Your Business Backup Plan — Why You Need One

burnt-computerMany of you have been in this situation before: you have your workweek all planned out, you know exactly what you’re going to do and exactly when you’re going to do it. Everything is going right according to plan.

Or, so you thought.

Suddenly and without warning, a single event can change everything. Before you know it your entire week is turned upside down. What you thought you could do when you planned your week is no longer be possible.

It really doesn’t even matter what the event is. Many things can go wrong when you freelance. Here are just a few:

  • You could receive an urgent phone call from a sick friend or relative
  • The power and/or internet connect go out
  • You could wake up in the morning as sick as a dog
  • An accident could damage your car, your home, or (heaven forbid) you
  • Your computer could suddenly quit working

You name it, and it’s possible (and even likely) that something will eventually go wrong and mess up your plans. I’m sure that you can think of disruptive events that aren’t even on my list.

This is where a backup plan comes in.

Key Components of a Business Backup Plan

While it’s tempting to think that your schedule isn’t likely to be disrupted, and that creating a backup plan is a waste of time, consider this: nearly everyone eventually faces some type of problem that has the potential to disrupt his or her work schedule.

Creating a backup plan can be looked at as an investment against those times. Here are some key components to include in your business backup plan:

  1. Data backup — How often do you back up your work? Is your data backup on your computer, or at another location? How much work or business information would you lose if your computer went down?
  2. Netbook or laptop — Do you have a mobile computer that you can use to access public WiFi spots if your Internet or electricity stops working? Do you have a list of WiFi spots near you?
  3. Client information — Do you have an offline copy of your client contact information that you can use to contact your clients in case of an emergency?
  4. Peers who may be able to pinch hit for you — It’s not a bad idea to network with peers and arrange to “cover” for them in case of an emergency if they agree to “cover” for you. (Of course, payment details will have to be worked out accordingly.)
  5. Professional advisors — Do you know who you would turn to if you had a financial problem? Who would you turn to if you had a legal problem? It’s a good idea to select a few qualified professional advisors in advance of an actual problem rather than rushing to find an advisor after trouble has struck.
  6. Mentors — Do you have a more experienced colleague who can serve as a mentor if you are faced with a difficult project? Mentors can help you tackle difficult questions in your own profession and give you industry specific advice.

Share Your Experiences

Do you have a backup plan for your business? What components are in your backup plan?

Have you ever experienced an emergency situation like we described above? Were you prepared?

Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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Comments

  1. says

    It’s happened to me once where my web developer lost internet access at a crucial stage in a project. He was negligent and didn’t have any backup plans in place whatsoever and it really screwed me over.

    Needless to say it made me look an idiot so the client will never use me again. I’m not going to be using that web developer until he sorts himself out, so I’ve been in touch with a different party and they’re now doing development work for me.

    As for ME personally. The only problem I had was an optical drive fault, and my computer had to be taken away. Luckily, there’s a backup laptop in the house and I have an external hard-drive, so there’s no worries there.

    There’s a McDonald’s just around the corner that offers free internet, so if needs be I would eat there and make use of the free WiFi for a day – luckily it’s a really clean place.

    As for being ill… I’d just get in touch with clients and explain that I’m under the weather. If I didn’t work for myself and went into work ill, they’d send me home and ask me not to work and get better as soon as I can, so it’s the same thing.

  2. says

    It amazes me the number of businesses that do not take their data backup seriously. I regularly get called out to small businesses that have had a computer crash and their last backup was a year old. Then they have to redo an entire years worth of work.

  3. says

    Data Backup – Have different types of data backed up throughout the day then all these backups are then backed up to an external hard drive once a day (usually takes a couple of hours). Once a day the external hard drive is backed up to another external hard drive (takes about 10 hours overnight). Obsessed about not loosing data – yes!

    Laptop – by having all data backed up onto an external hard drive my laptop and data are mobile if necessary.

    Client information – client information is included in my backup process including my address book. Do have an old fashioned address book backup also.

    Peers – Haven’t had to call on peers to help out but do have some people I could ask for help.

    Professional advisors – these are in place. A way to find these professionals is to network at your local business association.

    Mentors – In place. Sometimes all it requires is discussing some ideas to solve a problem.

  4. says

    John – thanks for sharing your professional expertise. I’m sure that your stories are somewhat representative of folks who don’t back up their data. I always think about losing the work that went into my data and the idea of redoing it scares me.

    Accrete Web Solutions – it sounds like you’ve got a backup plan in place.

  5. says

    Laura,

    I’ve sent referrals to to peers when I’ve been too busy to complete work, but I don’t necessarily have a standing agreement. How would I go about setting something like that up (I’m a freelance web developer so obviously it would be difficult to know from job to job what my peer would expect). In cases like this do you just take it as a loss and eat the cost to keep the client happy?

  6. says

    Hi Adam!

    Thanks for the question. I would say that the details are something you need to work out with a trusted peer.

    Obviously, if you have done a lot of the work already you should be paid for the part that you finished. However, if you can’t start the project then you may wish to simply let your peer have the fee.

  7. LAJ says

    Data Backup – if you can, store your backed-up data offsite. That way if you can’t enter your office for some reason (fire, break-in, or whatever) you should still have access to your backed-up data. If your office is also your home your options might be limited but at least put the backup media in a different room than the PC.

  8. says

    Thanks Laure for the good Tip,

    You know, this is the first time I think about backup plan of my freelance bussiness, I think I’ve lot of work to backup it,

    I’ve a thought here,
    would it be good to backup my work (including my contacts details) on remote location, file sharing service or some thing like!

  9. says

    Alternate locations to access the internet along with a available laptop/netbook to allow you to do so is something I’ve found very important in the past. I’ve learned that the power will go out and your internet will stop at some of the worst times sooner or later. This is why I fully agree with having a backup plan so you can continue work with minor interruption.

  10. says

    Laura, this is an awesome article! I do have a laptop and a local coffee shop so I’d be able to continue with business as usual. I would like to get an extra laptop in case this one goes down, though. I do have a desktop but it’s nothing you’d want to work on! I’m hoping to find a backup laptop in my budget in the near future.

    Oh, and I do back data up. I’m crazy about backing up files. :-)

  11. says

    I’m so glad that everyone seems to be backing up their data. It’s so important, and as Steve says, sooner or later your “power will go out.”

    What other back up plans do you folks have for your business?

  12. says

    My thoughts exactly. All of my work is on my laptop; I used to have nightmares about what would happen if I woke up one morning and it was dead.
    So I bought a 1TB portable HDD and a copy of Norton Ghost and now all my hard drives are backed up there, and regularly updated. It is a weight off my shoulders I can tell you. All independent designers should have exactly the same back up policy as those implemented in a multinational, because the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

  13. says

    Great advice! having your backups offsite… never thought of it, what a brilliant idea. Thanks.
    Having a financial back up plan doesn’t hurt either, now does it?

    Thanks for sharing

  14. says

    About the absolute chaos of a fire, earthquake (very familiar with that here in El Salvador), Tsunami or any catastrofical event or failure that can make you lost all digital and fisical backup at once, a client has gived me an advise “put all your contacts, and administrative “live” files in a a folder of your site, so you can access it anywhere” at first sounds crazy becouse the server can go down but that it happens joined with a fire in my office or any act of God is very unlikely to happen, so even in a catastrofy you can find a fresh brand new laptop (or a borrowed one) and retrieve that files to go running again.

    The info I think you need to back up in that way are contacts, the digital copies of documentation only relevant to you, here you have “credito fiscal” is tax discount to bussiness and you must presenta a card issued by the tax offials to have it but a copy is valid since the discount is made when you pay the tax so is only useful to you, also you can put in this list copies of contracts and other documents of reference, I spen most of my time on the street and some times asked for budgets “on the run” and that backup has helped me to have a fast response to mi clients, this is not only for chaotical emergencies is also for little every day amergencies to.

  15. says

    Great article Laura,

    Personally, I’ve already lost lots of data and encountered tons of issues before I realized to take action about building a back up plan.

    To save me from anxiety of data loss, especially my article copies, I readily make drafts in my wordpress blog and schedule post them. In case, my computer crashes or the connection went out, I’m pretty confident that my blog will be running by itself.

    I’m also thankful that I have someone to back me up in case of emergency. For simple projects, I usually delegate the work to my ever reliable brother. It keeps me moving despite my absence.

  16. says

    Really like the peer idea, I have never thought of this way. Last week I wasn’t able to work because I was sick, if I had idea of peer help before I would have asked them to cover for me. But never mind, it will surely help me in future.

  17. says

    I bought a Tim Capsule from Apple, to not only make the house, printer, music, etc wireless but it also backs up the computer at set intervals so I never have to think about it again.

    It was also pretty neat, when I bought my new Macbook, as soon as I plugged in the Time Capsule, it asked me to move all files (even the desktop picture) over to the new computer…Pretty nifty :)

  18. says

    Hi~
    I was wondering if I could use the burnt computer image at the top of this blog for a video I’m creating. Not sure if you own it but wanted to ask permission if possible.

    thanks!
    ps

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