What would you do if your computer crashed right now and you lost all electronic information about your business in an instant?
If you start backing up your data then this need not be a worry.
All the information on your computer is stored on its hard drive. It could fail for any number of reasons, such as physical damage, theft or fire. Suffice to say, your business operations would be brought to a halt if all the data was lost.
According to research by BT and the Institute of Directors (IoD) conducted in November 2005, less than 20% of small and medium businesses actually back up their data, even though 82% conceded that they could not function without it.
So it's vitally important to make additional copies of the data held on your system.
Professor Jim Norton, senior policy adviser at the IoD, points out that if you, the owner, do not do it, then it is unlikely anyone else will take the initiative.
"For smaller businesses in particular, the owner or manager is in charge of IT. As a result, things like backing up data are way down the list of priorities and are often seen as chores. This is because traditional backup methods, like tape and CD, are often time consuming. But times have changed."
Indeed, there are many ways of storing additional copy or copies, with new processes developing all the time.
One emerging storage solution is to use online storage. A number of services have sprung up where you can store important files on a storage site on the internet.
External hard drives are used more and more as they are easy to use and don't cost much either. You can plug them into your USB port on your computer, load with the content of your hard drive and then move them to another, secure location for safety.
Another option would be to save information onto CD-ROM.
So what do you save?
As long as you have the original CDs for your software programs then there is no need to include the programs themselves. Data files that you will need to backup include your web pages, databases, information on your financial software, details from inventory control, customer databases, important correspondence, internal memos or anything else that would make your life difficult if you didn't have access to it.
When you are deciding on how often to back up, it depends on how much risk you are willing to take and how much work you do on a day-to-day basis. Generally, most people carry it out on either a daily or a weekly basis.
You should implement a procedure or routine for backing-up data. Perhaps give one person sole responsibility for backing-up each day and designate a 'second-in-command' should the other person not be there.
Use two different CDs or external hard drives on rotation, further ensuring the safety of the data.
Finally, keep your back up copies off-site, away from your business premises. Whatever you use to make a copy can be stored in a separate location, so that in a worst case scenario - such as in a fire, flood or theft - even though your computer will be lost, your information will be safe.
If you have the luxury of a spare, blank computer you could even test how the backup copy fares. By installing your operating system and software and then your backup program, you can see what would be restored if the worst was to happen.
Once these procedures are in place you can be rest assured that if your computer systems are caught out then your business can keep running.