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Remember the Ice Storm from a few years ago? If you need a refresher of what things looked like see this Environment Canada link. The images of the broken power lines epitomize what can happen to small businesses if they don't have a back up solution that is reliable.

Backup solutions are often overlooked by small businesses. Big or small, all businesses rely on their data including documents, correspondence, accounting information, contacts, and product information.

Most small businesses use electronic tools daily…in fact, you're using one now by reading this article on the Internet or via email. Every day people write letters, information sheets, and create content for Web sites. Or they produce intricate presentations for potential clients that generate sales. Company bookkeepers log hours recording data. And the common thread in all these activities is that they all use a computer - and store the data on their systems.

When your work is done and on the computer…what could possibly be an issue? What could go wrong and cause problems for you and your business?

If you didn't create a backup, there are a number of events that could lead to the ultimate end of your business. Some of the most common reasons for recovering data from a backup are:

  • Fire
  • Theft
  • Hardware failure (often due to age)
  • Electrical surge
  • Viruses, spyware, malware
  • Component failure that does not render your data damaged, such as a non-functioning video card (it's hard to work on your computer when you can't see what you're doing)

So, what is the ultimate solution to these and many other issues that can creep up on businesses that don't take adequate measures to protect their data?

A backup solution of course!

You need to consider what you need to backup? I've touched on most of the items that are important to businesses, but also consider:

  • Emails
  • Addresses/Address Book/Contact Manager Data
  • Bookmarks
  • Financials
  • Documents (ones you create and especially ones you receive from other sources, including quotes/invoices/forms/surveys/correspondence)
  • Anything that was created by or for you that would require your time, energy, and/or money to re-create
  • Driver disks for your hardware such as printers, scanners, cameras, etc.
  • Software applications that you use, whether store bought or downloaded from the Web
  • A "snapshot" of your correctly configured computer system, with all the applications you use installed and peripherals setup the way you like them

Traditionally, organizations invested large sums of money in data backup solutions by purchasing tape drives, software, and tapes. Just ten years ago the cost of implementing an effective backup solution would have cost more than $1500 for a single desktop computer. Today, with common technology such as CD or DVD burners, backup solutions can be in place for less than $300, and replacement media costs are a couple of dollars as opposed to $30-$50.

There are a number of solutions using today's technology to make backup as easy and painless as recording your favourite television show so you can enjoy it later.

An inexpensive, but far from perfect solution is to collect the data you want to keep and burn it to a CD, DVD, or any other piece of removable media. For the most part you'll have to hunt for things like your mail box, contacts, and bookmarks. You'll also need to remember where your accounting package keeps its data and export specific parts of the Windows registry if you want the most protection you can get.

Backup software is recommended for these tasks to minimize the amount of interaction and therefore provide no variation from one backup to the next. Some solutions can be configured to run unattended, during lunch for example, or for users who don't have a consistent schedule a desktop icon will run the backup at the click of a mouse. This solution requires the computer user to insert a CD before the process starts and to store it afterwards in a safe location.

Other backup solutions require no interaction. The data is backed up to a second hard disk either in the same computer system or another computer on the network (if there is one). This solution does not provide protection against fire, theft, or any type of physical damage or loss.

For this protection, you must connect an external backup device before the backup starts and then disconnect it and store in a safe place once the backup is complete.

The simpler your back up system is, the more likely it's going to get done regularly. After all, how much data can your business afford to lose?



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