How good is your backup process?
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This isn't necessarily a "new" thing, but it may be new to you. We sometimes hear about computer failures causing a complete loss of a campground's data, and the worst part is that they don't always have usable backups to recover from. We hate to hear these stories, but we know it's also too easy to get lazy about backups. In some cases there are some misunderstandings that can cause problems too. So here are some questions:
How valuable is your data? If you lost it, would you know who owes you money? Would you know who has a reservation and for how long? Do you ever need to contact one of your past or future customers? Do you need your records for tax purposes? How long would it take you to set up your database again from scratch, and re-enter all customer information even if you do have paper records?
OK, assuming you agree that your data is valuable, lets see if you're doing adequate backups:
Are you making backups on removable media? If you're just backing up to My Documents, for instance, this will not do you any good if your hard drive fails or your computer is stolen. So you should be making the backup to a floppy disk, CD, USB memory stick, or other external device. When you make the backup, be sure to check the "Save In" location before clicking the final "Save" button to verify that it is actually going to the drive you want. If you don't select a specific drive in the "Save In" drop-down list, then it may just be defaulting to My Documents or some other location on your C: drive.
Do you regularly take the backups off-site, or at least to another building? If you make a backup and leave it near the computer, that won't help if there's a fire or other catastrophe. Likewise, having an automatic backup process on a server, such as copying to an external hard drive, is only as safe as that hard drive (thieves love external hard drives because they are easy to carry away, easy to sell, and contain all of your sensitive data).
Are you verifying your backups? Just because it says "backup is complete" doesn't mean that the disk or memory stick you're using is readable. After a backup, or at least once in awhile, you should verify it by using the Restore from Backup function. Don't worry, if the backup isn't perfect then your current data will not be altered. To verify it, you should first remove the disk or other media device from your computer, because if you just leave it in the computer and use Restore, it's not really reading it from the disk -- Windows still has it in a cache so it doesn't need to read it from the disk (that's a "feature" designed to make things faster). So you need to completely remove the disk, then re-insert it, before using the Restore function. If it gets an error when restoring, try backing up to a different disk. If you can't get it to restore correctly, contact us immediately so we can get your backups working properly.
Are you rotating multiple backup copies? We recommend a 7-day rotation -- keep 7 disks (or even 7 USB memory sticks -- small 128MB ones are very cheap now), labeled with the day of the week. That way if some of them go bad or get damaged, you're not completely lost. This is also a good way to help you keep off site backups -- each day, take the new one home with you and then bring the oldest one back in to the office the next day to be used for the next backup.
Hopefully these tips will encourage you to use a proper backup routine, not only for Campground Master but for any data that's valuable to your business.