The images on the east coast from Superstorm Sandy are of course heartbreaking, but they should also serve as a reminder to small businesses that disasters happen, natural and otherwise. Consider all of ways that some external thing can interrupt, or even shut down, your business:
- Fires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes
- Burglary, theft, and vandalism
- Riots, civil unrest, and terrorism
So the issue is not whether you need a backup plan and system, but how extensive a one do you need? While having a phone tree, emergency kit, and backup plan are essential, what may be the most important part of your plan is having a system for protecting your data. Indeed, it is estimated that more than a quarter of firms that lose data in an emergency never open their doors again.
For starters, you should probably have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) as part of your computer system so that if you have a power outage in your area (or a spike or a surge), you will not lose any data stored on your computers. A UPS gives your system enough power to save your data and power down properly—a typical UPS will give your computer about 5 to 10 minutes of power. A UPS is essentially a large battery that plugs into the wall, and all of your computer components then plug into the UPS, just as they would with a power strip. Choose a UPS with an Underwriters Laboratories rating.
Another way to ensure that you don’t lose your data is to store it in the cloud. Cloud computing is all the rage these for many reasons: security, affordability, and mobility. But another, and less discussed reason, is protection. Storing your documents and data in far off servers is a great protection against data loss.
But if cloud computing is not for you, then your task is to back up your computers on a regular basis. There are two kinds of computer users: those who have never had a crisis that caused them to lose data and so don’t back up (yet!) and the rest of us. Try losing two chapters of a book you were writing because you didn’t back up, and you learn the hard way.
As indicated, the fact is, you never know what might cause you to lose important computer files—a fire, a power outage, even someone kicking a cord. According to ADR Data Recovery, businesses lose more than $12 billion per year because of data loss, and the vast majority of that is from hardware or system failure. Other causes are software corruption, natural disasters, and, of course, human error.
So the only real protection you have against losing vital information on your desktop or laptop system is to back up your important files, as they say, “early and often.” You can back up your computers a few ways:
- Manual backups require that you regularly copy your data to an external hard drive.
- Backups to an external hard drive can also be done automatically using software.
- Automatic backups are really the way to go. They can be accomplished using an online backup service like Carbonite or Mozy. The nice thing about these services is that they copy your data onto remote servers, so if there is a natural disaster, your data is stored far away. Make sure that the company storing your data keeps it secure and confidential.
The important thing to remember is that disasters happen. Accidents happen. That’s why we have insurance, and that’s why you need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.