper stuff is being backed up and protected. No computer system is perfect (that’s why there are backups in the first place!) and subtle errors might creep in. An upgrade to an existing program, especially Quickbooks, can cause the location of the key data to move somewhere else. It’s best to tweak your backup before you actually need it.

Computers are fragile and unreliable. That’s a fact. By developing a proper backup system that includes the three key elements will make sure your business can continue running when the inevitable occurs. You have insurance for your business and it’s time to protect your key business data as well.

 

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