According to the ancient Mayan calendar, the current cycle of the world is coming to an end on December 21, 2012. But even if their prediction doesn't come true, it's a good idea to prepare your business for a potential data emergency.
Pete Khanna, CEO of the Denver-based software company TrackVia, says entrepreneurs face a whole host of potentially dangerous situations every day.
"Sometimes an emergency can appear small, like the executive employee who loses his laptop or smart phone containing sensitive information," he says. "Other emergencies are larger and more obvious, such as the recent storms in the northeast that flooded offices and buildings, and destroyed equipment and data for thousands of businesses."
Whether it's the end of the world or a lost cell phone, entrepreneurs should be prepared. Khanna offers these three steps for protecting your information, and your sanity.
First, take inventory. Khanna says most businesses don't know what information they have, let alone what information needs protection.
"For example, a sales employee may have a spreadsheet containing all of the company's key customers, their contact information, and maybe even sensitive information like credit card numbers or buying history," he says. "Start by identifying what information you have, what information is critical to the business, where it's located, and who's in charge of managing or maintaining it."
Next, develop a plan. Once you've identified your critical information, protect it with physical security and internal processes.
"Physical security may be as simple as knowing who has office keys," says Khanna. "It may also include employee badges, which secure and track access in and out of a facility. Internal processes may be something simple, like outlining steps for granting or limiting access to key documents. Another example is defining a process for destroying and dealing with paper copies of sensitive data."
Finally, back up your data. The technology you choose should fit your data protection needs, says Khanna. On-premise back-up solutions range from making copies of information onto CDs to having back-up servers on premise. However, the obvious disadvantage of this approach is that it doesn't protect against natural disasters that occur in the immediate area.
"If you're protecting critical information that people need to safely and securely access to do their work, cloud solutions are key," he says. Many cloud providers use military-grade reinforced data facilities dispersed around the world, so if the disaster is more localized, you data will have a better chance of survival.