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To backup or not to backup – there really is no question

Thursday, 26 June 2014 | By Vanessa Emilio

There’s a scandal brewing in the US – a scandal that might be as big as Watergate was. And it all hinges on NOT backing up.


The short story of the investigation: The Democrats (and potentially President Obama) might have been using the IRS (the US tax office) to target their political adversaries.


It all hinges on two years of emails that were ‘lost’ in a hard disk crash. The loss of emails is at best “convenient” for the Democrats – at worst it’s a cover-up that leads all the way to the top. Time will tell.


And the issue surrounds why such a large government department does not have a good (or any) backup system. They expect you to keep all your tax information for seven years but they don’t have a backup storage system in place?


There’s a lesson for every small business in this story. There is no excuse for not backing up your emails. In fact, there’s no excuse for not backing up ALL your electronic business assets.


Are you backing up your emails?


Losing emails is not only embarrassing, but it shows a lack of professionalism.

Up until a few years ago – while we were all hooked on Microsoft software and Outlook to manage our emails – the best solution was to regularly export our emails, archive them and then save the files on a backup hard drive in the office.


For the most part, that was fine. But what if, heaven forbid, the office was burgled, flooded or burnt down. Don’t laugh, we received an email from a client last year whose front room office WAS destroyed by a runaway truck!


Today there’s a better solution. Manage your emails online. That doesn’t mean have a Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail email address but you can direct all your emails through an online service. Here at Legal123 we use Google Apps for Business. We pay a small monthly fee for each user and all our emails are automatically backed up.


And because we’re lawyers and we take these things seriously, we pay for another additional upgraded Google backup service, called Vault. You don’t need to do both but should consider at least one backup service.


Are you backing up your documents?


Now here’s a scary statistic: the annual failure rate of the average consumer hard drive is between 4-6%. I’ve experienced two hard disk failures in my working career – both were traumatic and lessons have been learned.


Happily the second time, we had online backup services to the rescue. They ensure that whenever your computer is connected to the internet, all the documents on your hard drive are backed up automatically, real-time.


After my last hard disk crash, I was able to recover all my documents – downloaded overnight from the online backup service – within 24 hours.


There are a couple of good high profile online backup services out there that we know of. We use Carbonite at Legal123 but there’s also Mozy and CrashPlan. For a small monthly fee you get peace of mind.


Are you backing up your website?


The most important backup should be your business website. It is your livelihood and it is worth the cost of a backup fee. With your website, the danger these days is not necessarily a hard disk crash but being ‘hacked’. It seems to be happening more and more frequently and it happened to us – out of the blue, one of our websites was peppered with online ads for Viagra!


Many website hosting services include website backup. But you need to check and often it is not included in the regular basic hosting fees but is an additional cost.


The most professional website hosting services will be taking “snapshots” of your website every day. You should be able to log into your host and see the backups and download them at any time, just in case. This way, if you are ‘hacked’ you’ll be able to roll-back to the last daily backup point before the hack and go from there.


Note: We’re not techies, we’re just lawyers. So please forgive us if some of the terms or details aren’t quite right in this article. But this is what we’ve learned over the years about the importance of backing up and not leaving it to chance. Take the time, spend the small amount and protect your business.