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IT Year-End Tips


Heather Cooper on January 4, 2012 in Advice for Business Owners

Welcome to 2012! I hope it will be a happy and prosperous year for all of us.

When you changed the calendar on the wall, I hope you also did one other year-end task.

As the IT Manager at SB Partners, I do back-ups all the time, but the Monthly and now Year-End back-ups are the most important. For most firms, the YE back-up is the one we never overwrite. It goes to that fire-proof, water-proof, temperature and humidity controlled vault to hopefully reside forevermore. We keep it there at least the 7 years that the government requires, and we IT people hope we never have to restore anything from these (it can be a real nuisance at times).

No matter what kind or size of company you have, I hope you are doing regular back-ups, and so I am here to remind you to do that essential Year-Ender.

This is also important personally. How many photos did you take this year? How many do you think are valuable? How heart-broken would your spouse, kids, parents or you be if those pictures went POOF into thin air?

Guess what? My super-awesome, 6-month old, home computer wouldn’t boot this morning. No way, no how! You know what else? I haven’t backed it up since summer.

Ok, don’t panic. It’s not my hard drive (the component on which all data is stored), but it absolutely could have been. In my 10 years of IT, I have seen many hard drives completely die, unpredictably, for no visible reason. In one case, a stereotypical, crazy, white-haired, brilliant scientist I knew spent over $500 to get his data retrieved by specialists. But generally, if your hard drive dies, that’s it. Most of us are not willing to seek out a data recovery firm and pay the piper, as it were.

In the office, everyone knows, or should know from my preaching, not to keep anything valuable on their local machine, ie: the hard drive in the computer they work at. Everyone is given server space and told to use that as well as the allotted server space for client files. These servers get backed up every night, plus the server operating system comes with this nice tool called Shadow Copy that helps me fix the occasional accident.

So, back to thinking about a smaller, non-server-based company or your home computer: Manually, back it up! Yes, I am preaching to you now. It’s year-end, so back-up your priceless photos and other data. Burn your files to DVD or copy them to an external hard drive that connects via USB. I actually do both. I also keep my DVDs in a fireproof box from that tire store that actually sells way more than tires. They’re in the section with the fire extinguishers and smoke detectors.

After you finish your backups, check the DVDs or external hard drive to make sure everything copied properly. In the IT world, this is called “verifying”.

I know you don’t really have time….you’ll get to it next week….but just think ahead 20 years when you possibly no longer have those wedding pictures or video of your toddler’s first steps because you procrastinated. Get it done! I encourage you!

And just before I let you go, this is also a good time to think about going paperless. Mid-year, I started saving all my e-bills as PDFs and scanning my paper bills to PDF. The “MFD”s you can buy these days are so cheap. I’m talking “Multi-Functional Devices” that scan, print, photocopy and fax. In retail stores, for home consumers, you will find these called “All-in-One” machines. They’re awesome. I got my HP one for about $60 on sale. Now I’m a paperless fool. (However, I confess it came out of necessity as my filing cabinet was starting to yell back at me.)

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s make it a great one.