Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

Small is valuable: data backup for the micro-business

A few short years ago, data backup for the micro-business was tough. An external hard drive sat on my desk, as big as a pond turtle and about as swift, and pokily copied my data. That was all.

It should be this easy.

It should be this easy.

I could keep all my data at home when I took my computer out, but there were still  too many contingencies left uncovered.

For one thing, I knew that a fire in my office would wipe out computer and external drive alike.

Further, Jeannie Shea, owner of Bay to Bay Technical Solutions and my backup guru, warns that business owners need to be concerned about the failure of external drives. Jeannie says, “I’ve seen people get a check for the cost of the drive and a quick ‘sorry’ from the manufacturer when their external drives failed,” leaving them with no data backup. One common source of failure is a problem with the USB port. Jeannie recommends looking for a drive with both a USB and a Firewire port, which gives two sources of access to the data.

Then came remote encrypted offsite backup programs, such as Mozy and Carbonite. At first, they left Mac users like me out in the cold. But as of this writing, both have Mac versions as well as PC versions. Now for about $50 a year, Carbonite quietly runs in the background, backing up my important data while I work. For the micro-business, this is backup heaven.

I know some small businesses that consider the cost of these services so cheap and the price of downtime so dear that they use both of them. This is one case where a “belt and suspenders and another belt” make sense.

Next up: addressing the needs of businesses with more sophisticated requirements

Belt and Suspenders: what everyone needs to know about data backup

Sometimes we joke about the “belt and suspenders” solution – those situations where people look for not one but two powerful sources of security. When it comes to data backup, don’t be afraid of the “belt and suspenders” title. Businesses need two kinds of backup.

Tough jobs require a belt and suspenders. (Photo courtesy of

Tough jobs require a belt and suspenders. (Photo courtesy of

One will be on-site, the other off-site. The first protects against data loss due to technical failure and some theft, the second against catastrophic loss due to theft, fire or other disaster.

Jeannie Shea, owner of Bay to Bay Technical Solutions and our backup expert for this series, wants you to remember one  key point: If your computer is in your office and you backup to an external drive in the same office, you may be protected against data loss but not against theft, fire or other disaster.

Your on-site backup should be:

  • Automatic (not dependent on human intervention most of the time)
  • On-site (makes it convenient to restore your ability to work in case of computer failure)
  • Daily, at a minimum
  • Able to back up “open” files, that is, files that are in use

Your offsite backup should be:

  • Remote, so that in case of fire or theft in your office, the backup is intact.
  • Encrypted, so that your data travels over the internet in a secure fashion to a secure location, usually out of state.

With services such as Carbonite and Mozy, this is now affordable even for the solo entrepreneur.

So how to make this work for your business? Yesterday we talked about why this matters for your business, whether you have 100 employees or you’re all on your own. Next time we’ll turn our attention to the solo entrepreneur and the micro-business, then in a future post we’ll address the needs of the “larger small business”.

Got questions about backup? Leave a comment here.

Back It Up! – four ways computer failure can sink a business

Let me tell you some scary stories:

449px-frankensteins_monster_boris_karloffA skilled non-profit executive was writing a book that would promote her cause. One day when the book was about three-quarters completed, her computer crashed. Her manuscript, she was told, was irretrievable…

A small company carefully backed up its employees’ computers to a central on-site server. Legal requirements for their industry mandated that they keep excellent records on their business transactions, so their dozen computers were regularly backed up. Then one night, the beautiful old building that housed their business caught fire…

A successful online business believed that its web-hosting company backed up data several times a day, but when the host’s servers went down and suffered some data loss, the online company found that months of website improvements, representing hundreds of work-hours, would have to be done again. They hadn’t been backed up by the host or by the business…

A medical office backed up its data as needed to support the excellent patient care it sought to provide. To make the data available to doctors in the office and at the hospital, the data was backed up offsite. But the data wasn’t encrypted. Then the medical partnership was the subject of a HIPAA audit….

Computer backup is not my area of expertise, yet as a business coach and organizing consultant, I can’t ignore it. Loss of data – whether from theft, fire, or technical failure – can bring an enterprise to its knees with insurmountable loss. As your coach and organizing consultant, it’s one of the things I check for in working with clients. For help in advising clients (and in doing the right thing for my own business) I turned to Jeannie Shea, the owner of Bay to Bay Technical Solutions in the San Francisco area. Computer backup is Jeannie’s passion.

Backup truly is a complicated subject. Fortunately, Jeannie has a skill for simplifying it, helping businesses make the best decisions to protect their data, and so their survival.

In the coming days I’ll be sharing Jeannie’s wisdom with New Leaf News readers, to help you get the most from Jeannie’s knowledge and skill about how to protect your business from catastrophic loss due to inadequate data backup.

Large corporations have their own IT departments and unique business requirements, so Jeannie and I talked about help for all smaller businesses with one to 100 employees – solo entrepreneurs, micro-businesses, and the typical small business.

Here’s the lineup for this topic. In the coming days, we’ll discuss:

• What everyone needs to know

• Needs of the micro-business

• Help for the “larger” small business

• What gets backed up?

Please contact me if you have questions about protecting your business and helping it thrive. In the future, let’s save the scary stories for Halloween.

Tax day: a quote

A quote for the day:

1946 stamp commemorating the centennial of The Smithsonian Institution. Photo courtesy of The Smithsonian Institution

1946 stamp commemorating the centennial of The Smithsonian Institution. Photo courtesy of The Smithsonian Institution

I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.

— Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

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