Reviewing events of 2005, if I were to choose the most important
lesson for entrepreneurs, it clearly would be this: Back up your data.
This year, hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated tens of thousands of
small companies. Critical to their recovery was gaining access to
their business records. Yet, roughly 60% of small businesses and
nearly 70% of home-based computer users fail to back up their data
regularly, according to research firm IDC.
The Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance, an association
of computer consultants, differentiates between two types of backups
small businesses need:
.Data backup, or copying critical information as part of
.Disaster prevention, or being able to recover information and
keep operating after damage or loss of a location.
For data backup, you need an easy mechanism to copy your critical data
-- such as customer records, work product, key documents -- to a second
For disaster prevention, you need a way to keep a copy of that
mission-critical data in a safe location far away from your primary
workplace in case of unanticipated emergencies.
What type of backup system you use depends on your specific needs. But
one thing's for certain: Any backup system is better than none.
The key is finding one that's easy, affordable and relatively
mindless. "If you have to take major steps to back up, you're not
going to do it," said Mike Williams, general manager of branded
products at Maxtor in Milpitas, Calif., a leading maker of backup
storage devices for small business.
I've tried a number of backup approaches in my business:
Copy it yourself
Years ago, I started with the simplest, cheapest procedure. Once a
week, I copied critical files to backup drives. Depending on how much
data you have, you can use CDs, DVDs, flash memory or other storage
media. Then take or send these backups to another location at least a
mile away. But you have to remember to do it.
Advantages: It's easy, cheap and locates your data off site in case of
Disadvantages: It's slow, especially if you have lots of data;
the data is not very secure; and it's easy to forget to back up.
Online backup service
I've long been a proponent of online services such as EVault or
SwapDrive. These systems access your computers over the Internet, copy
files you've chosen and automatically back them up to their secure
computers. You get both data backup and disaster prevention in one
Advantages: Once installed, you don't have to think about it; data is
stored securely in a remote location; it's easy to recover from any
Disadvantages: Slow, especially if you have large amounts of data;
you'll need to keep computers running overnight because backing up
during the day will slow down regular computer use; ongoing monthly
Internal backup system
These systems copy data over a USB2 or Firewire connection from your
company's computers to your server using special software, such as
Second Copy from Centered Systems. Or data can be backed up to a
dedicated storage device, such as One Touch from Maxtor.
Advantages: Fast, which is especially critical for large amounts of
data or graphic-intensive files; relatively secure from intrusion; no
fixed monthly expense.
Disadvantages: The data is stored on site and you must remember to
make a copy to take elsewhere. While the method is not difficult, it
requires someone with technical capabilities to install and maintain.
We use a hybrid approach in our office. We back up to our company
server but make copies -- on DVDs -- of our most critical data and send
those to a secure location out of state.
Maxtor's Williams recommends the same approach. "Buy two (storage)
drives. Do a full back up to one once a week. Take that drive home and
swap out the one you had at home from last week. At the most, you'll
lose one week's worth of data."
Yes, 2005 was a reminder of how vulnerable and vital our data is. So
choose a simple backup system for your important files. Remember, the
most effective backup system is the one you actually use.
Rhonda Abrams is author of The Successful Business Plan: Secrets
& Strategies and president of The Planning Shop, publishers of books and
other tools for business plans. Register for Rhonda's free business planning
newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com.
Copyright Rhonda Abrams 2005.
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