Advice to Small Businesses – Protect Data: Losing a Computer or Computer Data Costs Profit and More
Losing a computer either physically or virtually through data loss can be catastrophic to one’s business. Think about the business financial records, client data, and personal information stored on most worker’s computers. A business is severely handicapped if that data is irretrievably lost for whatever reason. A business needs onsite or offsite storage as well as a disaster recovery plan to protect data.
Large companies have been protecting one of their most valuable assets for years with tape backup, off-site storage, and web-based storage. They know they cannot afford to have their operations down because of data access problems. However small and home-based businesses have been less diligent in taking care of their data and computers.
Data Storage Options for Small Businesses
Besides having a computer lost or stolen, the most common reason for data loss is hardware failure. Hardware failure may occur because of power surges, aging equipment, motherboard failures, or even an accidental spill. Data can also be lost because of software failures or virus attacks. To prevent a serious loss of data, a small or home-based business has several data storage options: onsite backup, off-site backup, and internet backup.
Onsite backup should be done routinely either daily or weekly. This involves creating a disk or tape backup of key data. External hard-drives that can hold 160 to 250 gigabytes of data are relatively inexpensive. After the data is backed-up, the device is removed from the computer and stored. Even computer novices can use these backup options that require only a plug into a USB port. The device acts like a hard drive accessible by the computer’s file list (found in Explorer on Windows machines).
Another onsite storage capability is available to those businesses with a server. Servers have automated backup software that copies network files. Neither hard-disk type nor server backup saves program executable files. So a small business owner must always have the original software available for re-building the computer’s configuration if necessary.
Off-site backup takes existing backup either from an external hard drive or server tape and stores that in a safe location away from the primary business.
Online or remote backup uses an internet based storage service. Two online data service companies that have helped many small and home-based businesses are Mozy and Carbonite. Most online data-backup services allow manual file selection and will schedule a full backup at specific times. It is also possible to setup incremental backups that detect and backup a file when it is changed.
To use remote data backup services, there is usually a monthly or annual fee. Software from the company is then loaded onto the business computers and begins providing a data safety net. The costs between these two services are comparable. As of September 2017, Mozy was $4.95 per week and Carbonite was $55.00 per year.
Components of a Disaster Recovery Plan for Small Businesses
In addition to data backup plans, a small business should create a full disaster recovery plan. Sensible Computer Help provides an excellent checklist of business critical data and questions a small business owner should ask to make sure that his disaster recovery plan meets all potential problems that might affect business operations. The Small Business Administration also has a downloadable guide on disaster recovery planning.
Be prepared. Do not learn the lesson of what-to-do-if-data-is-lost after it has happened. Taking precautions and creating data backup and disaster plans is just smart business.