Is your company’s data protected?

If you were unable to access the data on your computer, how long could you function without access to your customers' account information, email contact list or company financial information? According to FEMA stats, 43 percent of small and medium-sized businesses fail to reopen after a disaster. Another 29 percent close within two years of the disaster.

Many companies feel they are protected due to current automated nightly backups that are in place. But due to recent technology advancements, many times their data is not being backed up or not being backed up in a format that is easy to recover from.

Many people feel because they back up the entire disk drive on their computer that they are getting everything they need to restore in case of a drive failure, or worst yet, a disaster that hits the physical location. But in most cases that is not true. Some accounting software packages utilize the Microsoft SQL server database or SQL Express. The SQL database requires a different backup strategy than simply copying the contents of your computer's disk drive.

To ensure you are getting a complete backup you can recover from, use the following checklist:

What data do I want to backup? Accounting data, word processing documents, spreadsheets, email, etc.

Do I have more than one computer to backup? If you have a centralized server, is there data being stored on the workstations that should be backed up?

Do I want a backup that allows me to restore all programs and user logins for my system or is just having the data enough and that if you need to restore you will re-install the programs? If you choose the re-install programs option, be sure to have your software registration key information stored in a secure offsite location.

What database structure does each software application utilize? Do special procedures need to be used to backup the database in order to restore the database?

Routinely test the backup by trying to restore a database, a word processing document or a spreadsheet.

When installing or upgrading a software package, revisit your backup plan to ensure that your data is continuing to be backed up.

Store your backup in an offsite secure location.

Establish a rotation schedule for your backup. Do you need to keep a monthly, quarterly or annual backup? Your backup rotation should involve more than one copy.

Can the backup media that is utilized be read by another computer or does specialized software or hardware need to be installed before the backup media can be read?

Do not let your company fall victim to having one of its most valuable assets unprotected. I have seen companies that thought they had a backup simply because they received a message each morning that the backup was successful, but there was no useable content on the tape. Work with your IT support person to develop a plan that will protect your data to help your company prevent data loss.

Gregory D. Harrand, MBA, is the Manager for Technology Consulting at Dennis, Gartland & Niergarth in Traverse City. Greg is certified in MAS 90 and Great Plains, teaches for Davenport University and Lawrence Technological University, and is active with ConnecTech and regional IT support groups. For more information, contact (231) 946-1722 or gharrand@dgncpa.com.

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