So far this year I’ve already talked with 3 people who have lost data because of hardware failure or malware attack, and another who was lucky enough to get their data back but spent a very nervous weekend waiting to hear if their IT person would be able to recover data from their dead computer. World Backup Day is March 31st, the day before April Fools day. The idea is to make sure you are backing up your data so you don’t end up feeling like a fool for ignoring all the warnings you’ve heard for years.

Data loss can come in so many ways: hardware failure, virus/malware attacks, natural disaster, even theft. A threat that has been growing over the last few year is ransomware, which encrypts the files on your computer so they’re unreadable. Anti-malware programs can clean up the infection, but they can’t unencrypt your files. There are only two ways to get your data back (1) Pay ransom to the criminals who wrote the malware and hope they actually give you the encryption key after they get your money. (2) Restore a backup.

Which would you rather do?

If you answered “restore a backup”, then ask yourself a few questions. Do you have a backup plan in place? Are you sure backups are really taking place as intended? Manual processes can easily be forgotten or performed incorrectly. Is your backup Safe? If your only backup is stored on a USB hard drive that’s always connected to your computer, a ransomware attack would most likely encrypt it too. Are you relying on a file syncing service? If your files get encrypted those changes will be replicated to the cloud. In a fire or flood, a backup stored on site will probably not survive. Even the contents of a fireproof safe can be destroyed if the fire burns long enough.

What you need is a backup that happens automatically, so you don’t have to worry about someone doing it wrong or forgetting to do it. And you need that backup to be stored in a secure, but readily accessible off-site location. And it needs to be inexpensive enough that there’s no justification for not doing it.

Online backups with a reputable company meet all of these requirements. There are many good companies out there, but I recommend IBackup and IDrive. They are sister companies offering many of the same features but with plans that are structured differently. IBackup’s plans provide backup only, while IDrive bundles backup services with a file sync service.

500 GB of backup space on IBackup is just $9.95/month or $99.50/year. If you pay 2 years up front it’s only $149.25! If you’re on a tight budget and don’t have a server, you could even sneak in on a personal plan with IDrive for $59.50/year (speaking of personal plans, don’t forget to backup your home computers). If you can’t even afford that, at least sign up for IDrive’s free 5GB account which should be enough space for your Sage 50 data. (Prices accurate as of 3/18/2016)

One of the things I hate doing the most is informing a customer that their data is gone. But it’s even worse to be the one receiving that news. What would you do if you lost all of your accounting data? Would you know which customers owe you money or what orders are waiting to be filled? Would you be able to stay in business if you lost your contact list, CAD drawings or CNC programs?

Please spare us both that dreaded conversation and start making secure off-site backups today. If you decide that IBackup or IDrive are a good fit for you, then please sign up using one of the links in this post or use the promo code iqaccounting.

If you have more questions or concerns about online backups feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to answer them.