As a business owner, have you ever considered what would you do if all your business data was to one day just… disappear?
By business data we mean anything you keep on your computer. All your emails, invoices, customer details, contracts, future plans, etc. The whole lot, gone.
It might seem like a highly unlikely scenario. But it could happen to your business really easily.
Any time you have data stored on a computer, there is a danger that it could be lost or damaged. That could be through an extreme event such as the loss of a computer in a fire, flood or burglary. But it could be through a less dramatic event too.
Sometimes hard discs just stop working. And you might have to pay several hundred pounds just to find out if your data can be recovered by a specialist firm.
The consequences of losing data in a business are severe. Figures vary, but experts agree that many businesses which lose a significant amount of data will struggle to survive more than another 12 months. Losing your data can sometimes make you have to effectively start some aspects of your business again.
Which makes it so surprising that many small businesses say that backing up data is less of a priority than defending against viruses and other malicious software.
A recent survey found that a quarter of businesses do not backup their computers in any way, with a further 13% doing only informal backups and not providing any guidance to employees on how to protect and backup files.
More than half of those who do use a backup system store information in the same place as the original files – so the backup data would be lost in a burglary or fire.
So how can you ensure that your business data is safe without having to worry about it or spend a fortune? There are three easy ways to backup your business data:
Do it yourself
The cheapest and simplest way to backup your data it to make a copy of it yourself. You can burn a CD or DVD; copy everything to a memory stick; or buy an external hard drive. If you do this there are two rules you must follow.
The first is to make a backup every single day. Guaranteed, if you forget a few days, that’s when something bad will happen. And secondly, you must keep the data backup away from the original. It’s not enough to keep a copy in a fireproof safe.
The only safe way to store backup data is to keep it in a separate building. If you work from home then ask a friend or neighbour to keep the backup. If you burn CDs you could even post them to yourself second class every day… that way you always have a CD in the postal system. Not a foolproof method, but cheap.
One other thing to try is to set up a free webmail service such as Gmail and email important documents to it as you create them. Not ideal, but reasonably reliable.
A few years ago data backups for big businesses were done using large magnetic discs or tapes, which were removed from the building every day. You can use a similar system yourself. Some of the external hard discs now come bundled with free software which will automatically trigger a backup every day, whether you remember or not. This is good. Anything which takes human error out of the process will keep your data safer. There is still a flaw in this system as you need to remember to take the backup out of the building.
Do it online
The best way to guarantee the safety and security of your data backup is to use an online system. These will automatically backup your data every day and send the data encrypted over the internet to a data centre. Unless you have a very big business, this is the perfect system.
No human can forget to do something and put data at risk. If a part of the backup fails, the automated system should raise an alarm. And typically the data centres have their own backups in the highly unlikely event something happens to your data the same day the date centre is struck by lightning.
Online backups can slow down broadband connections as large files are sent, so set your backups to happen after you have finished work for the day.