Is Your Business Prepared for Disaster?

Man biting keyboardI once heard crisis management teams described as a group of people you invite into your business so they can scare the heck out of you. The fact is that even if your business is virtual it is still based in the physical world and susceptible to all sorts of disasters. The reason crisis management teams exist is that in the past a number of businesses have not survived a disaster that could have been prepared for.

In addition to flood, fire and theft that most businesses have to contemplate there are also the offline threats. Computer and server crashes, malicious viruses, malware and ransomware, websites being hacked or disabled by plugin conflicts, corruption of memory, and more. The list of possible obstacles to your online business is uncomfortably long.

If you don’t know how to deal with these yourself you should have access to someone who can, either a local expert or someone online. Don’t just hope you’ll find someone on Google, Elance or Fiverr if disaster strikes. You should be able to contact a specific person or service without hesitation. If you’re really organised you’ll have a couple of sources to go to, just in case your first source of expertise is not available.

At the very least you should have antivirus and antimalware software on your computer.

There are other steps you can take. You should know how to set up restore points on your computer and how to use them. If this fails to solve a problem you should have comprehensive backups too.

Backup everything that’s on your computer. You could use a memory stick, disc or external drive. However these are vulnerable to damage or loss and will degrade at varying rates over time. For example a CD-ROM can start losing its data after just two years.

The best solution is cloud based. stored onto another server via the internet. You could use services like Dropbox or Amazon S3, but these are not designed specifically for backup and they each have some issues.

Amazon S3 is very reliable, in act Amazon uses it themselves for storing thousands of Kindle books and streaming movies. However if you want to use it for backing up your computer there are some problems. All the files you want to backup will have to be upoaded manually, which isn’t realy practical for frequently backing up your entire hard drive. You are also limited to 100 buckets per account. A bucket is like a folder and although each folder can contain an unlimited number of files it’s likely you’ll eventually reach a point where keeping track of which files are in which bucket could become too confusing.

You could try using Google Drive. You’d need a Google account and you get the first 15GB free. However, take a look at your hard drive and you’ll probably see that won’t last long, especially as that 15Gb includes your Gmail account. It’s designed more for sharing and doesn’t have the highest grade encryption that would give you complete peace of mind.

You could use Dropbox, but it can take a long time to upload larger files which could be a problem. It’s designed for sharing files among devices so might be useful if you have devices at different locations, but it’s not designed specifically as a secure backup service. Dropbox currently offers only 2GB of free storage , so it could become expensive once you exceed this limit.

Ideally a cloud based backup service should offer multiple redundancy by storing your hard drive contents on several servers in different locations. You should be able to access the backup from any device at any time anywhere and be able to restore what you have backed up to your hard drive with minimum fuss at anytime. The service should also back up your files automatically so you don’t worry about forgetting to do it.

You should also regularly backup your websites. I use Backup Buddy for my WordPress sites. For other sites check whether your hosting company has a backup service.

Have a plan in place for the worst scenarios. If your backup is offsite your business should be immune from flood, fire and theft. However you will still need hardware to access your data quickly to keep ypur busines running as smoothly as possible. Ideally you will have another device stored at a separate location. If this is not possible have a plan for hiring or buying and receiving a device at short notice.

Have a means of securely storing your passwords. This may mean using a password manager program, like LastPass or Roboform. Alternatively you could record your passwords away from your computer. Most people have passwords that are only eight characters long, because that is all they are required to use to establish a password. Double the number of characters and your access is much more secure.

You can check how secure a password is at Don’t enter an actual password you use, instead test a similar one with slightly different characters.

There are other useful habits to get into. When you purchase something in digital format download it as soon as possible. Have a purchasing routine that records all the purchasing details, passwords, where you download the item and where it is backed up to. Not only does this keep you organised it also means you’re not inconvenienced if there is a problem with the vendor’s server.

If you are unprepared for events that might disrupt your computer you could lose vital information, years of work and spend months trying to recover everything. With these basics measures in place your business can be immune from hackers, thieves, house disasters and computer failures so your business can keep going with minimum disruption and avoid a disastrous end should the worst happen.

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