You’re out on a relaxing evening at a public place. Maybe you’re having dinner with your family, or maybe you’re having drinks with some coworkers after a long day. As you’re reaching for your wallet, your heart suddenly drops into your stomach as you notice that your wallet is not there. You pat your pockets or check your purse and subject yourself to looking in ridiculous places, but your wallet is nowhere to be found. Your driver’s license, credit cards, insurance ID, all of the data that’s crucial to your life is suddenly gone from you.
Now imagine that instead of your wallet what actually disappeared was the data critical to your small business. Customer contacts, financial records, marketing materials, and the intellectual property behind the products or services you sell are suddenly inaccessible. The good news is that the items in your wallet can be replaced with a few phone calls. The bad news is that your valuable information your company has amassed cannot.
If you have not been backing up business data regularly, that”s something to be concerned about.
Every small business is built on data, and smart small businesses have a backup plan.
Company data should be stored and backed up regularly in a central location, not divided among employee hard drives. Backing up your data can protect your small business from catastrophic data loss, which often results in lost revenue as well as significant expenses to recreate the data from scratch. Data loss can also damage your company’s reputation and erode your customers’ trust.
If a recent storage survey by Symantec is any indication, many small businesses haven’t protected themselves against data loss. The 2010 SMB Information Protection Survey found that 47 percent of small business respondents never backed up data; 39 percent said it “never occurred to us to do so.” I don’t know about you, but that is a very scary thought to me.
Backing up your data should be a top priority--not just creating a single backup but establishing a process so backups happen on a regular schedule. Data is continually changing and your backups need to record those changes to be truly useful. The following items are the basic steps you can take to protect your company’s data and recover from disaster should it ever become necessary.
- Create a backup plan. Identify and document the data both on servers and on employees’ computers that needs to be backed up. To help you determine this, ask yourself these questions: Which data is the most important to my business? How often does the data change? How frequently do we need to back up our data?
- Install a network attached storage device. A network attached storage (NAS) device provides a centralized storage repository to which you can back up all data from employees’ laptops, PCs, and workstations. You can then make those backups available to everyone in the event of data loss. Most NAS devices include backup software.
- Choose and configure backup software. All PCs, laptops, and workstations should have backup software installed on them. The program should let you easily select the files to back up, indicate where to store them (for example, on a NAS device), schedule the backups to run on a regular schedule, and, most importantly, automate the backups so no one has to remember to launch them. Some backup applications can even be configured to automatically back up important files as soon as changes are made.
- Schedule backups. Whenever possible, have your backup software run in the middle of the night, when no (or very few) employees are accessing and updating files. Depending on the importance of the data, you may opt to schedule automatic backups to run every hour, every day, every week, or every month. Some files may need to be backed up every night, while others that aren’t changed very often can be safely backed up once a month.
- Check the backup files. After you’ve run your first backup, it’s a good idea to check the file to make sure that data you wanted backed up was indeed backed up. Also, verify your settings and confirm that you can restore data from the backed up file--before you absolutely need to.
Will your small business be left with huge losses in data and in revenue? Or will you be able to recover your data quickly and continue to grow your business? Remember, smart small businesses always have a backup plan. In fact, having a good storage solution can even turn a dreaded trip to the dentist into something surprisingly pleasant. Don’t believe me? Check out this video:
If you have any tips for developing a plan to protect your business, please feel free to share and discuss!