Backup Basics #3: Know the real cost of your critical work documents and personal memories.

Most folks don't realize the actual value of their critical work documents and personal memories. I can prove this for two reasons:

  1. Data recovery is still a viable business. People still lose data all the time regardless of all the Cloud backups, iCloud, and Time Machines in the world.
  2. Tech still use the words "data" and "information".

I rarely use those words. I call information what it actually is:

  • Your ability to communicate with your customers (contacts, calendar, email)
  • Your ability to get and keep customers (critical work documents including proposals, presentations
  • Your ability to enter and pay bills, including payroll (accounting books)
  • Your precious personal memories (personal photos, video and audio recordings)
  • Your time with your family, friends or doing more of what matters to you 

When I use those words, how serious do you feel about protecting those things?   Now compare that feeling to the emotion you feel when we use these words: Information and data.

The main picture illustrating "information" on Wikipedia.com.

The main picture illustrating "information" on Wikipedia.com.

Those words don't hit home as hard.  They don't convey the same level of urgency and importance.   Commander Data on Star Trek has more emotional energy than those two words.  Wikipedia defines information as a sequence of symbols, zeroes and ones. Data's defined as: Values of qualitative or quantitative variables... in computing [data] are represented in a structure, often tabular (represented by rows and columns), a tree (a set of nodes with parent-children relationship) or a graph structure (a set of interconnected nodes).  To most human beings, that sentence makes zero sense.

To a tech, the technical definition is really important, because recreating someone's life after a data recovery requires understanding what a data structure is. But a business owner doesn't care about that. A mom or dad doesn't care about anything other than never losing their babies' photos.  To me, precious memories (data) looks something like the picture below.

This is the "information" that matters to me. My father at age 3.  He has since passed, but precious photos like this help keep him alive in a way.

This is the "information" that matters to me. My father at age 3.  He has since passed, but precious photos like this help keep him alive in a way.

Language is powerful.  The words people use tell you nearly everything about how they think.  Their actions always validate what you hear when you really listen. Test this out the next time you talk with a technician: Ask them to tell you what data or information is from a customer's perspective. All that matters to a customer is that they'll never miss a sale, their employees are always productive, and they never wish they could see those wonderful memories of their parents passed away, their babies now grown up (and not as cute as they once were), and all the wonderful times they had that they can look back on during their halcyon days.  But people still lose data all the time.  How seriously should a tech take this?

During my backup management training, my instructor emphasized the importance of protecting data with one very clear and powerful statement:

You will probably lose your job if you cause the customer any loss on a project because you didn't protect the data well enough to be able to restore it.

I've seen data loss.  Unfortunately, I've hired and fired techs who didn't take me seriously about data. In my role as a manager or CIO, I found there was only one thing I could do to prevent data loss for my customers, at my level. If the work to protect data well enough to be able to restore it is not as important to my employee or someone else I'm managing, I'm need to make it important to them. Here's how I do it:

How to prevent data loss as a business owner or manager

At TechRoom, I require a data backup/restoration inspection and certification form be completed at the beginning of every scheduled service visit. It's a one-page guide to making sure all the important information for the customer is identified, backed up, and that restorability is verified. This gets submitted, reviewed by me, and any issues worked out before there's a problem. At the bottom of the certification form there's a place for the tech to sign, print and date certifying the results and their actions.  Not completing this or ignoring any part of it will result in immediate dismissal of employment. No soft stuff here, I'm talking termination of their job. No exceptions. 

Some of the most ineffective techs I've met are charming and endear themselves to their customers, but their actions don't align to their promises. They tend to be endeared by customers for being heroes, fixing all the issues and problems around the office. That activity - fixing problems - is so much easier to be immersed in, rather than the boring, disciplined problem prevention work of protecting critical information.

Do you have a bigger problem looming?

Do you see your tech every other day, fixing things around the office?  If you're a small business less than 50 people and you see your tech that often, you may have a bigger problem on your hands then you think.  Contact me for a confidential conversation and complimentary CIO consultation if you're wondering if you may have a problem, or what the problem is.  I'll be happy to set up a call at no charge to you.