My extensive history in the catastrophe of computer failures began about three years after college graduation. I was the staff CPA for the City of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One of my many duties involved the backup of all accounting data for the City. Each backup required nine large reel tapes and the shutdown of the entire accounting system for a full day. Therefore, we were only able to run about 2 or 3 per month. It didn't seem like the best of situations at the time - but it sort of fell under the category of "Oh Well - So what you gonna do?". Then one day while we were all just scurrying along I got an interesting message from the system involving the corruption of the Kernel. This problem completely destroyed all the data on the system and ground all activity to an abrupt halt.
Well, after about 3 or 4 days of reconstructing the computer system. We were only one good backup from commencing operations. This is the part in the story that may not be suitable for children under 13 due to the graphic nature of the subject. The latest usable backup was more than a month old. This meant that all the information (including utility billing and collections, police fines, tax payments, payrolls, accounts payable records, etc) for a time period greater than one month would have to be entered manually in our spare time to get the system up to date.
It took almost six months to get the system up to date and back on line. This forced all cash activity to be maintained manually to ensure that the cash balance was kept current. Think about this - we were forced to record current transactions in both a manual ledger and computer system while entering prior month activity. The situation felt hopeless almost until it was finally corrected.
We were performing backups - just not GOOD backups. From that day forward, I fully understood the importance of a GOOD backup. There are many options in the realm of backups. There are CD and DVD systems, tape drives, and mirror server systems. But, just recently I began using an on-line backup system and have been completely sold on the idea. The biggest drawbacks that I have encountered in the past with on-site backup hardware and software involves failure rates and the storage of backup tapes or disks. An off-site storage is always required to ensure the security of the data in case of a fire or other disaster at the office location. If the office burns to the ground and the backup was on-site, we would be in heap big trouble.
On-line backup systems offer the customer the ability to upload encrypted files over the Internet to a storage center. Then all files would be accessible for restoration through the software or by logging into the storage company's website. Files can even be shared through the system by using passwords and file log-in's. The only requirement is a high-speed Internet connection. The time requirement for the initial upload was significant. But, I simply let the software run over night and 2 gigs of data were transferred without a hitch. For more data, the system could be allowed to run over the weekend to avoid work stoppage. But, really work stoppage isn't a problem. The system that I am currently using can work in the background and doesn't require everyone to be out of the system to perform the backup. It simply waits till the end to backup files that were in use at the time of the backup. After the initial backup, incremental backups are performed for only the files that were changed.
In addition, the system that I have been using offers multiple versions of the changed files in order to allow a customer to access a prior version in case something was wrong with the last version saved. I currently save 3 versions.
The billings for these services vary. But, the common thread involves paying based upon the amount of data that is being saved. I am paying $2 per gig per month. The security that I have that my files are safe is well worth the five to ten bucks it will cost per month.
These services are really a God send to the average small business operator. Most of my small business clients perform backups, but very few of them have a system in place to keep those backups anywhere other than the accounting office. So if the place goes up in smoke, the backups go up with it. And trust me, it only takes one loss to help a person realize just how expensive it is to reconstruct data.
I have been called in many times by clients to help repair the damage and re-enter data. It always ended up being a very expensive process. And, when the clients tried to fix the problem themselves, it always seemed to take an eternity to get everything up to date.
So, I would highly recommend looking into on-line backup services - even if you currently perform your own backups in-house. Compare the security and recoverability of each system. Also, check which price package best matches your specific needs. In the end, this is insurance well worth paying for.