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Backing up your computer files is not important!

It’s only important when something goes wrong. And something can always go wrong.

I know because it did at my shop years ago. It was so long ago IBM was the powerhouse in mainframe computers and laptops were still a twinkle in Steve Wozniak and Steve Job’s collective eyes.

The good news is we did have two big backup drives that were more like giant reels of tapes, each the size of a pizza. The bad news is we never quite got around to actually making those backups as often as we knew we should have. We were always too busy using and accessing the computer. Back then, you had to backup the computers when everyone signed off the system. This must seem quite archaic to some of you, but it was the norm.

So when the fateful day came and the mainframe crashed, we were left to restore our data and database from our last known backup. It turns out that was done a month before!

We had to manually re-enter all the invoices and bills for the previous month. And we had thousands of active customers. The sad fact is this reclamation project could have been avoided if we had only practiced a sound computer backup routine.

Be smart and learn from my mistake. Take action now to spare yourself the agony of rebuilding your files, database and more.


Mild to wild habits

This is a quick overview of steps to take, beginning with mild and heading toward wild. You are well-served to have your own IT people work out a computer backup strategy at your company. In the meantime, here are prudent habits I practice and what I recommend clients do on a consistent basis:

• Do a simple save frequently as you’re working on a document. Then you won’t spend hours on it and have something fluky such as the power going out or your software freezing up and you end up losing everything. The best software will automatically save your document periodically but make sure that this is indeed happening.

• If it’s not life-critical and you want it to be copied and be portable too, copy a bunch of stuff to a jump drive.

• Copy a whole bunch of your data to an external hard drive. Today hard drives can hold so much and they’re so cheap, you can pretty much copy your whole computer to it!

• Set up a system so that when your office is closed and even when you’re sleeping, the computer automatically backs up to an external hard drive.

• Have two external hard drives and do a manual backup once a week; you can put a recurring note in Outlook so you remember to do it. Rotate taking one copy off-site in case a disaster strikes your office; you still have a copy that’s no more than a week old to restore from.

The devastation to many offices from Hurricane Sandy proves you don’t want all your eggs in one basket.

• If you’re networked, make sure the backup system is backing up not just the server with the shared files but also the files on a person’s own computer or laptop so it’s safe and recoverable.

• Outside companies such as Carbonite provide online backup services. Even Apple has iCloud. There are many more strategies to take advantage of the cloud, which gives backup protection and cloud access.

 This can prove to be a double-edged sword if the sites get hacked and your data gets exposed, but the conventional thinking is these companies wage a never-ending battle to minimize this from happening.

• Finally, many computer experts have said that burning a “hard copy” to DVDs  — depending on the size of the files — is helpful because, to date, it’s probably one of the best ways to keep something for a long time. Even though I’m sure this technology also will be replaced in time, for now it’s a pretty fail-safe strategy.

This topic is so important that I spend a portion of my first on-site visit with new clients covering items just like this.

Here is the sobering news: You can do all this but if you don’t test the quality and quantity of your backup periodically, you can never know for sure how good it is. Should you need to restore information, a good computer backup strategy will address this issue as well.

 My advice is to remember that having a parachute is a good thing. Knowing that the parachute is packed right and that an emergency parachute is there — just in case — is even better. A smart strategy and execution of computer backup provides great parachutes.