If you can’t remember the last time you backed up your bakery’s data, that is, made a separate copy of the information on your computer, life is going to be very painful when your computer crashes.
Think of backing up your data as computer hygiene, like brushing your teeth. It’s something you know you should do, and do properly, every single day. Unfortunately, most people don’t. According to a study by back-up hard drive maker, Maxtor Corp., nearly half of computer users don’t ever make back-up copies of their data, even though 55 percent consider that data worth more than $1,000.
The result is pain...and profit potential for data recovery companies. To complete the analogy, restoring your computer after a system crashes is much like having a cavity drilled without Novocain.
A little prevention now can save you a world of pain later. Today, there are several easy ways to make this necessary process effortless. The hardest part is deciding to do something to protect
While “data” sounds general, it’s really something very specific: critical business records, payroll information, tax files, loan applications, formulas, correspondence, product labels, etc.–everything you need to keep your bakery running every day. That is, the stuff you would miss if your computer suddenly turned into a molten, smoking puddle tomorrow.
Wayne Fetting, president of Top Taste in Finley, N.D., knows too well the importance of data backup. In 1994, on the advice of a computer consultant, his bakery plant started making back-up copies of its records. In 1997, they had a fire that caused more than $1.3 million dollars worth of damage. “Luckily, we were able to restore the data. We do a nightly back up and store the disks in a fireproof safe,” Fetting says. “Once a month we take a copy of the month-end files and put them into a safety deposit box in our bank. If we hadn’t done our daily back up, it would have been catastrophic.”
Business history key
Chris and Lisa Ketcham own Mason’s Bakery in Ft. Myers, on the southwest coast of Florida. The town has been the victim of three almost direct hits by hurricanes in the last two years.
In addition to backing up their QuickBooks data, the Ketchams also save their wholesale account agreements on a monthly basis. “A lot of people forget about past history. What they did for Easter last year. The quantities sold and who got them,” Lisa Ketcham says. “We keep those kinds of notes. It’s important to know that stuff so you’ll know what to order this year.”
“People intend to back up, but for many reasons, they never do,” says David Slon, a veteran of corporate and small business computer support at Datatamer, a back-up service provider. “Once they experience that level of pain, they get religion,” he adds. “It’s unfortunate that you have to lose everything to learn the lesson.”
Computer crashes and hard drive failures happen anywhere and everywhere. Surprisingly, Slon says, user errors, not natural disasters cause the bulk of his lost data calls.
Too frequently, hard drives crash as the result of electrical surges or having beverages spilled on them. More often they fail for no apparent reason, and there is no way to anticipate a failure. According to data recovery experts, today’s hard drives are more sensitive to damage from heat, so make sure your computer has enough ventilation.
Unlike a new weird noise or hesitation from your car’s engine, computers usually offer no warning of their demise. Now that your consciousness has been raised, here’s what to do about it.
First, any back up is better than none. Doing it daily and storing multiple copies in multiple separate locations is ideal. If your computer already has the technology, you can simply burn a copy of your data onto a CD or DVD for about 35-cents a disk. Or, you can attach a removable storage medium, such as a flash memory stick or a Zip drive. For about $100, you can even set up an external hard drive that mirrors your main hard drive. However, there’s no guarantee that anything corrupting your main files, such as a virus or everyday software error, won’t corrupt the data on your back-up drive. And, you have to remember to make the copies, which isn’t always easy with hectic baking schedules.
Sol Menashe of Datapax Inc. suggests that bakeries dedicate a single memory stick or back-up disk for each day of the week. The seven disks can be color coded or noted somehow as Monday, Tuesday and so on. Each day the previous week’s data gets overwritten with the newest information from the day.
“If you’re not backing up your computer, it’s like walking across the street with your eyes shut,” Menashe says.
Also, whatever happens to your office, happens to your back up. Ketcham keeps an extra back up outside of her bakery. “Not only do I have [a copy] in-house, I’ve got a duplication outside of house. If my bakery gets blown to the ground, I can still go on. Because I have my financials, I can get the documentation to FEMA, SBA, or whoever else needs the information,” she says.
Ketcham keeps back-up copies of the bakery’s records, along with everything else she values for the business, with her accountant. Their lease, insurance papers and other vital documents also reside at his “safe house.”
The effortless solution
Since the biggest weakness of most back-up systems is remembering to make the backups, another approach is automatic remote back up.
For $5 to $50 a month, depending on the amount of storage and the level of security desired, these subscription services scan your system automatically every day for new files, encrypt the files for security and upload them to the main site for distribution to the remote sites.
To the people who don’t think backing up their data is worth the money, Slon asks, “What’s the information worth if you lose it, in terms of down time, time spent trying to recover the data, and the loss of the time you spent building and accumulating that information, such as formulas?”
He likens remote automatic back-up systems to a time machine. “Forty dollars a month buys you everything [on your computer] up to the day before yesterday. What’s that worth? Is it worth less than one percent of your revenue to keep your business working continuously?”
No matter what back-up system you chose for your bakery business, one more checkpoint is necessary. “You need to make sure your back-up system is working,” Menashe advises. Once you’ve decided on a system and checked its ability, backing up your bakery data should become as automatic and necessary as electricity.