Okay, here are some reasons why you built and run your own business:
- You found that you’re really not suited to the confines of corporate culture. You needed money to live, yeah, and so you kept at it, but you also hustled on the side, and your side-line became your biggest source of income.
- You saw someone close to you succeed at it (maybe a family member), or saw somebody make something out of himself (maybe they got featured on TV or something) and you were inspired to go after your own dreams.
- You had an idea and believed in it so much you threw all of yourself into making it work, and it did.
- You prefer to control your own time and live life on your own terms, even if you have to work harder than anyone else ‘with a regular job’ to make that possible.
You saw an opportunity that many overlooked and you ran with it. You started out with the seed of an idea, carefully nurtured it to life and you grew something real: a viable, working business. And with the experience of doing this comes the fear of something bad happening to all your work.
On-line business is hard work because the lines of communication are so varied, and are open 24/7/365. Automated responses are very helpful in handling mass emails, of course. And there are also other ways you connect and keep connected to your market, your clientele and the public. Social media platforms, a website and a blog…that’s a lot of data you’d be sitting on.
In surveys asking on-line entrepreneurs about their biggest business concerns, one wide-spread concern is losing data. And the best way to combat fear is swatting it flat with facts.
In connection with data loss, what then is the best thing to go about protecting it? What will hit you the hardest? What data is really, really important?
Hint: it’s how you keep your market close.
It’s your contact data for your customers, subscribers and affiliates. (Don’t worry too much about suppliers; in a business relationship where you owe people money for their products services, you bet they’ll remember you.) All that time refining your site for more conversion and higher sign-up rates, all those networking opportunities you took advantage of…all the work that went into amassing your contacts and subscribers…put at risk.
Think about it. Who remembers strings of cell phone numbers? When was the last time you looked up exact email addresses instead of referring to a mailing list or someone’s nickname in your contacts?
Losing contact data can be a massive hit to your business when it happens, and the stinger is, it’s a relatively easy issue to avoid. With the proper protocols and protections in place, you can just have a minor inconvenience instead of a systems nightmare.
Backing up your mailing lists
Mailing lists are the lifeline of on-line businesses. They are made up of an already primed group of interested clients, and it’s in your best interests to make sure nothing happens to your lists.
- Aweber, a popular email marketing service, has video explaining how to backup your mailing lists (and more) in How Do I Backup My Messages and Subscribers?
- Mailchimp also has instructions at How can I export and back up my account data?
Backing up your cellphone contacts
On a more immediate level, if you have an Android phone, you can back your contacts up to Gmail. (Check the comments in the article.) Here’s another Android instructional as well, and the article here tells you how to back up up your iPhone contacts to Gmail. This one tells you how to do so to Outlook, Google, Windows Contacts or Yahoo. If you want to back your data up to an SD card, there’s instructions for that too.
Backing up your website
Hacking, virus, an update or roll-over gone wrong –nothing quite feels like the leaden ball of terror in your stomach when you refresh and then–something horribly unexpected happens. Your carefully formatted posts, your work, the comments –years of interactions and validation– gone.
- Cpanel has documentation on making full and partial back ups
- Godaddy has support articles with back up instructions
- Ipagejoins the band with its own knowledge base on back-ups.
- Dreamhost also has instructions in its wiki.
- WordPress users can use the instructions in the WordPress Codex’s back-up section. And even pro-blogger/guru Darren Rowse felt so strongly about back-ups he wrote a how-to article — and also says the entire process just took about 10 minutes.
Setting up automated back-ups and checking the data is a small part of standard business procedure, and just something you can easily do. The ‘inconvenience’ that bothers you so much you put it off can be the one thing that saves you if a glitch occurs and you need to get in touch with your customers fast. There is literally no excuse for not keeping backups. None. Any explanations will be useless in the aftermath of data loss.
Now, another SOP in backing up data is having secure off-site copies aside from local ones. With cloud storage so easily available, you can have your pick: Dropbox, Spideroak, Google Drive, etc.
Speaking of cloud storage ease-of-use, what many people don’t think of until they realize they need to are their personalized bookmarks. There are many add-ons and services that can help you with those (and even help you sync across multiple computers). Xmarks works on IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
- Firefox has plug-ins and add-ons for this as well (Go see FEBE) , but the simplest way to get a copy of your bookmarks is to go to the Bookmarks menu (Ctrl+Shift+B) and select “Show all bookmarks.” Go to the option “Import and Backup.” From that you can see 5 options, and the easiest would be to “Export bookmarks to HTML,” and pick where to save the file.
- You can pick your Google Drive or Dropbox folder already, and you can access that copy from any machine with internet access, loading it just like any regular .html file.
Trust, but verify.
Have you tested your backups? Bookmarks are easy to verify, but what about contacts? Mailing list? Articles, images and comments? While you webhost may assure you they keep backups of your information with them, you still need to keep an ace in the hole. If you learn and practice how to use FTP (File Transfer Protocol), well, that’s one very good hand already. Here’s a handy site with tutorials on popular FTP clients, and another FTP for beginners article as well.
Once you’ve gotten the directions down, you can keep local and off-site copies of your website. Filezilla (multi-platform) and Fugu (Mac) are good, free FTP software clients, so you don’t have any real reason not to learn another to manage and protect your data and gain a new skill too.
Learning how to import, export and save copies of your data is priceless. We’re all for good intentions, but they mean squat if the results fail when we need them. Protecting your website, securing and backing up your data, your blog, your contacts, etc., just makes sense.
Testing also makes sense, because corrupted or missing data renders the process moot. If your vital data is exported in .CSV , MySQL or SQL files and you save and test them properly, you can recreate your website easily, and rollback to a clean version you’ve previously saved in case of hacking, glitches or corruption. Testing your backups by creating a cloned site on a different server will make sure that (a) you’ll know for sure you know what you’re doing and (b) checks that your data is true and will survive the transfer/migration process.
Now, the choice of scheduling backups, and what types of back-ups (full and incremental) to schedule are yours. You know how your site runs. Frequent updates may necessitate frequent incrementals, slower updates can mean more spaced out back-ups. Just bear in mind, before making any changes, updates or additions to your site, make sure you back up all your databases. Just in case your changes don’t have the effect you wanted. You never know.
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