Don’t wait until disaster strikes to discover that your backup system isn’t working.
If you don’t have a reliable backup regime then your business is living on borrowed time, because disaster isn’t just something that happens to other people.
There’s no shortage of threats waiting to claim your precious business data — from the ravages of fire or flood to the ever-present risk of virus or hardware failure.
If you do have a backup system in place then it’s important to back up your data regularly.
It’s not a one-click, set and forget process — you need to plan your backups with care and regularly test them to make sure everything’s running smoothly.
Don’t miss a thing
By default your backup software may only protect your My Documents folder, but there are plenty of other places where your computer stores precious data.
Some people take a haphazard approach when it comes to saving files, scattering Office documents throughout the C: drive rather than systematically saving them in one place.
Your documents, spreadsheets and presentations aren’t protected if they’re not stored in a folder that’s regularly backed up.
The chances are that your important business data extends beyond a collection of Office documents.
Imagine your computer vanished without warning. What would you need to get the business back on its feet?
Think about where your email client, calendar and address book store data — it might be hidden away in buried folders which are invisible by default.
The same goes for specialist software, from photo and video editing tools to your customer relationship management suite.
Dip into the advanced settings to see where all your important applications store their data and make sure this is included in your backup regime.
If important data is locked away in specific applications then make sure you have backups of the installation files and product keys for those applications so you can get up and running quickly.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Regardless of how many backup copies you keep around the office, it’s vital that you keep an offsite copy of important data to ensure that it’s preserved in the event of a major disaster.
If fire claims your office PCs, it’s very unlikely that it will somehow burn around the backup DVDs and USB drives sitting in your desk drawer.
You could regularly burn files to disc and store them securely away from the office, or rotate USB drive off site – but this requires vigilance and regular updating of the offsite copy.
You might find it easier to store your offsite backups in the cloud.
If your internet service provider counts uploads towards your monthly limit then you’ll want to keep an eye on your data usage.
It’s also important to investigate online security features such as two-factor authentication, to add an extra layer of protection against prying eyes.
Don’t assume everything is going to plan
Once your backup system is up and running it’s important to keep an eye on it. Most backup software will send you alerts when it runs into trouble.
For example, a disk might fail, or you might simply run out of storage space.
These warnings are important, but you need to go further and check that everything is in order.
Test your backup files regularly — don’t just check for a list of files, actually open them to ensure you can read them.
It’s also important to test your recovery procedures, especially if your backup files are locked away in a database rather than stored as individual files.
Just like a fire drill, you should occasionally pretend that disaster has struck and go through all the steps of getting the business back on its feet.
Practice makes perfect, so don’t wait for disaster to come knocking before you check that your backup system is in order.