Redundancy: How not to fail when everything around you is.

Life Saver

Originally posted on February 9th, 2011

Have you ever had:

  • MS Word crash before you saved two hours of work and somehow it was not recovered?
  • your database become unreadable and you could not connect with your clients?
  • your smartphone stop being smart?
  • your car breaks down on the day you had a big meeting to get to in ‘The City’?

Working with technology means that things are going to fail. Everything, from mechanical to electronic, has a lifespan. Computers have an expected life of about 3 to 5 years. Cars are about 10 years. Some things fail over time, some things are no less then ‘epic’ when they die. Here’s my story of failure and recovery while not missing business (at least not much).

The Failures and Recovery

Over the last two weeks I have had one situation after the other that has made it almost impossible to do my online business. I lost two computers for several days, my email, my cell phone sync capability, my internet connection and my router.

One morning about two weeks ago I was getting my email. My 6-year old HP laptop (my main client contact computer) started audibly arguing with me. It sounded as if the harddrive was crushing the disk. Everything was still there, but for how long? If I lost my contact database I would be out of business.

I took it into my local computer support company. The news was bad and they proceeded to back up my databases to get transferred to a new computer. Of course the new computer software is Windows 7 and I was running Windows XP with Office 2000. Was it going to be compatible?

The new software was installed and the old database restored and updated to be compatible on the new system. Now my 3 year old smartphone would not sync. The USB cable connection was shot and I was using IR (like WiFi) to connect to the old computer, but the new computer uses Bluetooth or wireless. I could no longer update my phone. Networking just became very difficult.

Once returned, the new computer was connected to the network and then our Internet service went down for 3.5 days. The first tech said the problem was the router, but it failed again without the network. The second tech fixed it and all the computers are back up and running.

So what did I do to keep in contact, book clients, make sales calls, and get email during this time you might ask? Good Question, it was time consuming but it was not difficult. Thank goodness I have a few processes in place.

 

The Lessons That Saved My Business

At Christmas I had a premonition. Malcolm Gladwell would say I was ‘thin slicing’ my situation to competently predict the future. On a Boxing Day sale I purchased a new computer. I was not looking for a computer at the time but somehow I knew it was time, and it was the right price.

Online

  • Make sure you have all your online-profiles access information where you can get it offline.

I uploaded all my online profiles and passwords to my new computer as soon as I got it.  I could manage all my online tools, email, and business processes from the new computer weeks before my old computer failed. Before I took in my new computer I printed my profiles so I would have a hard copy if I needed to access something – and you know I did! It’s the law… Murphy’s Law of course!

E-mail

  • All your email should be web-based accessible. If it is not you need to change your ISP or web hosting company. In the words of the young, “This is Tech!” In my opinion, “Today, this is Google!”

All my email has web-based access through my hosting company, even though I always used outlook to pick it up. I knew this and had made sure I could access it if I ever needed to, like I did during my computer information transfer, when both my laptops were out of the office.

Backups

  • Ideally you should have a mirror of your computer for easy recovery and backups of your key information.
  • It is recommended that there should be two redundant backups: one in house, one off site.
  • Confirm your backups work.

It turned out my nightly backups were not working, but I was doing folder backups of client files and my CRM database to an extra drive in my office. My client contact information and my schedule were both synced to my phone before I took in my old computer. I did not lose a day of work for my clients because all their work was still accessible to me, even with both laptops gone.

NOTE – It was recommended to me to try Dropbox to keep files in a place that can be accessed from anywhere over the internet. I tried this out. Yes – I’m a believer. Want to try it out, take this link and we’ll both get more space (http://db.tt/7Lsv6SF).

QUESTION – Do you know an online CRM that allows a user to sync their Outlook contacts so they can be accessible over the internet?

Act Immediately

  • If you know it’s going to fail, eventually you will be right. Don’t wait to do something.

When I heard the computer make its disc-churning grind I immediately sought help. The old computer is still running, but now I don’t have to rely on it to function to keep my business operating.

Get Support

  • You think you can do it all, but try rebuilding your entire office while you continue to work with your clients.

I was in the middle of two major contracts for my documentation company and launching a new product for BLITZ. I could not stop what I was doing to research the compatibility of Outlook 2000 BCM with Windows 7 and then purchase it, install it, upload my old content and configure it. It would have taken me days to do what it took the experts hours to do. I focused on my work without missing a beat.

Upgrade

  • You may have to go ‘new’. Don’t spend too much time trying to see if you can salvage the old. Technology is almost like a living entity. You would not put your 12 year old child in clothes for a 5 year old. It won’t fit – and the same goes for your company. Eventually your company needs will change because your client’s needs will change and you will have to upgrade.

The Outlook BCM (Business Contact Manager) was only given with Office Professional 2000 and may not be compatible with Windows 7. They will of course all install, but you know there would be ongoing compatibly issues plus Microsoft will eventually not support issues of older software.

The same was for my smartphone. A broken USB and an out-dated communications port mean that it is time to update. The repair is $75, the new phone is $99 with two years of customer support and way more functionality that will help me manage an online business better.

Software

  • Know where your original software discs or authentication keys are kept.

One of my saving graces was that I had access to all my authentication keys for the software I used every day. When I installed it on the new computer I could just enter the key and start using it. I didn’t have to search, I didn’t have to ask for a new key, nor did I have to purchase anything. I just continued using it.

Three colourful keysKnow Your Systems

  • Process in business makes everything run easier, especially when your routine is changed. Make sure everyone in your company knows what you expect of them and their deadlines so you don’t have to micro-manage every aspect of your day.

I don’t have employees but I do have a VA on contract. She keeps me on track for many of my deadlines. Other contractors that work with me often step up to the plate to take on more when situations change unexpectedly. They can do this because we have a trust and I have shared my vision with them.

I have several clients that hold the key to some information in their company. Because they have not shared it with anyone they become the only person that can be involved in specific projects. The problem is they are the key client contact and cannot give up time with their clients to meet the deadlines of these projects.  Because of this they are often on the verge of losing large tax credits from the government.

Make sure you are not the only person in your company that knows the information. This goes for all your information (systems, project, goals, investments, etc.).

Redundancy

When everything around you is failing your business should not. Make sure you have other access, other equipment, and other people that can help you with your process so you can continue to work with your client’s.

QUESTION – What other tools or processes have you used that saved your butt when things were not going well?

Post Article Reflection

Today, in 2017, I am looking back at this blog and realize that all the points are still valid, but that the technology and use of The Cloud have made the process different. Just because you have it in The Cloud, don’t expect to be there when you need it. There are now stories of businesses having their online content stolen and held for ransom. Know what is going on in the world, what might go wrong in your business, and be prepared. Backing up your ‘cloud’ content is as important as backing up your in-house files.

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