One day - maybe 10 years from now, maybe tomorrow - the computer that servesyour Web site will break down, destroying your business records. If you don't havea backup plan in place when this happens, your online business will die.

Doing business online means that most, if not all, of your company's crucial businessinformation resides on data files in a computer somewhere. Whether you run your businesson a Web host's server, co-locate your server at an ISP, or run your own server in youroffice, you need to protect your data. Don't let fire, disk drivefailures, hacker attacks, leaky roofs, or other hazards imperil your business.

Evaluate Your Current Backup Plan

Start by evaluating existing backup procedures. If your online business is on a Webhost's servers, ask your host whether your site's data is being backed up, and if itis, how often. If you run your own server, ask your systems administrator about yourcurrent backup procedures (many small businesses do a full-system backup weekly and anincremental backup daily). In any case, find out how your data is being protected now.Many of the steps below may already be taken care of.

Identify Your Crucial Data Files

The first step in establishing your backup plan is to identify the datafiles that your business can't live without. These may include customer databasefiles; HTML files; CGI, ASP, and other scripts; work-in-progress files, etc. You may needto sit down with managers from each of your functional areas - marketing, accounting,production, etc. - and determine which files they absolutely can't live without. Inany case, compile a list of the data files you need to back up.

You will also need to decide whether to back up program files alongwith your data. Many companies choose to back up only data files and to reinstall programsfrom their original disks. If your programs are highly customized, or if you have tweakeda number of the options in them, you will probably want to back up your program filesalong with your data files.

Determine How Often to Back Up

How many customers are added to your database each day? Each hour? Howmany transactions does your virtual storefront handle each day? Each hour? How much ofthat information can you stand to lose? How valuable is that information compared with thetime and effort you expend on your backup plan? Answering these questions will help youdetermine how often you need to back up your data files.