Home Office Technology Tip: Backing Up Data

Homepreneurs must mention one of the key technology issues for home offices: data backup.  As a computer technician, I attempt to recover data when hard drives crash or malware infections occur.  My advice to clients is simple: if you can’t afford to lose the data, back it up.  This is very important for the home business user or work at home employee.  If disconnected from a backup source, server or corporate backup software, are you prepared to enter an entire week or month or year’s work?  Even if you are, will customers be patient as you try to reconstruct order information?

Do yourself, the business, your customers, and your sanity a favor: back up your data on a regular basis.

This post discusses several options for data backup along with the positives and negatives. Most of these solutions are not expensive, especially compared to the cost/time of data re-entry.  Consider the price of lost production time too as you or a technician attempts to recover the business plan, accounting information, and customer data.

What to back up

–        Data that is difficult if not impossible to reproduce.  Accounting and customer information are two primary concerns.

–        Do not attempt to back up software programs or applications.  If your computer is infected by malware, program files may be corrupt.  Restoring these files restores the corrupt files too.  In addition, many programs will not successfully reinstall from backup.  A program can always be loaded again if needed.

When to back up

–        This is a ‘depends’ scenario: some do daily, others weekly or monthly.  Consider the business needs first.  If your business is heavy on transactions, daily is probably better.  If on the lighter side, weekly or monthly might be appropriate.

–        You can also customize your backups to a full backup once a month and any changed files daily.

Back up options

There are several options to consider, from hard copy – print outs – to offsite storage picked up by a vendor.  The first is messy and doesn’t address fires, floods, hungry dogs or coffee spills.  The second is more expensive and generally used by enterprise clients.  Here are some inexpensive options to consider:

–        USB flash or jump drive – these simple, inexpensive drives provide a lot of storage for not much money.  They can be purchased almost anywhere – drug stores to computer stores – plug into a computers USB port and back up whatever you need very quickly.  The risk of losing one is possible and so is physical damage.  No security either.  These are mechanical devices that will fail eventually.  Use these temporarily or to transfer data between computers.

–        External hard drives – a little more expensive than flash drives, these usually plug into a USB port and many come with backup software programs too.  You shouldn’t spend more than $100 to buy a good external drive with more storage than you’ll ever need.  The major risks here are physical damage and local disasters (fires, floods, etc.).

–        DVD and CDs – DVDs offer much more space than CDs do: 4.7 GB for a one layer disc vs. up to 700 MB for a regular CD.  Generally, CDs and DVDs have a life span of between 2 and 15 years, depending on storage condition and quality.  CDs and DVDs are also subject to scratches and other physical damage.  I would use these only as a temporary solution.

–        Online backups – this method is increasingly common, especially for smaller business.  Online backups use the Internet to backup data and keep them on safe, secure servers away from your home.  Fire, flood, theft and other catastrophes won’t affect the backed up data.  Online backup services are automatic, provide lots of storage, and are not very expensive.  Some services can cost as little as $5 or $10 per month.

For a review of assorted online backup services and features, take a look at PCMag’s recent comparison and review here:  http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2288745,00.asp

In summary, backing up data is not a choice if you want your business to run smoothly.  The method of backup is a choice, and cost vs. reliability and convenience should be considered.  Do yourself and your business a favor, be smart, and back up!

By Dion D Shaw

Dion Shaw is the founder and owner of Homepreneurs

Homepreneurs.  New Day.  New Opportunity.

Disclaimer

Homepreneurs does not endorse nor have any relationships with any of the services listed.  Homepreneurs receives no compensation or consideration for its suggestions.  Homepreneurs strongly urges all interested parties to conduct research and accepts no responsibility for any losses incurred.

© Homepreneurs 2010 – 2012

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