This article can also be found in the Spring 2011 edition of the Real Estate LEADER magazine.
Backing up the critical data on your computer is easier and cheaper than ever!
Are you currently backing up your data? Are you doing it every day? Is it off-site? The truth is most people still have no backups at all.
Why do I need to backup my data?
Many people just trust that they could never lose their data; that it will just always be there. The average lifespan of a hard drive is 5 years, so your drive will fail. It’s just a matter of time. Your laptop could be stolen. A storm, fire, or other disaster could strike without warning. But probably the most common reason everyone needs a backup is accidental deletion. I can’t tell you how many times I have lost a file by accidentally deleting or overwriting it.
What if I already backup my data?
Some people, like myself, do use some form of backup, such as an external hard drive, or portable flash drive. But, they rarely have a system to keep those backups up-to-date. Usually they have a “when I think about it” policy of backing up files. What I mean by that is, they have no schedule to backup their files, and often months between backups. If you lost all your data and had to use your backup, could you afford to lose weeks or months of data? The majority of businesses who lose more than 10 days of data shut down within 1 year. In this digital age where business move so quickly, it’s not hard to see why. Another problem with the external hard drives is they are usually left right by your computer. If there were a fire, flood, or other disaster that destroyed your computer, it would likely have affected your external drive also. That is why it is critical to backup your data off-site.
What should I use for backups?
There are lots of methods and services to backup your data off-site, but they have usually been too costly or too complicated for most people. These services had traditionally only been affordable to large corporations. Then came the “cloud” backup solutions. When you hear “cloud”, it basically means instead of relying on a servers or other equipment at your office, you use one off-site that you share with hundreds or thousands of others. Sharing a server with thousands of people may not sound like a great idea, but done the right way it can save you a lot of time and money!
Initially, most of these cloud-based services were hard to use, buggy, and expensive! Only the most adventurous and trendy users stuck around long. On top of that, the whole idea of storing information in “the cloud” brought up security concerns, reliability issues, and legal hurdles. They had to earn the trust of the business community before becoming a viable option. Two companies, Carbonite and Mozy, have been head-to-head trying to be the dominant cloud-based backup solution. In the short 6 years since the two companies started, they have made vast improvements in their services. With very few exceptions, the companies have proven to be very reliable, with top notch security. Between the two, they backup files for millions of customers, including over 100,000 businesses.
Carbonite charges $54.95 a year to backup unlimited data from your computer, though they offer a 15-day free trial so you can get a feel for the software and see how everything works. After signing up, download their software and run through the setup. The program will ask you what all you want to backup. After the initial upload (which is fully encrypted to keep your data safe), the program will run in the background automatically updating your files on Carbonite’s server.
Carbonite has a great feature that allows you to access your backed-up files from anywhere, including your home computer or mobile phone. This can be a life-saver when you are out of the office and need a file from your computer! It’s a simple as logging in Remote Access at Carbonite’s website, and browsing your files just like you would if you were on your computer.
Mozy is another great service. Currently, they seem to have a few less features and a tad higher cost than Carbonite, but feel free compare the two for yourself. Just make sure you don’t let another day go by without having an off-site, up-to-date backup of your data!
While you are at it, make sure you are fully prepared for a disaster. Think about everything you would need if your lost your computer today. Know the versions of software you are using on your computer, because if a fire destroyed your hard drive and software disks, a backup may not be the only thing you need. If you are using an older version of software, such as QuickBooks, it may be difficult to restore your backup if you go out and purchase the current version. Also, make sure you have a copy of all your important passwords (including your Carbonite or Mozy password!) in a safe place. You may want to use a fireproof safe, or a safety deposit box at your bank (typically costs $20 a year). This would also be a great place to store copies of insurance forms, titles, deeds, and other contracts.
It is a good idea to create a disaster recovery guide, outlining everything you would need to get your business up and going again if you lost everything. You will definitely sleep better at night.