Working for yourself is no excuse to skip an IT disaster recovery plan. Here’s how to safeguard your data and avoid downtime.
I recently lost a couple workdays to a laptop that decided to die right as I was scrambling to meet several tight deadlines. The time it took to back up my files, locate a computer repair shop, track down a loaner laptop and reconfigure my computer once it had been revived was considerable. Needless to say, I didn’t make all my deadlines that week.
For freelancers and solopreneurs, this is less than ideal. Telling a client your computer ate their project is basically the digital equivalent of saying the dog ate your homework. Don’t do what I did and kid yourself that your computer is invincible. Even new, top-of-the-line machines die.
As I learned the hard way, every solo worker needs an IT disaster recovery plan. Here’s how to make one.
Find a reliable, affordable computer repair shop. Do it now, before you need their services. Ask self-employed friends near you for recommendations. Read the repair shop’s online reviews and check its Better Business Bureau rating. Save the shop’s contact info in your phone favorites. Tape the number to your wall. Tattoo it on your forehead if you must.
Get a second machine. Same-day computer rentals can be costly and hard to come by. And borrowing a computer from a local library branch can be a first-come, first-served situation. During the week my machine was in the shop, I patched together a menagerie of borrowed computers from friends, which proved a hassle for everyone involved. To avoid such headaches in the future, I plan to buy a second computer. A spare machine doesn’t have to be a Cadillac or store a lot of data. It just has to work at a relatively decent speed and run all the apps you need it to run.
Back up your files. Save all your data to the cloud as well as an external hard drive or memory stick. Set your cloud storage app and your external drive to automatically back up your files daily so you don’t have to think about it. This is one of the few things I did right. Once I located a loaner laptop, having all my files saved to Dropbox allowed me to keep working on my projects without missing a beat.
Safeguard your machines. Use a surge protector rather than plugging the power cord into a wall outlet or an extension cord. Also make sure you’re using up-to-date, reliable virus protection software and that you regularly run security scans. Test your backup machine periodically to ensure it still works. I say this from experience. I had a backup machine when my primary computer went kaput, but I hadn’t turned it on in months. When I finally did, I discovered that it, too, had died.
Keep important passwords handy. When your computer goes kaput, it takes all your browser favorites and automatic logins with it. If you haven’t saved all your critical URLs, usernames and passwords in one central location, you could be mighty frustrated trying to recoup all your logins. Several of my clients require me to work on proprietary digital platforms, each of which requires a separate login. Had I not saved all these URLs, usernames and passwords to one file stored on my backup drive, it would have taken me much longer to access the platforms I need to do my work.
Maintain a sense of humor. Sometimes relying on technology is a comedy of errors. Remember to laugh and that this, too, shall pass.