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Three Keys To Protecting Your Data Against Disaster

Many small businesses treat disaster preparedness as a "nice to have" item on their to-do lists. You don't have to look very hard to find examples of what can happen when you take that approach.

Matthew McKenzie

April 2, 2010

3 Min Read

Many small businesses treat disaster preparedness as a "nice to have" item on their to-do lists. You don't have to look very hard to find examples of what can happen when you take that approach.The recent threat of flooding in the U.S. Midwest wasn't as catastrophic as it might have been. In the past, however, such floods have been worse than most business owners could have imagined. The same holds true for anyone who didn't expect a hurricane, tornado, or even a broken water main to cripple their business -- until it did.

A recent news article uses last week's flooding threat to set the stage for a discussion of small-business disaster preparedness strategies. Not all of these points are directly relevant to the subject at hand -- data storage -- but three of them are worth exploring here:

  1. Figure out your needs. This means sitting down with everyone who plays a key role in your company's daily operations -- not just the IT staff. Review what data needs protecting; how often that data should be backed up and updated; and who needs access to it if your company needs to shut down or to operate from an alternate location. A brainstorming session may seem like a waste of time, especially if your IT staff normally handles these questions. But it adds a vital measure of real-world context to the planning process.

  2. Design and execute an off-site backup strategy. How you handle this depends on a number of factors, including the size of your business and whether or not you have a dedicated IT staff. Whether you back up to hard drives, tape, cloud-based services, or simply an employee laptop, ensure that the data you need gets backed up and moved off-site on a workable schedule. If those backups are sitting in your office basement when the water rises, then you really haven't protected your data at all.

    Start with Plan A -- then work on Plans B and C. This may be the most important point raised in the article I mention above. No matter how carefully you plan, Murphy's Law is lurking just around the corner. Look hard at the variables in your disaster-planning scenario: What could go wrong to throw a monkey wrench into your primary plan? Once you take that step, it's possible to think about an alternative plan -- or perhaps a couple of them -- that make it easier to expect the unexpected.

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As always, don't wait to get started just because all of this sounds like more than your business can handle at one time. Even if you just get started with the first step of a disaster-recovery strategy for your business data, it could make the difference between getting back on your feet quickly or not getting back on them at all.

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