Website Design, Strategy, Social Networking, SEO, Susan Pomeroy, Ph.D.

How Backing Up Your Hard Drive Can Save Your Business

by Susan Pomeroy

Contingency planning for small business - hard drive backup could save your life

A few weeks ago, in the wake of the gulf oil disaster, I wrote about contingency planning for small businesses. Make sure you have backups of everything, I said, including your hard drive. And then my computer died.

I originally learned about backups the hard way. As the huge Oakland Hills fire raced down the hill towards my apartment, I watched entire houses explode into full flame while I frantically inserted disk after disk to back up the only copy of my unfinished dissertation.

For years since then, I’ve used “SuperDuper” to automatically back up my entire drive every night. So as far as data backups go, I thought I was covered. But when my computer suddenly crashed and died two weeks ago, I discovered I was not. Unbeknownst to me, my backup software had failed a week before. I lost a week’s worth of work.

I was able to obtain another computer in record time by taking the advice of my computer guy, and buying a used workhorse model on craigslist. The seller was even willing to deliver.

However, no sooner had I migrated my data and apps over from the backup, gotten all set up, and done a few days’ work… but this “new” computer died. I lugged it down to the shop, where they diagnosed it as beyond repair.

I bit the bullet and went to the Apple store. Two hours later I walked out with a new iMac. Again, I migrated everything over from the old backup… minus the missing week; also missing the unbacked-up five days’ work I’d done on the craigslist  computer.

Apple comes with automatic backup software preinstalled. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the password to my backup drive. And I postponed taking the time to search for it, reasoning that a brand-new computer would surely be OK for a few days while I scrambled to catch up on delayed projects.

Big mistake. Two days later, the brand-new hard drive proved to be defective.

Apple was wonderful to deal with, and again I left the store with a brand-new computer. And again, I set up anew, and migrated everything over.

Only now I was missing the original week’s work, plus five days’ work on the second computer, plus two irreplaceable days on the first new Mac. That was two solid weeks of my time, zapped.

Lost Two Weeks, Saved the Business

The missing work was a giant hassle to recreate, and some of it can never be recaptured. In consequence, clients’ time-critical work was late. A new job bid was late, too, and I never heard back from that potential client.

So in addition to work, and time, and money, there’s a loss of what I’ll call “perceived professionalism.” Trust. Reliability. Who would you prefer to entrust with your business… someone who recovers instantly and completely from a disaster, or someone who has to scramble around trying to recover crucial information?

Yes, the two weeks’ work lost was a significant hit. But here’s the real news. I still had: all my clients and contacts’ information. All my passwords and account info. All of my bookkeeping, tax and financial records. Every client’s backup files and everything needed to complete current work.

So. Did backing up really save my business? Absolutely. Suppose I had to contact every client, and let them know I’d lost all their work, all their backups, and all of their confidential information. I can’t even imagine having to totally recreate ten years of business history… even if my clients were loyal enough to put up with such a disaster.

There was also a positive impact… on me. It’s a great feeling to have confidence that you’ve done what you can to protect yourself and your clients from the unforeseeable. To know that if the ship hits an iceberg, there are more than enough well-stocked lifeboats at the ready. Although fate handed me a ridiculous and unparalleled chain of computer failures, and although I made more than one dumb mistake… I still had everything I really needed to pick up and carry on.

It’s not a flashy kind of confidence, though. It’s more foundational. It’s a peace of mind that—I believe—communicates itself wordlessly to clients, and contributes positively to perceived professionalism.

And that’s good for business. The business I still have… thanks to backing up!

Do you have backup experiences—successes, or catastrophes—to share?


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