Even though employees and business owners all realize the importance of business data and can recognize the impact data loss could have on business operations, only 30 percent of businesses have some kind of disaster preparedness plan for business data.

“Business critical data includes information your business could not recover if it were lost. As a basic rule, if losing the data will interfere with doing business it should be backed up,” said Chrystal Irons, business development specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

This can include: customer information, email correspondence, financial records, HR records, procedures and policies, certificates and licenses, passwords and software.

There are many backup software programs available that allow a business owner to set a schedule that will archive their data automatically. There are also several options for backup media according to Irons.

CD-ROMs are inexpensive but may be the most unreliable. Tape backups are more reliable but are more expensive. External hard drives are cheap compared to tape drive systems and offer a low failure rate. The emerging online backup services are easy to use and require no additional hardware.

According to Irons, a final consideration is where the backup data should be stored, if not using an online service. Adhering to a regular data backup schedule won’t help if all your data backup copies are in one place and that place is struck by disaster.

“It may also be wise to practice redundancy, picking more than one way to preserve your data and have the backups at more than one location,” said Irons.

For example, some copies of backups might be stored in off-site like the business owner’s home, a family member’s home, safe deposit boxes or even storage facilities.

No matter which method a business chooses to keep their business critical data safe, one thing is evident, it is important to have a disaster preparedness plan for business data in place.

“Disasters aren’t always hurricane sized; a poorly timed server crash can do as much damage and is more likely to occur. Once a plan is in place it should be used and monitored often to ensure that your business critical data is safe in any type of disaster,” said Irons.

For more information or assistance related to a current or future business, contact either of the MU Extension business specialists in the Ozarks: Kathy Macomber at (417) 682-3579 or Chrystal Irons at (417) 682-3579 or one of the two Small Business and Technology Development Centers in southwest Missouri: Missouri State University in Springfield at (417) 836-5685 or Missouri Southern University in Joplin at (417) 625-3128.