Quick question: Have you backed up your small business computer files today? This month? Ever?

If the answer is no, you’re putting hours and even years of hard work at risk of being damaged or lost entirely due to a computer malfunction, power failure or other unforeseen problem. Remember this warning: “All hard drives eventually die.”

Damaged or lost data files have cost many small or home-based businesses weeks, months or even years of work. It can happen in an instant, for many reasons. Suddenly your hard drive starts making loud grinding noises and stops working. Or perhaps your laptop might be stolen or maybe you simply push a wrong button. Computer viruses also can make files vanish. And chances are these digital disasters will occur at a deadline or other time when you absolutely have to retrieve that information.

Having backup files available in the event of trouble could be the difference between staying open or having to shut down. L-A SCORE counselor Ralph Tuttle advises, “There are several ways to back up your business files. One simple method is to copy or “burn” your files to CDs. This works if you don’t have large amounts of data to protect. Another way is to keep a secondary computer or external hard drive around to serve as your backup center.”

Another option is to use a service that lets you back up your data over the Internet. Depending on the amount and type of data you need to save, you can use any one method, or a combination. The key is to make certain at least one set of files is kept in another secure location.

Tuttle also emphasizes the need for a specific plan in place to protect your files. First, decide which files are critical to keeping your business operating. Choose a backup method and perform a full backup at least once a week. Back up the most critical data daily to a removable device. To make sure the backup systems really work, test your backup files at least quarterly. You will want to keep a full backup on site for convenience, but be sure to store another set far enough away so a disaster won’t strike both locations.

You can also take advantage of a wide range of products designed to help busy small business owners safeguard their data. For example, HP at hp.com, Symantec at smallbiz.Symantec.com and Imation at www.imation.com each offer a line of backup hardware and software solutions. Their Web sites are also full of tips and guidance to help entrepreneurs match products and practices with their data storage needs.

To learn more about operating your small business, contact SCORE, a nonprofit association of more than 10,500 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential counseling and training workshops. In the Lewiston-Auburn area, call L-A SCORE at 782-3708 for additional
information and an appointment; in Rumford-Mexico call 364-3123; in
Oxford Hills call 743-0499. Or contact SCORE at www.SCOREMaine.org.

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