How productive can you be if you suddenly lose all your data from the past five years when your cocker spaniel knocks your laptop onto the floor and it shatters? Or if a power surge or lightning strike takes out your computer?

I've been horrified by the number of solo entrepreneurs who treat their kids' school photos with more respect and care than they treat their business data. If the rash of natural disasters including earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes has taught us anything, it should have taught us that bad things happen to good people, and you need to be prepared for the worst. Here's the minimum you need to keep your business and your data safe:
 
On-site Automatic Backup
An external hard drive for your computer, with a regularly scheduled automatic backup is critical. Do not rely on your memory to back up your computer every day. The best ones will run an automatic scan that will save anything that has been updated or changed since the last scan. Set this to scan on a weekly or daily basis, or more frequently if you deal in high volumes of information every hour. Mac users, you're in luck. The Apple Time Machine will automatically update the backup hard drive with the latest version of your files, every hour of every day.
 
Off-site Automatic Backup and Recovery Service
Having an external backup is great if your computer suddenly dies, but what if your house is flooded, or you're robbed? You'll need an off-site backup to get you up and running quickly. There are many services available, including online storage sites like Dropbox.com and Trueshare.com. But if you want a full-service, hands-off backup provider, check out LogMeIn.com, iBackup.com, Carbonite.com, and Mozy.com
 
Now, all these off-site backup programs have a recovery service. Otherwise, what good would they be, right? You'll want to ask about the recovery services that each provide before you decide. Some just download your data to you, while others will overnight you data CDs. Ask also about storage limits and the number of computers covered. Services are available for as little as $54.95 per year – a pittance if you should ever need it. Just think of it as an insurance policy for your business; you pay and pay and pay until you need it, and then you thank the Lord you were able to pay for this service.
 
Password management
It may seem funny to include password management in this category, but that's probably because you've never lost the file that included all your passwords, or accidentally shredded the piece of paper where you were writing them all down. Use a password manager like RoboForm.com, KeePass.info, or 1Password.com. Not only will these services keep track of all your passwords, they'll also help generate unique passwords for greater safety. Check the password management systems mentioned for prices. Some are free while others are reasonably priced.
 
No one likes to think about computer crashes, natural disasters, or other business-threatening events. But the truth is that computers crash, laptops fall out of cars, and coffee spills happen. The only true disaster is the one you're not prepared for. 

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