Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria last year, the California fires and flooding in the mid-Atlantic states this year are painful reminders that disasters happen. And on the East Coast hurricane season is here, albeit no big ones yet, but it’s early. What would you do if you could no longer get to your office, access your computers, files,…….. Would you have to close your doors or do you have a backup plan so you could get back to work sooner, rather than later?
I personally think you should have both local backup and off-site backups, whether that be cloud-based or flash drives. The local backup is in case you lose internet access for an extended period (many of us have experienced that) and off-site in case your system gets hacked or fire or flood damage. Good companies who provide hosting solutions also have backups in other locations – just in case of disasters. There are many reputable cloud-based backup systems and you might find some of you have access to offsite backups but were either unaware or never set it up.
Stop and make a list of what all you would want backed up. Here’s a list to get you started – some of these are obvious, but some are often overlooked.
- Accounting Software
Especially in tough times, you want money to continue to flow in, so that means being able to invoice or at least collect on receivables. But you also need to keep up with payables. You wouldn’t want to learn the hard way that a vendor cut of or your phone or Internet or would no longer sell materials needed for jobs. (I know some of the QuickBooks line of products include offsite backup – but it does need to be setup!)
- Online Calendar
Do you use an online calendar? If you use a calendar such as Google Calendar, then it’s a good idea to keep a backup in case something happens to it that’s out of your control.
In Google, go to Settings from the Settings menu, click the Calendars tab, and Export your calendar to get your backup.
It’s common for business owners to rely on their webmaster to have a backup of their website, but this is often not within the scope of the webmaster duties. Check with your webmaster to get a backup of your website files so that you are protected against hackers, hosting problems, and more. Fortunately, my webmaster does provide backups. So, when my site was compromised a few years ago, I was back up and running in just a couple of hours.
If your blog is in the same place, make sure you have a backup of it as well. You may also want to preserve any online profiles you have in the same way.
- Your Email
We are so dependent on our email these days that we should consider backing this file up daily, if not hourly. The location of your email file varies, and some people have more than one. It’s worth double-checking to see if this file is included in your regular backup routine. I learned one year that my email was not being backed up – you can be sure it is now and with the recent power outage, my backup came in handy. You may also want to create a separate, more frequent backup routine for this critical file.
If you have an online email account, make sure you have a backup of all those emails in case something goes wrong.
- Browser Data
Browser-related data, such as your bookmarks, history, toolbar, and saved passwords are all stored in files, but they can be hard to find and recover. If something happens to your browser data, it may or may not be a big deal. If it is, include these files in your regular backup so you can recover what you need more easily.
- Online Bank and Vendor Account Information
If you get audited by the IRS, it’s almost always for a year in the distant past. Digging up invoices you might have had online access to but no longer do can be time-consuming and painful. Most banks and vendors have made it super-easy to download PDF versions of your invoices and statements, so be sure you do that before your access to them expires or becomes an extra charge.
- Local and Cloud Drives
Every business’s technology setup is different. If you have a server, chances are you’re getting it backed up regularly. If you have employees, make sure each of their hard drives are backed up so they don’t lose any files that are not on the server. If you have your files centralized in the cloud, make sure you have a backup of those files.
One additional place that may not be backed up is your Desktop. It depends on your operating system; sometimes desktop files are excluded if you have your backups set to copy only “My Documents” files and subfolders.
Periodically check the accuracy and effectiveness of your backups and see if you can recover a file or two. If not, you’re back to the drawing board, and it’s better to find out in a non-emergency situation that you have some work to do on your backup and recovery strategy.
Being a business owner is all about taking calculated risks. Having all your important business data backed up helps you reduce your risks and protect what’s perhaps your most important business asset.