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How To Protect Data for Small Business
By Russ Jackman
Since we all agree that protecting and backing up our data is a good idea, why do so few actually make the effort? Too expensive? Too time consuming? If your computer's hard drive failed right now, would it have been worth investing five minutes yesterday making a backup of your data?
Data can be lost due to a variety of causes, including hardware failure, data corruption (such as a virus infecting important files), human error, and catastrophic events (fire, flood, theft). A disturbing fact to consider is that most hard drive manufacturers have reduced the warranty on drives for consumers and small businesses from three years to one. Is there something they're not telling us?
Human error and data corruption can be countered with good policies and procedures. Some companies use technology to prevent the downloading of programs, and filter out any email attachment that could possibly contain a virus. For your business, though, you can substitute vigilance and awareness of "risky behavior". Would you invite someone into your home if they rang the doorbell wearing a hockey mask and carrying a axe? Then why would you open an email attachment you weren't expecting with an .exe, .pif, .scr, .bat or any other "risky" file?
Talking about good policies, be sure to perform "preventative maintenance" on your computer. Defragment your hard drive periodically as well as run a "scan disk" utility, which checks for bad sectors and early warning signs of a hard drive failure. Some of these functions are automatically done by newer operating systems, so check to be sure.
Consider installing a secondary hard drive. It's inexpensive to create a process to automatically copy the contents of your hard drive to a secondary drive, sometimes called "ghosting" after the backup program, Norton Ghost. Better yet, to increase protection from risk of theft, take an old system and dedicate it to data backup. Adding to, or creating, a simple network is easy and allows you to locate this computer in a locked closet (or anywhere other than a desk where thieves might grab it). And, with the capacity of hard drives increasing, one computer could backup several of your systems.
Current technology increases the ease of safeguarding your data, but it also risks giving a false sense of security. One popular technology is called "RAID" (Redundant Array of Independent Disks). With RAID, multiple drives work in tandem so if one of the drives fail, your system will continue to operate on the surviving drives until the failed one can be replaced. All you do is unplug it and pop in a new drive, and the contents of the failed drive will automatically be rebuilt by the other drives in the array. As easy as this sounds, it doesn't offer data protection if your RAID happens to be in the trunk of a getaway car.
The best protection against all risks is to have an off-site backup. Typically, this involved an expensive but reliable tape backup system, taking the tape home for safe keeping. With CD and DVD burners becoming standard features on new systems, many businesses now have the ability to create backups of their valuable data. You can manually backup just the important files (documents, email folders), or use a program to backup your entire system onto multiple discs. Even a $100 CD burner can write an entire disc in just a few minutes.
Protecting your valuable data takes a little bit of effort, but far less than trying to recover or re-create all your databases, emails, documents, and financial and customer records.
(c) 2003 by Russ Jackman Web Design. Russ is a strategist and web designer specializing in internet strategy for small business and non-profit organizations. Visit RussHosting.com for information on developing an effective, low-cost web program. This page may be freely linked to, contact the author for permission and conditions to reproduce this article.
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