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Are you really backed up?

Most businesses know it is a good practice to make backups of their computer files. You need to be protected against a hard drive crash, fire, malware files that you may download, etc. So you have made your backup to your preferred location: tape drive, USB drive, extra server, or the cloud. But have you ever tested to make sure your backup is working?

Unfortunately, we have had clients who thought their backup process was functioning just fine, but then when they actually needed a backup, they found that the files they needed either weren’t there or couldn’t be restored. Here are some tips for you to make sure your backup is really going to be able to help you when you need it:

  • Make sure your backup is set to capture the necessary files. Most backup software these days have a setting that will search your computer for data files that it thinks should be backed up. However, if you use specialized computer software with proprietary file types (other than Office files and PDFs), your backup software may not automatically know that the data files created by that software need to be backed up. You may need to manually set your backup software to include these files.
  • Another potential problem is if you have previously overridden the software’s automatic backup settings to, say, only backup certain folders. Make sure that you have not changed your folder structure in a way that prevents the necessary files from being backed up. For instance, maybe you removed a folder level in your filing hierarchy, which would make existing backup paths inaccurate.
  • Use your accounting software’s backup function in addition to your overall system backup. For instance, QuickBooks has a main .QBW data file that may very well get picked up in your overall system backup, but not all the QuickBooks data is in that file. Customized invoice templates may not get backed up if you just rely on your overall system backup. You should also be making a QuickBooks backup periodically to make sure to capture those “ancillary” QuickBooks files.
  • Test your backups periodically by trying to restore the files in it. As bad as it would be to go to your backup file and find that a document you need didn’t get backed up in the first place, it is probably even more heartbreaking to see the file there waiting to be restored, only to find out that, when you need it most, that backup file can’t be restored because it is corrupted. You don’t need to test every backup you make, but it is a good idea to do a restore test every once in a while.
We hope you will never even need to use your backup, but the above tips should make your backup process even more valuable than it already is. Don’t wait for a disaster to happen to find out whether your backup really worked.