Data Loss Disasters: Are YOU Prepared?

Stephen Yagielowicz
What would you do if suddenly, right now, your computer died - and ALL of your data became corrupted, and then disappeared? Would your business survive? Complacency is dangerous, and the following story will hopefully give you a wake up call. It sure gave me one!

It was a day like any other. I awoke, made a fresh pot of coffee, turned on CNN's Headline News and then booted the Dell. As I made myself comfortable in front of my sprawling AnthroCart, I noticed an anomaly: there emblazoned across my 20" Trinitron was a "Driver Memory Error" dialog box saying "kagou-Anti-Kro$oft - says not today!"

None of this seemed familiar to me, and I didn't recall having any software on my PC that would account for this message. I clicked "ok" to get rid of this dialog box, and the commie bastard shut my computer off! I stared at the black screen in disbelief, took another gulp of coffee, and hit the power button - the process repeated itself, and as I sat looking at the black screen once again, a horrible possibility entered my mind:

I had been exposed to a malicious computer virus! Exploiting a security hole in the Microsoft Outlook email client, this worm had been passed along to me, and in all likelihood I had also passed it along.

I came to this determination by doing a search on AltaVista for the message box text. But as I clicked the "Search" button on my MS Internet Explorer web browser, it loaded a new "custom" search panel with a "recommended sites" listing - I suspect from the virus author's trying to make a quick buck - BASTARDS! (Actually, I thought the search panel replacement was pretty slick, even though I was able to get around it by typing the AltaVista URL directly in the browser's address bar).

My search turned up the following page, which described the worm and provided a simple remedy as well as a link to Microsoft for the security patch. A few moments spent following the step by step instructions and my system was clear of this virus. The next time it may not be so easy. The next time, it may be a virus resulting in a catastrophic data loss - and that got me thinking:

Are You Prepared?
Was I prepared for a ground up reformat of my hard drives and reinstall of my operating systems, software, files, web site backups, and all of the other documents and toys spread out across my disk drives? I didn't even know when the last time I had made a backup was - I only knew it had been months ago, and if I had to do a true ground-up reinstall, I would be totally screwed. I had been "too busy" working on my sites to bother backing anything up.

Don't let this happen to you! If you make your living online then remember that you are subject to calamities that range from curious kittens and spilled coffee to viruses and mechanical failures. Be prepared by backing up your data files now! Do you have copies of all your sites, past and present? What about your bookmark file? Have you backed up your sponsor information? Do you use "QuickBooks" or "ACT!" to keep your records straight? Did you back up those files as well? Do not rely upon one copy either - print out sponsor and account setup information, passwords and user names - and keep them all in a safe place.

If you don't have one yet, invest in a CD recorder. The 650mb+ capacity will hold a bit of data (pun intended). CD burner prices have fallen dramatically, and the blank media is cheap. I get my blanks FREE in fact by watching the Sunday paper: somebody (like CompUSA) will offer a pack of blanks for ten bucks with a ten-dollar mail-in rebate! Burn separate disks for your files, web sites, and documents.

While nothing can keep you totally safe from computer viruses, having a good anti-virus program installed will help dramatically - especially if you keep it updated! The same goes for hardware malfunctions. While you may not be able to prevent them, any damage will be minimized if you maintain current backups of all your sensitive information. Only then will you be able to rescue your business after a major data disaster, no matter what the cause: Remember the old saying: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!"