Rick Meekins is the Managing Partner at Aepiphanni, a Business Consultancy, an Atlanta, GA based small business consultancy that provides Management Consulting, Implementation and Managed Services to business leaders and entrepreneurs seeking to improve or expand operations.
Keeping IT Moving | Extraordinary Business
Making sure that your business can continue when your IT infrastructure won’t
Somewhere in the minds of us small business owners everywhere, there is the knowledge that data systems have a limited life span. Two thoughts are usually associated with that thought:
- I will get to it later when there is more cash available
- It won’t happen to me…but when it does, I will be ready.
I cannot tell you how many times I people have told me about how they had to take their device to some repair shop and pay hundreds of dollars and lose productivity – perhaps even days of productivity because they “lost everything” when their hard drive went bad. Oh, No! So much time and data is just lost. The sad thing is that it is relatively simple and cost effective to set up a system that works.
Please understand that I speak to you not from the perspective of an IT expert, but as one who understands the damaging affects of lost data and productivity. In order to maximize the use of our resources, you need to think in terms of “what will happen and who will be impacted if my system goes down, and what will I do about it.”
The model I recommend was actually born from the business continuity planning that was recommended after the WTC New York attack, when IT gurus began to talk about having offsite data backup systems. Many of the companies that were in the buildings had onsite backup systems (typically magnetic tape drives, by my understanding), but not too many – if any – had off site backups.
This system has worked for my company for a number of years. It is scalable, allows me to work remotely and with or without an internet connection. Furthermore, I have been able to add both my smartphone and my tablet to the system to enable me to be completely mobile.
1) Online backup / fileshare / file access services: With today’s internet capabilities, and the easy access to products such as SugarSync, DropBox, that will automatically back up your selected files, it is not difficult to make sure that your files are constantly being backed up. The great thing about these to offerings, in particular, is that they allow you to view and make updates to files anywhere there is an internet connection.
2) Online email backup: Many users tend to use either an online email service, such as Gmail or another POP account. Others will use a local email manager, such as Outlook, Apple mail or Thunderbird. The problem faced is that when there is no internet access, there is no way to access the emails that are on the gmail or other POP account, and if something happens to the computer, there is no way to access the emails that are being stored on the system. If you are using your email system to manage your contacts, calendar and tasks, your challenge quadruples if there is a problem with your email.
My recommendation is to use a system that will allow you to download a copy of your emails onto your computer and manage the emails remotely or on the internet. An example of this would be to use Microsoft365, which essentially provides you with a hosted Microsoft Exchange service, so you can log into your email box online and see your contacts, calendar items, events, emails and folders nearly identically to how you would see them on your desktop or laptop. (Incidentally, you can store all of your files and folders here as well and collaborate with other users.)
3) Local Backup – Reversed: Sometimes, it seems as though local backup is a bit overkill. However, allow me to present this: What happens when the drive on your local computer goes bad and for whatever reason, your online backup hasn’t updated a file to the latest version or you don’t have access to the internet. In addition to this challenge, the backup system needs to be automatic and ongoing. To accomplish this, I recommend using a Network Attached Storage Device (or NAS) such as an Buffalo LinkStation Pro. (Some of them even have cloud access so that you can log into your NAS device remotely. Of course, that means that, potentially, others can to. So I don’t recommend that.) An advantage of this system is that it has two drives that are mirror images of one another so that when one drive goes bad, you can swap it out for another drive which will take on the role of the former drive.
Some of the devices come with an automatic backup software, which is great. However, I have found that GoodSync is an excellent alternative because you can choose what to back up when. For example, if you have files you access once a month, there is no point is draining resources to back it up every two hours.
4) Complete computer backup: A great thing about a large capacity (1 Terabyte or more) NAS is that you can store a backup copy of your entire computer (a system image) on it. One of the avoidable parts of getting a new computer or replacing the hard drive on your existing computer is getting all of the settings and programs, etc., back to where they were before. By using a backup system that creates an image of your computer’s hard drive, you can (relatively) quickly get up and running, again. There are a number of ways to get it done. I use the software that came with my computer (Windows 7 Professional) and have it automatically create a system image every seven days. Keep in mind that if your computer goes to sleep before it finishes, it will not create the whole image!
For years, smart people have told us that we need to prepare for when your computer system goes down…not if it goes down. When your computer goes down, business does not stop. By ensuring that you have systems in place, you can continue to keep up with the pace of doing business.
Aepiphanni Business Consulting: The Business Strategy People is an Atlanta, Georgia based Operations Management and Business Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated to serving the needs of small to medium sized business leaders. We help business leaders DESIGN | CREATE | BUILD extraordinary businesses. We offer coaching, consulting and operations management to help you reach your company goals.