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Never underestimate the power of the unexpected

While the TRO 365 columns address a lot of the day to day items of running your travel business, this past week I got a lesson in humility and preparedness. Sure last weekend we had some horrendous thunderstorms (normal for the area); but I never expected to be in a McDonald’s writing a column using their WIFI, on a cell phone after experiencing an earthquake on Tuesday and a hurricane on Saturday. To make matters worse, last night, a power surge took out my computer. Thank heavens for backups, but it will take a few days (not weeks) to get back to normal. The delay will be in power and hardware, but I can thank the cloud for the rest.

For several years, I have been using all sorts of “cloud” based applications and today, I sit here thankful. My contacts are safe and accessible by smart phone. My emails are safe and accessible. I can contact friends and loved ones. It will take a few days to replace the hardware and move some files, but as I look at the “worst case scenario” my business will be interrupted minimally for a few days.  My only regret, at this point, is that I am still using ClientBase, Word, and Excel as a local applications.

I am fortunate, my busy season is winding down so I have some time to recover, but it sure would be nice to have access to my client data now. My first order of business will be converting to ClientBase Online once I am back up and running. And I will be looking into Microsoft’s cloud solution for their Office Products as well. Google has their Docs product, but I really like the power of Microsoft Office.

Technology has improved to such a degree that crashes, and data loss can be essentially eliminated. For example, consider the following:

  • My websites and blogs are hosted in San Antonio Texas and backed up to Amazon servers hourly, so I am safe there. And the Amazon back up space is very inexpensive.
  • My email accounts are all managed through G-mail. I have several web based ones as well as many POP3 accounts and all are handled through the free service. I do pay for additional storage and know that given enough time, in their quest for world domination Google will find a way to prevent natural disasters.
  • With an iPhone or Droid, essentially any of your communications needs are at hand–blogs, emails, Facebook, twitter, and of course the old fashioned telephone.

I shudder to think what would have happened just 5 or 6 years ago. I experienced a crash in 1998 which was my wake up call  to  daily back-ups. I learned my lesson. Almost 15 years later I am learning another  lesson in redundancy. Back then, we were doing weekly back-ups and had to re-create an entire week of work from memory and the “agent copy” of tickets and invoices.  Our recovery took over a month.  Today, it is not nearly that bad.

The lesson I learned this week was that you cannot predict the unexpected. In a world that is moving continuously, we need to be able to react and service our clients immediately. Our emergency is not theirs. Thankfully, I am not nearly as impacted as I could have been, but I do need to make some changes and I encourage you to take stock of your resources and develop the contingencies you may need to insure your business’s continuation–be that in a strange hotel room, a neighbor’s living room or your local McDonald’s.

Take the time now. Unplug your computers and see how you would access the information stored in them if they could not be restarted. Think of the unthinkable. With the hurricane, I expected Internet and power to be gone. I did not expect my computer to die.

Now, I need to muddle through on a smart phone until power is restored to all of the businesses in the area and then I will be off to buy some new equipment. Wish me luck!

PS, if you see some typos, cut me some slack, it is on a smart phone! And are you prepared for the unexpected? Please leave a comment!

  One thought on “Never underestimate the power of the unexpected

  1. Chanté says:

    Thanks for this reminder, and I have been in similar situations as well, and am thankful for back-ups. I know a lot of people want to go paperless, and while I do too for the environment, there are just some things that are necessary to have backed up in multiple places. I liken it to us letting our clients know that they should have photo copies made of all of their id and credit cards that they take on vacation and leave one with a trusted family member and/or friend, and to take a copy with them as well. We must keep these things in mind for our own businesses as well. Backups of critical information is necessary so your business does not come to a screeching halt.

    On a side note, take care John and be safe!

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