Surviving Data Disaster: What’s Your Backup Plan?

Data Recovery

Hardware fails. Accidents happen. And like it or not, your computer will die – suddenly, unexpectedly, and when it’s least convenient. There’s no avoiding this cold hard fact of life. But how much money your business loses – that’s completely under your control if you set up a smart backup plan now. Here’s how to do it – and it’s easier/cheaper than you think. Read on.

Pop Quiz
If your computer(s) died permanently today …

  • How much data would you lose forever because you’ve never backed it up?
  • How long would it take you to get new hardware/software into your hands?
  • How long would it take you to do all the setup you need to get back where you were before the crash?

Whatever you answers are, they represent money you lose forever – either due to losing data, buying new equipment, or spending time setting things up (time that you could otherwise be using to generate money). And if you don’t have a backup plan in place, you’re looking at a substantial expense … or in some cases, a loss of the business entirely. (There’s a reason that backup solutions are called “Disaster Recovery Plans.”)

Most people who don’t have backup plans in place are in that position because they “don’t have the time” to set up a system to protect their data. So I’m tackling this from the perspective of a small business owner who doesn’t have the time/money to invest in an all-encompassing solution, and wants to start out as simply as possible.

How To Get Started (The Very Basics)

The first stage of a Disaster Recovery plan is simply backing up all your important data. And it’s never been cheaper to do so – you can hit your local computer store and pick up monster-sized external hard drives for less than a hundred dollars. They plug right into a USB port and are ready to go with little or no setup. I just picked up a pair of 320 GB external drives yesterday for $70 a piece, plugged them in, and was good to go.

So here’s how you can do a quick-and-dirty backup of all the data you need to keep your business cranking.

Step 1: Get All Your Data In One Place

It’s not uncommon for people to save their data all over the place on their hard drive – or even on multiple computers. This may be convenient in the short term, but it’ll hose you when it comes to backups. It’s a smart habit to keep your data consolidated in one place, even if it’s simply a directory called “Data” on your hard drive.

If you use multiple computers, you need to think about the best way to do this for your situation. If your machines are all on a network, then having a designated, shared place for all computers to save their data will take care of it. If you’ve got non-networked or mobile machines, save to a standard place on each machine so their files don’t get lost.

Step 2: Get Your Hands On Some Backup Drives

Add up all the space you’re using currently and (at least) double it. This guarantees your ability to backup your data, and gives you room to grow. Once you’ve done that, pick up a pair of external hard drives that match the size you need. Again, storage is dirt cheap these days, so buying two won’t set you back that much (especially when compared to the cost of not having them when you need them).

Step 3: Copy All Your Data To One Drive, Then Copy To The Other

Backup all the data from your computer(s) onto one of the external drives, then copy the first external drive to the other. You’ll probably want to do this overnight, since it will likely take a while. Why two drives? Think about it – if you backed up all your data to only one drive, and that drive failed, you’d be stuck. Not so with the pair – you’re even more protected.

Step 4: Hide The Second Drive

Take the second drive and get it out of the building. Now you’re data’s safe even in the event of a fire.

Step 5: Schedule Regular Backups

You’re not done yet – you need to schedule repeat backups on a regular basis. How often/how thoroughly you backup depends on different factors and is unique to your business. Just don’t neglect it – because the price of failure is pretty steep.

Again, keep in mind that this isn’t the optimal backup solution – there are a lot of ways you could do this more efficiently. But if you’ve got no plan at the moment, this will at least get you started, and that’s the most important thing.

In upcoming articles I’ll give more sophisticated ways of protecting your data, but for the moment …

Now It’s Your Turn

How do you back up your business? Share your strategies, tips and tricks below.