Imagine if you were to accidentally drop your laptop on the way home today. Or what if a careless movement of your arm spilled a full cup of coffee onto your computer?
Now take a moment and honestly assess what data you would lose if this were to happen? It’s likely any documents you created in the past hour would be lost. What about the documents you created yesterday? What about the documents from last week?
People know that backups are important, but I’m continually surprised at how few people actually regularly backup their data. I’ve found that many will make a backup occasionally, but are you really okay with losing all the work you’ve done in the past week? Backups are so simple to setup that no one should lose any files more than a day old.
Here are a few principles to help you when creating a backup plan:
- Decide how often to backup your files. Because storage is so cheap, I think you should backup at least once a day. There may be instances where you will want to backup more often than this.
- Invest the money in purchasing a network storage (NAS) device. These devices are like USB hard drives, but they plug into your network. You can purchase a good NAS for a few hundred dollars. These devices are always on and make it easy to schedule automatic backups at least once a day.
- Schedule automatic backups (at least one a day). We all like to think we can run a backup each day, but few people actually have the discipline to do so. Automatic backups ensure the backup is run and help save you time.
- For critical documents, ensure you have offsite data storage. This could be as simple as buying a USB hard drive and copying everything from the NAS to it at least once a week and then taking it home, or using cloud storage like Amazon’s S3 service or Jungledisk. In the event of theft or natural disaster, you will want important files stored somewhere else.
- Test your backup system once a month. This is often the most overlooked step. You don’t want to learn that the automatic backups stopped two months ago when your laptop hard drive crashes. Test the system by trying to open a document on the NAS that was created yesterday on your laptop.
While whole books have been written on backup systems, the reality is few small businesses have even mastered the basics. Unfortunately they don’t realize their backup system isn’t working until it’s too late. By following the tips I’ve outlined above and you can ensure your business is not lost because of a hard-drive crash.