… or more importantly, your clients stuff. According to the National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, D.C., 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. Of those companies, 50% filed for bankruptcy immediately. Please, I beg you, backup your data. This not only provides a way to go back to that design the client decided they liked from last week, but also to recover from accidental and unexpected data loss. I continue to hear stories from non-profits, businesses and individuals about how they lost everything due to a hard drive crash. I’ll pepper these throughout this post to help make the point of how important it is to have good backup.

Last Friday, I was talking to Jen, one my client’s staff members about her home laptop. She recently lost it to a system crash. She lost 4 days of productivity and gained weight due to an increased consumption of chocalate bars. Nervous that she had lost everything. Jen didn’t back up anything, thinking that nothing would happen to her computer. Fortunately her husband works in IT and was able to recover about 70% of what she had lost from the laptop’s hard drive. A close call and one that could have been avoided with proper backup procedures.

More often, we suffer from accidentally deleting a file or writing over it (32% of all cases).

Wednesday, Oct. 17. I get a frantic call from one of my clients who is in the abstract/settlement business. He can no longer print checks from his accounting program. It states that his custom check template has been corrupted. A settlement is scheduled in 1 hour, about 20 minutes away and he is frantic. I log in remotely to his system, find the that the file isn’t only corrupted, but missing completely. I go into Monday’s backup, find the file, and recover it and the other missing templates. He reopens his accounting program and the checks print!

Like the insurance policies we have on our cars, businesses and homes, it is comforting to know there is a way to recover from information loss. You need to protect the data in your computer from physical issues like dropping, lightning, flooding, or excessive heat. Even expensive solutions like RAID (two or more hard drives configured to provide more than one copy of data), on-site tape backup, and surge suppressors won’t protect you from the damage of a fire or natural disasters. There are solutions to securely archive your documents and data online. A number of companies now provide ways to archive important data online automatically.

In August, Ruth and I were riding our bikes at Peace Valley park and run across her old neighbor. He does bookkeeping for several rental property owners. He looks tired. After chatting with him for a few minutes we find out that his hard drive crashed and he lost 2 out of 10 years of rental property accounting records. He hadn’t backed up in over 2 years! Why? He said he hadn’t had a problem and forgot to go through the effort. Now he has to hire a temp to reenter the lost data.

Like most applications there are consumer and professional versions of these backup solutions. The consumer versions work well as a simple means to backup devices like laptops and home computers. The professional versions provide managed backup all computers, laptops, and servers in your office from a central control panel. Recovering a file is often as easy is going into an archive drive on your computer and pulling out an old version of a file. Many services even allow you to remotely access your documents so you can restore them to another computer and view them anywhere in the world.

The main downside to these online backup services is you need to have a broadband connection to the Internet. Depending on your upload speed and the number of documents you have stored it could take hours or even a day to backup everything. My suggestion is to install a backup solution as one of the first steps of setting up a new PC. It is just as important as anti-virus and firewall utilities. You also benefit from a quick initial backup before your computer gets filled with documents.

The major providers of this service are: Carbonite, Mozy, iBackup, and Dell DataSafe. These providers can backup most systems including both Macs, PCs, and servers. There are some other providers who specialize in particular platforms. You can do a quick Google search to seek them out.

What about Time Machine & Windows Shadow copy? These are great services if properly configured. You can achieve similar results as the backup services mentioned earlier if paired with a service like MobileMe or Windows Live OneCare.

So every business owner has a choice. He or she can have a good backup system in place like Jeff or the settlement company or lose sleep and time like Ruth’s old neighbor or Jen. Or you can setup proper backup allowing you to rest easier knowing that you won’t lose files due to a mistake or a crash.

What do you use for backup? What experience have you had (good, bad, ugly?)