It's a call no business owner wants to get -- a fire broke out overnight in the industrial park where your office based, reducing it to smoldering rubble. Sure, you're thankful no one was inside, plus insurance should cover the physical damage -- but what about your company's critical computer files?
According to ADR Data Recovery, U.S. businesses lose more than $12 billion per year because of data loss due to hardware or system failure (which accounts for roughly 78 percent of all data loss), software corruption, natural disasters, or human error.
"Data loss, and the downtime suffered from it, can cause considerable damage to your business," says analyst Bob O'Donnell, program vice president for clients and cisplays at IDC, an Internet consultant. "And if you do any kind of commerce and your current orders are lost, it can prove to be a serious blow to your business revenue."
The only absolute protection against losing critical information on your PC is to proactively back-up important files on a regular basis.
DIY or Automatic?
Backing up your files can be handled automatically, thanks to the many scheduled onsite or offsite back-up programs available today; or manually, where it's up to you to select which files to back-up and where to back them up to, either burned onto a recordable CD or DVD, USB memory stick, or, preferably, uploaded to a secured offsite location in case of fire, theft, or natural disasters. Backed-up discs may also be stored in a safety deposit box.
What Gets Backed Up
Each business has its own particular needs and interests, but across the board, all businesses share the common need to back up customer data, contact information, and passwords. Individuals may want to add to that list: work files such as documents, spreadsheets, presentations, Web site code, as well as calendar appointments and e-mails.
A sales office will want to make external copies of its detailed CRM files. An architect will save blueprint sketches and 3-D renders.
Deciding what to back-up is as easy as asking yourself what is irreplaceable. In some cases, the data could be recoverable, but it may cost your business money, time, or embarrassment to retrieve everything from external sources. Let's face it -- asking one of your most important clients to re-send contact information or contracts could be damaging to your relationship.
"Data loss can ruin your reputation with clients or customers," says O'Donnell. "Because you never know when data loss can strike, back-ups should be automated and stored off-site, so you can concentrate on growing your business."
What's the Frequency?
Some software packages -- many of which are available as a "try before you buy" download at www.download.com -- automatically back up your information at a select time every day or week.
But if you're handling the back-up manually onto a CD-RW disc or USB thumbstick, it's recommended you back-up important information at least once a week. This includes files such as key work documents and files, business contacts, and appointments.
If you're working on an important document, such as a sales report or a presentation or spreadsheet, it's not a bad idea to keep a USB memory stick inserted into the PC's USB port to make a back-up after the work is completed. This is especially a good idea for mobile professionals working on laptops -- all it takes is for you to leave your PC on a plane, in a hotel or in the back of a cab and your critical data could be gone forever.