5 Tips To Protect Your Small Business From a Data Disaster

The digital revolution has given small-business owners and startups tools that let them compete with much bigger businesses. Computing power allows entrepreneurs to transform their ideas into success stories faster than ever. But if you have ever had your computer seize up mid-task, you know there's a downside to our utter reliance on technology. When something goes wrong, it can go very, very wrong.

David Zimmerman has seen just about everything that can go wrong with computers. The founder, president, and CEO of LC Technology, Zimmerman has been working in data recovery since the early 1990s. His company restores data from a variety of devices and makes data recovery products in 24 languages. 

In the digital age, everything is data, from the photos on your phone and camera to your business' customer data and financial records. Protecting data is particularly important for small businesses and solopreneurs, who may rely on just one or two devices to run their whole operation. 

“Most people don’t have any type of plan in place because nobody expects bad things to happen to them,” Zimmerman says. In the same way you would protect your important paper files from potential fire by making digital copies or storing them in a fire-safe cabinet, small businesses should have procedures for data storage that minimize the risk of catastrophic data loss. Zimmerman shares five ways small-business owners can protect themselves from a data disaster that could bring operations to a standstill.

1. Back Up Your Data Daily

“People are not as careful as they should be,” Zimmerman notes. “It only takes once for somebody to lose something to start thinking about it.” He recommends free and low-cost solutions such as backing up files to cloud storage or to an external drive as good places to start.

2. Back Up Your Backup

Whether you store your backups on an external drive or upload files to the cloud, Zimmerman says, you should expect that something might go wrong. He notes that cloud services have an occasional tendency to lose data and, because they aren’t supposed to be looking at your files, cloud storage providers can’t always help you recover lost files. If the cloud is your company’s file-sharing network or the way you do work on the go, Zimmerman recommends backing up to multiple cloud services. “The odds of all of them going down at one time are pretty slim,” he says.

3. Test Your Backup

“A lot of people think they’re backing up all the time, but they never had a reason to restore their data” so they don’t really know if it’s working," Zimmerman says. He recommends deleting a few test files from your system and trying to restore them, to make sure your backup system is doing its job.

4. Monitor the Health of Your Hard Drives

Monitoring software, such as the programs offered by Zimmerman’s company, can warn you in advance of a catastrophic crash. The message, “This drive is logging errors and may fail,” he says, will put you on notice to take corrective action before a hard disk failure brings your business to a halt.

5. Treat Your Storage Devices With Care

“We get a lot of USB drives in here with the heads busted,” Zimmerman says. Don’t touch the contacts of an SD card, don’t bend your phone or drive, and just be gentle with everything, he advises. Even the sturdiest electronic device will give out if it’s dropped, stepped on, or sat upon too many times. Your data is precious; treating your storage devices carefully is the most basic way to protect your data.

Author: Laura McCamy

Laura McCamy is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California. She writes about small business, real estate, and development. An avid urban bike rider, she also loves to cover bicycling, urban planning, and the intersection of bicycles and business. Follow her on Twitter @lmcwords.