I am not trying to single out B&Bs as the only people I work with across the board with these 2 issues because the majority of small businesses and small business clients also have similar problems, but I highlight B&Bs as ones in particular because I am overprotective of them both as clients and many as personal friends.
When I visit a new B&B to work with and also many times when I stop in to visit innkeepers that I work with, invariably what comes up in conversation is…………….are you keeping your antivirus up to date and are you backing up? Am I anal about this? You bet!
With innkeepers I work with for the first time, many don’t even know if they have antivirus and even further if it’s up to date. Mostly I get the “I think so” reply. Many times the initial program had come with the computer they bought several years ago and the subscription has expired or the subscription is up to date but none of the updates have ever been downloaded.
This brings to mind (sorry for the reference but it’s a good simile) buying birth control pills but not taking them. They don’t protect you from getting pregnant if you don’t take them and the results can be long, hard to deal with, painful and quite expensive.
If you think of the damage that viruses, spyware and malware (to be covered in another post) can do to a personal computer, it becomes a thousand-fold worse when it happens to someone’s computer that is used for business.
Not only can your business information become corrupted and compromised, your guests can have their personal information compromised as well. It’s all well and good to keep credit card information online through your PCI compliant reservation systems, but it kind of defeats the purpose if your computer is compromised through a key logger (which records the keys typed on your keyboard) and can hack into your account online. Think about online banking, shopping online, your directories that someone that just wants to create trouble can get into.
Cleaning up a PC that has viruses can be extremely costly to do and will also take it out of commission sometimes for weeks at a time. Some files may be corrupted and unrecoverable as well.
The other common thing I run across that can be devastating is not backing up information on a computer or computers. People know they should be backing up and admit they should be doing it, but it never really sinks home that they SHOULD have been doing it until something catastrophic happens, above viruses being one of them. Hard drive failures, major power surges that can damage components (even with the use of surge protectors) fires, floods and theft.
So much information that is pertinent and important to your business including your email (much of which contains your reservations information requests and correspondence) and your small business accounting, your advertising information and any other things that when it goes, you find you can’t do with out it, are necessary to have back ups of.
The cost of making back-ups (which is cheap, literally) in comparison to the cost of dealing with recovery (if possible) of crucial information is a price that no one can afford NOT to do.
I suggest making backups of all your crucial information at least once a week. Set aside a time to do it and JUST DO IT! For projects you are working on on a daily basis, I recommend getting a small thumb drive (also known as a zip drive or usb drive, good ones can be found with over 2 GB of space for under $40) and keep it plugged into your computer, back up to this daily. Its just like copying to a old floppy disk)
I recommend a three pronged approach as well. Back up online, through a good site like Mozy, back up to a large external hard drive and also back up to thumb drives. I don’t recommend backing up to CD, the jury is still out on whether information degrades on CDs after a few years, but I would rather not take a chance (plus they scratch).
It’s also very important to keep a copy of your important files offsite (one of the reasons I recommend an online backup service) but you should also keep a physical copy somewhere else. Your online version does you no good if you can’t get online. If you bother to backup and you keep all your backups close at hand and there is a fire for instance in the office, its kind of a moot point if they all get fried along with your computer.
Another good think about creating backups is if you do get a virus, many times you will have created a backup of clean information that is accessible in a pinch.
- Have a good antivirus program
- Make sure its subscription is up to date
- Make sure it’s downloading it’s updates
- Run scans frequently, you can set this to do it automatically at 2 am if you prefer not to be interrupted with it during the day.
- Back up your information
- Back up frequently
- Back up and keep it in multiple locations
Sit down and give a good long hard thought to what would happen if your computer and information was offline and unavailable (possibly permanently)
It’s never to late to start taking care of it, until it’s to late and by then………….you’ll be saying I should have…………………….