As part of our Business Review we always ask clients about their back-up arrangements, just to check that they are doing the basics right. The range of responses to this question is quite revealing. Most people know that they should be making regular back-ups of their critical data, as a minimum, and keeping copies off-site but a surprisingly large number don’t do so. Some don’t take back-ups at all, some only now and again, whilst others make back-ups but don’t take copies off-site. When asked why, the answers vary from “Oh, my computer is so reliable that I don’t need to worry about that” to “I know it’s a good idea but I never quite get around to it”.
What should be remembered is that back-ups don’t just guard against computer breakdown, they guard against:
- Human error – accidental deletion of an important file or e-mail, overwriting the wrong data, etc.,
- Theft – computers are small, valuable, portable and easy to steal both from your premises or whilst you’re travelling,
- Fire, flood, etc. – not as likely, but can be devastating.
So by not taking back-ups seriously, what are these people risking? Well, the answer is that potentially they are risking their whole business and that is frightening. I’ll elaborate.
These days businesses are usually run entirely on a computer or, if it’s large enough, a series of computers. All the information about the company is held in electronic form: all the customer information, all orders and finance. What would happen if this computer was suddenly not available for whatever reason? Would you be able to continue to run your company? If someone deleted a critical file irrecoverably, would this have the same effect? It might take weeks to recover from this predicament, to contact all your customers and re-establish the status of all their orders and supplied equipment. You might never be able to recover all the information you need and the reputation of your business may well suffer. Can you afford for this to happen?
So, what should we all be backing up? The answer depends on the level of risk to your business if you lost your data or files and that is for you to assess. Generally, customer information and sales data are a given but also consider the work for which you own the intellectual property rights as you need to be able to recreate your designs for products or graphics, for example, exactly. I suggest make a list of the data and information you hold and think about which items are most critical to your business and start from there.
And how to back-up? Well, there are a myriad of solutions depending on what computer system you have and the amount of data you need to backup. At the simple end, a single USB key might suffice, though this itself is easy to lose. As the amount of data grows, you could use external disk drives or these days, you can backup online system, if you have sufficient bandwidth. In the same way as you have to decide what to back-up, analysing your data and information will help you decide what to do. Alternatively, you could ask us for help!
In any case, please do consider your back-ups, they are worth doing. Then, if we come and do one of our business reviews there won’t be that embarrassing excuse to make up.