Backups – Backups – Backups!!

If your computer was damaged by fire, floods, earthquake or vandalism, or if it got wiped by a virus or crashed and your hard drive was unrecoverable, would your data files be safe? Your data is vitally important to your business, and can so easily be safeguarded by putting in place a system of regular backups and storage off site.

The cost of doing this would be minimal – the cost of not doing it could be enormous. Most accounting and payroll software packages have a built-in backup system. You can back up your data to a folder on your computer’s hard drive, USB drive, CD or tape drive, depending on what is available on your computer. Do it as often as possible. And more importantly, do it regularly onto media that you can take off site. It is also important to have a set of backup media (preferably three) that you rotate, noting which one you use each time, so that you are not backing up onto the same one each time. That way are not relying on just one USB drive CD, which may get damaged without you realising it, and you have several back-dated data options to restore from if something goes wrong.

How often to back up is a frequently-asked question. The real question is how much data could you afford to lose – a morning’s, a day’s, a week’s, a month’s? It really depends on how much data is being input, and how long would it take to be re-input if your data files were damaged and you had to restore to the last available backup. In our office we do a backup at the end of each day of any data that has been input during the day, and then that is taken off-site. We also run a full system backup overnight, and this is taken off-site the following day. Some people do this weekly, as their data input is not huge.

If you have a system backup set to run at the end of each day, make sure that your data files are actually being included in the backup. Double check the location of the files that the backup includes, especially if you have recently changed or upgraded any of your software.

And the golden rule for backups is NEVER rely on just one backup system. Too often we’ve heard stories about automated backups that haven’t actually backed everything up, or backup media that is suddenly unreadable. The more backups you do the safer your data will be.

Verify Your Backups

This is very important. If you don’t verify after each backup, now is the time to start doing so, otherwise you could end up with backup files that are corrupted or backup media that are faulty and never know it until you actually need to restore them, by which time it is too late!

If you are using Accredo Mercury or Saturn, there is a built-in Verify option. This checks that your backup is successful and that the media you have backed up to is working as it should be.

IMS Payroll has a test option after running a backup. It’s a quick check that makes sure your backed up data is OK, and is worth doing each time you’ve run a backup.

Often the only way to test a backup properly is to restore the backed up data into a test company file (DON’T restore it into your live file – for the obvious reason that if there is a problem with your backed-up data, you’ll be overwriting your good data with potentially faulty data!). For peace of mind it is worth doing this test restore from time to time, to make sure that your backup data is actually useable.

Check your computer settings

In all versions of the Windows Operating System, there is a setting that needs to be checked in order to avoid data corruption. It is called ‘Write Behind Caching’, and while enabling this can speed up your computer’s system performance, your data can end up in strange places and get partially lost and corrupted. A quick internet search will bring up instructions for enabling/disabling this in the version of Windows that you are using.

Computer Crashes

If your computer crashes or locks up halfway through entering data, you may end up with corrupt data files. It is a good idea to check for this immediately rather than discover weeks later that you have a problem. If you suspect that your files may have been damaged, use your accounting software’s self checking procedure to check your data.

If you are using Accredo do a backup first (back up onto new media or into a new file, rather than over-writing a previous backup), then run File Recovery on all modules. This will check your data and correct any errors it finds, or if the error is not fixable you will be advised to restore to a previous backup.

Reckon Accounts has a Verify Data option available through Utilities, on the File drop down menu. This checks your data and then tells you whether it is OK or not. If there is a problem you will be advised to run the Rebuild Data option, which is also on the same Utilities menu. It does a backup as part of this process, then rebuilds your data if it is rebuildable. If this fails you may need to restore to a previous backup or have your data file rebuilt by experts.

Finally, make sure that you have power surge protection for your computers, to avoid damage that can occur from unexpected power surges or spikes.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that the sooner a potential problem is addressed, the less data you will lose if you have to restore to a previous un-corrupted data backup.