Surprisingly, most small businesses have no effective disaster prevention strategy. Natural disasters, fire and floods can permanently destroy your critical business data. When is the last time you backed up your Quickbooks data base to an offsite location? One primary example is with the the current disaster on the east coast. Hurricane Sandy ravaged an estimated 15 billion in damages and economic losses could mount up to 20 billion according to www.risk.net. I am confident (?!) that some businesses had taken disaster recovery measures, but what about the small retail business or a consultant working from her home office?
If you have not already, NOW is the time to protect your valuable data assets.
Disaster prevention involves planning, implementing and documenting a strategy to keep your crucial data and technology assets alive and well. This process may include utilizing “the cloud,” running system backups and keeping important system documentation secure and safe if the need arises to recover your business systems. A good disaster recovery plan does not have to be expensive, it just needs to be put into place.
Where Do I Start?
In regards to today’s technology infrastructure and services, you as a small business owner have many options to choose from, but all effective strategies stem from basic fundamentals. Below, I will explain a few of the most popular solutions and solutions that I have had success with in my travels.
Centralized Storage of Files
Many Small Businesses utilize a centralized storage for day to day working files. In other words you store all your data on one computer that is always available. The central storage model provides a “one stop shop” for all of your data access and backup from other users. Centralized storage is generally a less expensive solution to back up your data due to less licensing requirements you need to maintain and purchase. You will also enjoy a more organized system for securing and maintaining business files. In many cases, centralized storage solutions have RAID or mirrored drives. RAID basically means that you are storing your data on many different hard drives that appear to be one hard drive.
What Business Data Do I Need to Backup?
What is the most important data that I need to provide my business with continuity and prevent business interruption in case of computer meltdowns? For instance, are you the owner of a Hair Salon that has a proprietary business system, then you will need to consider exporting the database files out to a location that can be backed up to an acceptable storage location. Below are some commonly overlooked items I see that small businesses sometimes miss:
- SQL database backups from proprietary systems
- .PST Outlook files and Archives
- Locally stored files or misplaced files on hard disk
- Quickbooks files
Each business has individual needs in terms of disaster recovery. The Disaster recovery process is a plan that involves not only technology assets, but also items such as important contact information, passwords, banking data, etc.
Offsite backup can encompass many forms. If you are backing your data up to a CD or Tape, then offsite backup may mean to have your local Fireproof storage handle your CD or tape rotations. This method is very popular with larger organizations that still utilize removable media to back up their systems. The advantage to this method is that if you do not have any internet connection, you will still have your data available fast. However, in the case of a geological disaster such as Hurricane Sandy on the east coast, your media may be destroyed! You as a small business person have a advantage here. You can sign up for a cloud solution for your offsite backup. Such services can run from $.50 to $2.00 per gigabyte of storage. the advantage is, you can combine the offsite and cloud service very cost effectively. The disadvantage is you are bound by the speed of your internet connection, so if you have a substantial amount of data to back up/restore, the process may take some time to complete.
Test Your Plan
The best way to determine the value of your Disaster Recovery Plan is to actually test your system from time to time. What good is a backup if it does not work correctly? I recommend taking time to test your plan quarterly at the least.
OK, so now you have an idea of what you need to do to backup your valuable business information, right? Now you need to put it into writing. It is very important to have all of your contact information, serial numbers and passwords on hard copy (locked-up of course) so that you can rebuild your system in the event of a disaster. Microsoft Office provides Disaster Recovery Plan templates that can be easily downloaded and modified.