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Prepare Your Company for Any Scenario

Prepare Your Company for Any Scenario

To whom does it matter whether one side of the toast hits the floor first? If it's your floor and your toast, the problem most likely lies with you. But destiny may have more in store for you than just a sloppily prepared meal.

It's a sobering reality that those of us who manage our own enterprises face greater peril than our corporate counterparts. Most of us only have one egg, and there's no shortage of ways to break it, but they get the luxury of deciding whether to put all of their eggs in one basket.

Your company probably relies on a single individual at a single location. For this reason, safety measures shouldn't be seen as an afterthought; they should be ingrained as part of one's daily routine.

What Would Happen If Something Happened to You?

Let's start from the beginning and see what we can learn. You. Have you given any thought to what may happen to your business if something were to happen to you, given that it relies so much on your name, skills, and abilities? You can probably keep things running even if you develop a cold. However, what if you need to leave town for a few days at the last minute? In need of a more extended break? Is your system configured such that your significant other can maintain the status quo? Or do you just make up a lot of it? If you're strapped for time and need to keep your business running to make ends meet, training an assistant now could save you a lot of trouble later on. Picture yourself trying to walk someone through the steps of creating a mail merge using your database and word processor over the phone. Nasty.

Preparing for something, even if only for an hour or two, could prove to be a wise decision and a good use of your time. It could take you an hour to train a new employee or spouse on how to use your email client, where you keep your customer list, and how to process an order. But in the long run, this could help you avoid a lot of trouble and expense. Anticipate problems and prepare for them. Safeguarding is not the same thing as paranoia.

Your Tools Are Not Safe

The next part of the chain is the tools you use. Computers have replaced almost all of my manual labor. A PC's susceptibility to attack is severely understated. There is an almost infinite number of possible threats, including viruses, power outages, broken hardware, lightning, stupidity, coffee, lousy software, dog fur, and thievery. Nobody likes dealing with computer issues, but when they may bring your company to a halt, they take on an even greater significance.

Let's be honest here. You can label me superstitious all you like, but you must admit that these incidents tend to occur at the most inopportune moments. When was the last time you were casually perusing the newsgroups, sending an email to a friend, or taking the (virtual) controls of a Concorde and suddenly your PC crashed? Simply put, that doesn't occur. It's always at work that issues arise. When Windows 2000 finally crashed for the first time, it was the night before I had to turn in a funding application for my business. Nothing I tried safe mode, startup disks, emergency repair worked to get it up and running.

So, be careful. In the event of a power outage or surge, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can keep your computer running, which could save your files. Put getting one at the top of your to-do list if you haven't already done so, especially if your area is prone to power outages and lightning strikes. Compare the price of buying one to the expense of losing your data. Is it truly worthwhile?
You can't have enough backups.

Having a backup is now an integral part of my daily routine. Every night, I copy my most important files onto three different ZIP disks and keep them in rotation. To this day, I have never forgotten to make a backup, and I never will. Only four or five times in as many years have I needed to use them, but each time they've proven invaluable. Turn it into a routine. I assure you that it does you no good to slap your head and repeat, "I wish, I wish," after the fact.

In addition, once a week I create a more comprehensive backup on a CD-R. File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and network backups are two other choices. Investigate each one. It's also a smart move to find a place to store your belongings away from home. You may come to realize the futility of having backups in the same room as your primary data if disaster strikes in the form of a fire or theft. Once a month, you can send a CD to a loved one in your family by email or regular mail, and the effort and money involved are negligible. What exactly have you lost if you never actually use the backups? You'll be grateful for them if and when you ever end up needing them.

What should be backed up is child's play. Let's pretend right now that your hard drive has crashed and you can't get to any of the data stored on it. What didn't you back up that you really should have? This action is appropriate at this time.It shouldn't take more than an hour to set up a reliable backup system and routine. It may save you a lot of time, stress, and money in the long run if you do.

What would you do if your main system crashed and you couldn't fix it in a matter of minutes or hours? It may be wise to consider purchasing a second, "spare," machine. You don't need a state-of-the-art workstation to get the job done; even an outdated 486 will suffice to answer emails and process orders while your primary computer is being serviced. You may want to investigate their potential as a backup machine if you already have one or more in operation. 

Do you have a method for importing your backups into them, for instance? A parallel-port ZIP drive may have an unusual form factor, but it serves its purpose admirably. Preparedness can prevent a little problem from becoming a major catastrophe.

There are also an abundance of useful applications available. PowerQuest's Drive Image is the only program that has ever convinced me to back up my entire hard drive. In the event of a catastrophic failure, I can use it to roll back to a recent system state (like when Windows 2000 was freshly installed) or to a point in time within the past couple of months when the problem wasn't there. Considering the time required to perform a complete hard disk format, OS installation, and program installation, this task should take no more than 30 minutes. It was definitely worth the time and money.

How steady is your online connection?

The next part of the chain is your connection to the internet. For the most part, I use the internet to complete my tasks. If you cut me off from the internet, I'll be blind, deaf, and broke in no time! This has allowed me to maintain a constant high-speed connection with one of Finland's major telephone companies. My ancient 56 modem and a regular phone connection provide me access to a separate server where I maintain a separate account. It's only $9 a month, and it allows me to keep working (although slowly) if and when my permanent connection goes down. In my opinion, it is a rather inexpensive sort of insurance.

A nightmare I had a few months ago became a reality. One morning, I woke up to find that my website had crashed, rendering the site inaccessible and consuming all incoming email. That's accurate—not bouncing but rather dissipating into thin air. Anyone who tried to contact me by email probably assumed I got it but didn't bother to respond. Within a few hours, my server told me the issue would be resolved. No, it wasn't, and a week later, it still hadn't been rectified. This issue has cost me a lot of money and time. That's not going to happen again.

I've set up a mirror site on a separate host, just in case. In the event that my primary site,, is unavailable for any reason, a letter will be sent to all clients and everyone who has ever contacted me, instructing them to visit instead. Even though the website is still in development, a working email system and some basic content have been launched. 

The money is stashed away, and the letter is already written in case of an unexpected necessity. I take advantage of SWREG.ORG's cheap web space (about $4/month) and its dependability, so I can host my website there. I'd be content if I never had to use it. I can continue operating normally and incur no financial loss in the event that my primary site goes down. This is just another example of a very affordable insurance option. Get ready.

Some last bits of common sense Don't save all of your data in one place if you often perform several downloads. The same fate befalls you if they perish. Verify that you have the server's details as well. If your server's website goes down, you won't be able to get in touch with them in case of an emergency either. Put this information away securely.

Imagine every possible setback and the steps you'd take to address it. Although the likelihood of a hostile takeover of your workplace is low, the likelihood of a server or hardware failure is considerable. You shouldn't wait until the server goes down to start looking for a new host and registering a domain name if the website is crucial to your business and the business is a primary source of revenue for you and your family. Put yourself out there so that you can make a sale.

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