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How long could your business survive without its data?

The thought of losing all their computer data sends shivers down the spines of many business owners. Depending on the company’s use of technology, the time and expense of recovery could range from mildly stressful to catastrophic. There are organizations that never recover all their lost data and companies that suffer for months or even years after losing software, customer records, business documentation and much more.

Done properly, data backup can help you streamline the process of recovery and give you back more of your lost files. Although some degree of recovery is often possible with no backups, it is more time-consuming and costly, and there are no guarantees on what can be restored. With this in mind, here are some data backup and recovery tips for business owners.

  • Be Realistic about Your Needs: If your plan only backs up data to the previous night, will that be irritating but manageable, or do you need to be able to recover data to within the past few hours?
  • Be Realistic about the Risks: What would the downtime from significant data loss mean to your company? If you own a landscaping business, perhaps you could manage for a few days without your computer. If you own a medical practice, things would probably look quite different. How much downtime could your company tolerate, and what would it cost in addition to the expense of recovery efforts?
  • Plan for the Worst: Keep in mind that weather disasters such as hurricanes and floods can eliminate backups that are stored on-site at your business. Work with certified computer technicians to create a data backup and recovery plan that will scale with your business. Tell them what you’re doing now (including external drives, flash drives, etc.) and where you keep those backups so you can make sure that any duplication is constructive.
  • Train Your Team: While malicious attacks are often the cause of data loss, your employees come with their fair share of risk, even when they have the best of intentions. In a survey by Cisco, 46% of employees admitted to transferring files between work and personal computers, which makes your company’s network more vulnerable.

Your team members also need to know what data needs to be backed up, how it should be done, and how often it must be done. If employees aren’t used to backing up their data, it will be helpful to spot-check backups until you are sure they are conforming to the new policy.

If you have an on-site IT Manager, make sure she or he has an excellent grasp of how the company operates and can anticipate the needs of the business in various data loss scenarios. Otherwise, it will be difficult for that person to ensure that the backup plan is optimized.

  • Make it Scalable: The volume of data your company generates will increase rapidly as you add employees, customers, or both. Accommodating for future growth based on your company’s history and your business goals for the next several years will keep your data backup plan efficient and cost-effective.
  • Document Your Plan: In addition to understanding how to back up their own data, your employees need to know what process to follow if data loss occurs and you are unavailable. Documentation will help you follow the right steps during a time when you will probably be experiencing at least some degree of panic. The process of documenting your plan also helps alert you to gaps that need to be addressed.
  • Test Your Plan: Ask your computer technician to help you devise a test that makes sense for your business. Perhaps you told the technician that you could live without certain files in the event of a disaster; you need to make sure that’s true while you still have access to them. Testing your plan also assures you that the retrieval procedure is working properly.
  • Audit Your Plan: Add reminders to your calendar to revisit your backup and recovery plan regularly. Your plan will need to be updated as your technology evolves to meet changing business needs and take advantage of technological advances.

A data backup and recovery plan is one of the best investments you can make to ensure the continued success of your company. Although the hope is that you will never have to use it, knowing a plan exists will give you great peace of mind, allowing you to focus on what you do best – building your business.