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Lifestyles

April 7, 2012

Businesses need backups for their computer people, systems

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to let you know that I have taken a new position, professionally. I recently joined Eastman Associates, a local general contractor, to do its IT work, as well as taking care of some other functions of the business.

Now, instead of handling the IT work for a number of local businesses, I will be concentrating on just one company again, as when I worked at The Daily Star.

Before I left my previous employer, my boss and I traveled around to a number of my clients to inform them of the coming change, and assure them that others at my previous company would be picking up where I left off, as far as managing clients' systems.

Which brings me to the topic of today's column, which I'm writing for the benefit of the small business owners out there who have a "computer person" that they rely on.

What would be the effect on your business if your old faithful computer person was no longer there?

If that happened, and then you had a computer system problem, what would happen to your business? Can the business keep going without the computers?

Many people don't know just how much they rely on their computer systems until something crashes.

Think about it for a minute. Would your business come to a screeching halt if the server wasn't working?

Maybe it wouldn't. Then again, maybe it would. My experience has shown me that many more will than won't.

So, depending on how much you rely on your technology, maybe you should think about some contingency plans.

Can you handle the work yourself? Do you have another person who is capable of taking over? Has anyone else in your organization been paying attention to the IT issues? Is there anyone else _ anywhere _ who is familiar enough with your particular system (and individual systems do evolve and become idiosyncratic) to be able to fix problems? Do you have current support contracts with any business-specific programs that you use?

These are questions that need to be considered.

In this recent situation it wasn't so bad, even though some of the clients got a little nervous when they heard the news. At my old company, we always tried to document clients' systems in the central office, so more than one person could help a client, if need be.

But, I would bet proverbial dollars against doughnuts that there are a lot of small businesses out there who rely on a single soul to take care of business-critical systems. A person who has all the pertinent system information in his or her head, and whose owner has never thought about what would happen if that one person was gone.

There are ways to improve the situation. First, you can make sure everything about your system is documented. You could do some cross-training.

Definitely make sure your data is backed up, and preferably there is a relatively recent backup copy kept off-site.

As the owner, you may even take an interest in how the computers work yourself, if you have the curiosity, and learn at least enough about your systems to be able to help out if you have to hand the reins over to a different technology person.

At any rate, I hope I have planted a seed in your thought garden.

Hopefully, your technology awareness will grow to the point where it encourages you to evaluate your situation, and then you will begin the process of taking measures to ensure the continuity of your business in the event of the unexpected.

These kind of thoughts are worth taking the time to think about.

Bruce Endries is former systems manager at The Daily Star. He can be reached by email at techgp@thedailystar.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/techgp.

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