Tips for Protecting Your Computer and Data

It’s Fall already and you know what’s just around the corner, don’t you? Yes, soon it will be time to make another set of those well intentioned, this-year-I’m-REALLY-going-to-stick-to-‘em New Year’s resolutions! How are you doing on last year’s list? Have you made any headway? Lose weight, stop smoking, back up the files on your computers?

While the first two relate directly to your health, the last one also relates, albeit indirectly. Just think about the stress of losing all those hours and hours of work in the event that your computer gets stolen, or the information lost due to a computer virus or natural disaster (think Hurricane Katrina). The combination of lost hours and information can literally devastate a company. How would this loss affect your company, or your work load as a designer?

Are you among the 42% of North Americans who back up their data one time a year or less? As you’ve probably guessed, once a year is not enough! Some companies actually require that their employees back up information once a month. As a rule of thumb, it should at least be done quarterly. When you’re done reading this article, tear out this page and stick it in your “tickler” file. It will be your reminder bookmark to update those files.

When I was doing some research recently, I found some frightening statistics out there. If you lost all of your company’s data, due to theft, natural disaster or something else, depending on which statistic you go with, the likelihood a small company will be out of business between a year to two years after the loss of the information is in the range of anywhere from 43-90%. So, basically, the odds are stacked against you. Reading that certainly got my attention.

Before you read any further, stop a moment to really give some thought to each of the following:

  • Where is the greatest percentage of your data /work stored?
  • How many work days would you lose trying to recoup all that lost information / work?
  • On a scale of one (bad) to 10 (good), how would currently rate your company at backing up data?
  • How would you rate yourself on backing up your data? How do you get to a 9 or 10 on that scale?

GETTING TO IT

If you update your files to disks, it’s not a bad idea to take a copy home with you. The U.S. Small Business Administration suggests a back-up be kept at least 50 miles from your office. If lightning struck in the middle of the night and a fire suddenly burned down your building, would you be ready?

Or, save your information to an online storage site. (Actually, to be really safe, you should store your data with two different companies.) There are a ton of them out there: Xdrive (xdrive.com), Amazon (they sell everything, don’t they? Find online storage at aws.amazon.com/s3); @Backup (backup.com), Yahoo! Briefcase (briefcase.Yahoo.com), EVault (evault.com), or Ibackup (ibackup.com).

There are too many to list here, and they all work a little differently, so finding the right one for your firm may take some research, but, before you write it off or procrastinate, use this shortcut. Simply ask another small business owner, or a computer geek which company/site they recommend or use.

There are just so many variables, including security, encryption, cost, ease of use, how much data you have to back up and so on. Some of the companies such as EVault, probably better serve a larger company’s needs, whereas Amazon probably suits a smaller company.

THEFT PROTECTION

What if your computer was stolen? There’s actually good news in that realm. A few years ago, a business student at a Canadian college had an idea – why not create a LoJack type product for computers? He went to his business professor and asked him what he thought. The professor suggested that he put together a business plan, and Absolute Software was born.

Absolute has two products, one for large companies and one for consumers, the latter of which also works for small businesses. For consumers/small businesses, the firm sells “LoJack for Laptops,” and it claims that over 90% of stolen computers employing the firm’s software are located.

The concept behind this is simple; the technology is not. Here’s how it works: First, you install Computrace LoJack for Laptops software onto your computer. (Note: while the product is called LoJack for Laptops, the software can also be used on desktops.) Secondly, you register your computer on the company’s Web site. Here’s where it gets interesting. If someone were to steal your computer and then connect to the internet, Absolute’s software sends out a message saying, “Here I am!” According to Les Jickling, Absolute’s director of corporate marketing, “The software has set a flag that is set in the data base,” meaning the Absolute server basically asks the laptop where it is and the laptop reports back. The whereabouts of the stolen computer is then relayed to law enforcement, by one of about a dozen ex-police officers who work as Absolute’s liaisons.

According to www.LoJackforLaptops.com, system Requirements for LoJack for Laptops include an Internet Connection and/or Hayes-compatible modem; Windows Version – Windows XP and Internet Explorer browser V6 or above, or Mac Version – Mac OS X 10.3 or higher and Safari or Firefox browser.

If you’re considering this product, find out if you purchased the product as bios (meaning LoJack for Laptops was factory installed onto your computer). If a computer thief wiped out everything on your hard drive, bios will give you an extra layer of security. Meaning, if the thief is smart enough to wipe out your hard drive, when the computer reboots, it activates the bios and the Absolute software will reinstall itself. It’s virtually impossible to remove it.

By the way, the product can be purchased online or at many national retailers. Cost runs between $29.75-$49.99 per year,
per computer.

BACKING UP DATA

What should you be backing up? According to the Small Business Association’s Web site (www.sba.gov), business owners are advised to “Make backup copies of all critical records such as accounting and employee data, as well as customer lists, production formulas and inventory. Keep a backup copy of your computer’s basic operating system, boot files and critical software. Store a copy of all vital information on-site and a second in a safe off-site location. Make it a critical part of your routine to regularly back up files.”

Based on this column, I’ve got some work to do. Looks like I’m going to have to rewrite my New Year’s resolutions! And, I’m going to remember to tear out this page and use it as a marker in my monthly tickler files, so I remember to back up my data quarterly. I swear, sometimes I think technology uses up all the time it saves us!

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