The Retail Management Advisors, Inc. logo

BACK IT UP!

It has happened again. I have talked to a retailer whose computer system hard drive crashed and when they tried to restore it from their backup tape they found out the backup was no good. I asked how many backups they kept and he said “just the one tape”. They have been just writing over the same tape every day! No wonder it wore out! Now their hard drive has been sent away to see if anything can be salvaged from it. Needless to say, this retailer is in trouble right now.

One time I needed to restore from a backup and the most recent one was bad. I got my second most recent one and it was bad. As I loaded my third most recent backup I had my fingers crossed and was saying my prayers. Luckily it was OK and I was able to restore using it. I had 2 days of data to re- create but that was MUCH better than facing the prospect of starting from scratch.

Another example. The office manager was in a hurry to close the month. Just as she was ready to select the option on the screen to close the month, the phone rang. Distracted by the phone, she accidentally pushed the wrong key and closed the year, resetting all the year-to-date figures in the computer to zero. In talking with the software vendor she discovered that there is only one way to recover from that kind of error: RESTORE FROM A BACKUP. The "Distracted Button Pusher" was able to restore the system and continue with the normal work routine. In speaking with her further, she said she had thought about NOT doing a backup before she closed the month, as she was sure all the data was correct and didn't want to take the time to do it. Fortunately, she had completed the backup.

Fourth example: He was working fast and furiously trying to get the reports that management wanted. He needed to format the diskette to be able to close the files. He typed at C:\> prompt format (enter). Oh NO! He formatted the hard disk, not the diskette. There was only one way to recover from that kind of error: RESTORE FROM A BACKUP. The "Hurried Formatter" did have to re-enter two days of sales and other transactions because the backup from the prior day was "no good".

With technology the way it is and all a company’s critical data on the computer it just makes sense to adequately protect your data by making sure you have a good set of backups. This is better, and cheaper, than any insurance policy you could buy, and will allow you a better night’s sleep.

How faithful are you and your office staff about doing backups on schedule? It is so easy to become complacent and think "it won't matter if I don't do one this time". It DOES matter. The one time you don't do a backup is the time when the system will crash or you will find a serious error and NEED to restore from a backup. What will you do if you don't have one?

Don't be lulled into thinking that just because you have developed a backup schedule it is being followed as it should be by your office staff. You need to follow up to ensure the scheduled backups are being done. (That follow-up should be more than just asking the question. Regularly ask to see the backup or you be the one to take the backup off site.) This needs to be a high priority item on management's "To Do" list.

Doing a backup does take a few minutes of time. But the time spent re-entering data takes much longer. Failure to back-up the computer as often as it should be backed up can cost you plenty.

A backup of your computer files is very cheap insurance but must be done on a timely basis and properly stored to be of use. Some 'rules' are:
1. Back up the data file on your computer system daily.

2. During periods of very heavy usage you may want to consider doing a mid-day backup. You should consider how much re-entry you are willing to gamble against the few minutes it takes to do a backup.

3. In your monthly processing schedule other backups should also be taken, such as before you close a month in your A/R, Inventory or GL system. This makes it possible to restore your files and make corrections if you find serious errors after the month has been closed.

4. Properly label your backup media. Backups are useless if you don’t know what is on them. If you have more than one PC in your office backups should be labeled as to which PC they belong. Labeling should include, date, time, and files that were backed up.

5. Keep backups an appropriate length of time. It will not do any good to back up your system if the backups will be immediately used. When that happens how will you restore your system if it goes down and your most recent backup is no good?

6. Store the backups in a safe, secure area. If there is a safe in the store, that would be an appropriate place to store them. A safe deposit box at your bank is another option.

7. Store the most recent backups and any important month-end and year-end backups off site. If the store is destroyed due to a fire or other catastrophe a backup will do no good if it was kept in the store and is also destroyed.

A carelessly handled backup may leave you with nothing but a false sense of security. Do it regularly and do it right!

© THE RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVISORS, INC.