Eight common things the disaster-struck didn’t do


Date: 8 July 2010

Please blow a raspberry in my general direction if you think this post is overly doom-mongering. But the sad fact is that many small businesses are totally unaware of how much of their data is at risk.

The main reason for this gap in disaster recovery policy is ignorance of the key facts. They're often straightforward but little known, so instead of giving you a jargon-filled list of technical terms, I’ll give you a list of things people usually forget to cover until it’s too late.

1. Backing up data at all. Don't fall into the trap of thinking "it'll never happen to me," because there are only two types of people in this world: those who have had a data loss and those who are about to.

2. Backing up data frequently enough. If you came into your office and realised that a vital quotation you prepared three days ago had been deleted, would you be happy that your weekly backup didn’t contain it?

3. Not backing up accounts data. Sensing a theme here yet? Many people assume that their network backup covers all their data. This isn't always true. Accounts data is sometimes stored on an individual PC that's not covered by the backup schedule.

4. Email. Many people don’t think they need to recover their email. Until they lose it, that is. I’m talking about the messages that arrive in your inbox or are sat in your “Sent items” folder. These are increasingly used as evidence of a contract or as instruction to proceed.

5. File and folders. So you've got the obviously vital data, like your financial information covered. What about the seemingly mundane? Word documents, spreadsheets and databases can all contain important information. Make sure they can be recovered.

6. Storing information in the wrong place. When you hit save, do you know where the document is stored? Is it somewhere that is scheduled to be backed up? Saving your work on the desktop of your PC or in the My Documents folder isn’t much use if your backup only covers a shared folder on your network.

7.  Contact and calendar information. In small networks your contact and calendar folders in Outlook are stored on your PC and may not get backed up. If you suffer a data disaster you'll be completely lost, with no idea who you were due to see and no way of contacting them.

8. Where your backups are kept. Do you use pen-drives, CDs, backup tapes or hard drives to backup your data? Great. But where do you keep them? Next to your PC or file server? Not so great. Even the best backup procedures become useless unless you store the data safely off your premises.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are probably other pockets of data you need to secure. The best way to think about it is to imagine what you can’t live without should disaster strike.

Think of the things you do on your PC each day. Don't worry about the software itself (you should have the original installation CDs for that), but question where the important data is situated. Make sure it's somewhere that's covered by your backup schedule. And if it isn't, fix it. Now. Because you never know when data loss might strike.

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