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Is Your POS Software Data Vulnerable Because of These Common Mistakes?

- By Bob Twain

I recently called a retailer in Texas that sells tractor parts and outdoor equipment. I asked him if he's ready to replace his old POS software. His response was, "Bob - I don't have time to look because the hard drive in my computer system crashed. I didn't have a good back up and my computer guy said that he couldn't recover the data! I've been re-entering data for over a month and I'll be trying catch up on work for a long, long time."

You'd be surprised how often I hear about nightmares like this. There are so many "little known" mistakes that can cause computers to go down. Plus it's easy to take information that's stored in your computer for granted. Until you get burned! That's when most people take the necessary steps to protect their computer system. Hopefully you'll follow these tips before something like that happens to you!

Here are some essential tips that will keep your computer running reliably...

Tip #1 - Back up your POS software data EVERY day!
If you're not backing up your data, you might get lucky for a few months or even years, but eventually you'll lose valuable business information that's stored in your computer. And when it happens you'll be extremely frustrated!

To protect your data, you need install a good tape back up, external hard drive, zip drive or at least a CDR-W drive. Most of these items come with some type of back up software, but you need to check the package before you buy.

After installing the hardware, you'll need to configure the back up software to back up the hard drive that contains your POS software data. (It's best to ask a computer consultant to help you purchase and configure your back up system.)

Tip #2 - Schedule your back up to run every night and ALWAYS check the log.
Most back up software programs allow you to schedule the back up to automatically run at night. Then all you have to do is check your back up log the next day. Don't forget to read the log and check for errors every day!

Tip #3 - Don't overwrite your back up every time.
It's a good idea to keep your back up information for several days by rotating the media. This helps combat several potential problems. For example, if you have serious hardware problems you might find that you need to revert to data from several days ago. Plus back up media like tapes, zip drives, and CDs can go bad.

You can solve this problem by rotating your media. For example, if you back up with tapes, you should have at least 4 tapes and rotate them like this:

Monday - Tape 1
Tuesday - Tape 2
Wednesday - Tape 3
Thursday - Tape 1
Friday - Tape 2
Saturday - Tape 3
Last day of every month - Tape 4

Tip #4 - Take your data home.
If you take the previous day's back up media home you'll always have your valuable business information safe, even if there's a fire or natural disaster.

Tip #5 - Test the back up once a month.
You'd be surprised how many people think they're getting a good back up only to find that the back up hasn't been working or they've been backing up the wrong folder all this time. You can avoid this problem by simply restoring your last back up to an alternate location on the hard drive. (Be careful not to overwrite your POS software data folder!) Then make sure the back up restored the right files. This is the only way to be sure your back up is working.

Tip #6 - Install a UPS and surge protector on your computer.
Power surges and brown outs can weaken or destroy computer equipment causing data corruption or your entire system to fail.

A UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) is a big battery that keeps your computer running in case of power outage. What you might not realize is that the UPS also regulates your power usage keeping your electronic equipment and circuits from getting fried by power surges or brown outs.

At the very least, I recommend installing a UPS and surge protector on the main computer that stores you POS data. Then plug in the Ethernet cable, modem phone line and power cord into the UPS. Most people forget about the Ethernet cable and phone cords, but if they're plugged into your computer and lighting strikes they can fry you computer too!

Tip #7 - For maximum reliability install RAID or mirrored hard drives.
If reliability is EXTREMELY important to you, then you can install RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) hard drives on your server. RAID costs more, but it keeps your server running even if you have a hard drive failure. There are several different levels of RAID protection. The simplest and most affordable form of RAID is called hard drive mirroring.

RAID is a very complicated subject but most computer consultants can help. I would not recommend installing this yourself. If you want you to learn more you should call a computer consultant for advice.

After reading these tips you might realize that you need to make some changes. Other than RAID, all of these tips are essential to keep your computer system safe. I highly recommend getting help from a computer consultant and take these necessary steps to protect your computers NOW! I promise, you'll be glad you did.

For more information about back ups, check out my follow up article:
Which Back Up Method is the Best?

To your success.

Bob Twain

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