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January 2003: Volume 45, Number 1

Protect Your Business—The Importance of a Daily Software Backup
by Dick McHose and Fred Bussone

A daily and verified backup of your business software is an easy, inexpensive way to protect your water treatment/bottled water dealership from a catastrophic hardware failure. Perhaps most critical to your business is your customer database. A computer systems’ reliability is often taken for granted. Such a high comfort level with our computers and software can make us complacent and forget to do daily data backups. Frequently, we even neglect to do them at all. This is a very poor gamble, as the following real-life incidents illustrate.

Truth and consequences
At 4 a.m. on a Monday morning, a Culligan water dealership in the Midwest figuratively burned to the ground. Its computer melted. There were no records left; however, a copy of the previous Friday’s backup was secured off site and, with its software vendor’s help, it was up and running with a new computer on Tuesday.

A California bottled water com-pany’s last backup was done in February. In September, lightning struck the building and fried anything with circuit boards including its phones, fax machine and computer. It had no choice but to rebuild the last six months of data from scratch.

One Texas EcoWater company religiously made a backup every day but had never taken the time to check and verify that the backup was good. Staffers ignored error messages. The tape they were using had gone bad; it would no longer hold data. One day, a power outage occurred while running the month-end procedure. When they tried to restore from the backup, they discovered the tape was garbage. It couldn’t be read. It was useless.

A reverse osmosis filtration company in Florida followed precisely all the rules for backing up its “industry specific business software;” however, it also had “lead management” software as well as years of business correspondence created in Microsoft Word and Excel on the hard drive of a PC workstation, which was never backed up. You can guess what happened next—the hard drive went bad. This story has another good news/bad news element. The company was able to find another company that specialized in recovering data from fried hard drives. That’s the good news. They sent the damaged drive to the data recovery company. Four weeks later they received a CD back with about 80 percent of their recovered data—and an invoice for $2,000.

A disgruntled employee fired for theft broke into his former employer’s business, stole its computer and destroyed it. He knew his former employer didn’t have a backup and would be severely hurt by the loss of its customer and routing information. He was caught, but the damage was done.

In today’s computer environment, it’s more important than ever to create a daily data backup of your business software. Besides catastrophic events like fire, flood and lighting—which happen much more frequently than you would think—we also have problems with bad media, power surges, operation system error, lock-up and computer viruses. All present a very real threat to your business software. If you have a good backup, these problems are manageable.

Six simple steps
To protect your business software, follow these simple rules:
1. Purchase a backup system and use it daily: Whether it’s floppy disk, tape, zip drives or CD-ROMs, find the format right for your business and use it.
2. Set up a procedure for your daily backup: Determine a time of day for running your backup and make it an unalterable routine, whether first thing in the morning, during lunch hour or the last 20 minutes before closing the office. Some companies have backup software that runs automatically at night. Establish your backup procedure and stick to it. If, during your daily backup, you have a problem or error message, it’s critical to identify the cause and fix it ASAP. Don’t let a small problem grow into a big one.
3. Do a verified backup at least once a week: This will vary a little depending on the type of backup software you use. In short, data is backed up to your media (disk, tape, zip drive) and then the backup system will compare what was backed up to what’s on your hard drive to see if they’re the same. If so, you know the backup is good.
4. Use different media every day: Have backup media for each day of your workweek. As a result, if your most recent backup ever goes bad, chances are you’ll have only lost one day of data.
5. At least once every week take your backup off site: Take it home or leave it in your car, but get it out of the building. In event of fire, flood, robbery, ex-employee sabotage, etc., you can get back to business right away. Remember to replace your media at least every two years.
6. Backup before your “period end” and “month end” processing: If hit by a power surge, lock-up, etc., halfway through processing, you won’t have to go back and re-enter the data since your most recent backup.

Conclusion
Don’t take unnecessary risks with critical business data. Follow these simple rules for system backup. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to protect your business software and therefore your business. We can assure you the unnamed companies mentioned above that experienced these “catastrophes,” always backup every day now without fail.

About the authors
Dick McHose and Fred Bussone are regional sales directors for Nevada Computer Systems, developers of the WaterFlex Management System. Nevada Computer, of West Des Moines, Iowa, has been providing software designed specifically for the water industry for over 30 years. They can be reached at (800) 294-6222, (515) 225-1889 (fax), email: sales@nevadacomputer.com or website: www.nevadacomputer.com

 
For earlier columns in this category, click on the link below or hit the 'List All' button.
Reading the Web at a Genius Level -- A Middle East Site Features Water
Providing a ’Net for Safe Drinking Water -- Making Sites ‘Green’ with Envy
Following the Pipeline to Plumbing Online -- Reacquainting Yourself with a Vast Industry
Site-Seeing Around the World -- Exploring Water with the Net
Handheld Computers -- An Essential Tool for Any Route Delivery Company
The Salt of the Earth’s Websites -- Mining the Gems on the Internet
Storing Water for the Present -- A Quenching Look at an Overlooked Market
The Cells are Alive with the Image of Bacteria -- Waterborne Topics Go Under the Microscope
Checking Out the Affairs of States -- Sizing Up WQA Regional Associations
Airing It Out in Public, Stripping the Facts Bare on the Web -- Aeration & Air Stripping Online
Safety First -- Putting Drinking Water at the Top of the List
From the Floor to the Podium -- Getting Inside the Trade Show