When you heard about the St Louis airport closure April 22 (due to a tornado-spawning severe storm) you likely reacted with a travel agent’s perspective – how to reroute clients or thanking the stars above you had no clients flying through St Louis this weekend. I had the same reaction, until I heard about a travel agent in the area whose modem was fried in the same storm. Then I switched gears and went into geek-mode.
Fortunately for him it was just his modem (and he had a spare one on hand) and not his laptop (no spare on hand). But he was flummoxed all the same. The modem, along with several other items, was plugged into a power strip but only the modem was fried. Nothing else was fried because the surge likely came through the internet connection (in his case through his cable service), and not through the electric socket. Had the surge come through the electric socket, the laptop and anything else plugged in at the time could have suffered irreparable damage. And a travel agent with a fried computer is a travel agent having a complete nervous breakdown. Take heed, and protect yourself.
Use Protection – Surge Protection That Is
Yes, you should have everything plugged into a surge protector. However, don’t run out to Wal-Mart and purchase a $19.99 power strip that says it has a surge protector built in. The first problem: without a “protection light” on the strip you have no way of knowing once it’s been hit by a surge. After it’s been hit by a surge it no longer provides surge protection, and it’s just a power strip. The next surge blows out your equipment. The second problem: it only applies to surges that come through the electric socket, not the cable or phone line.
When shopping for a surge protector, look for these features:
- A surge protection light – this will tell you that the surge protector is still fully functional (and not just a glorified power strip). When this light no longer comes on (or turns from green to red), you know you need to replace your surge protector pronto.
- A surge protector that has phone & cable protection – plug your incoming phone & cable lines into this to get complete protection.
- A warranty – higher end surge protectors will often provide a warranty to replace any items damaged if the surge protector fails. Note however, this will only replace the hard ware. There is no warranty for the loss of data (your CRM, invoices, emails, etc.).
Even though good surge protection will help to protect (and maybe replace) your equipment, your data needs to be protected as well. The best option is to back up your data on a regular basis. By regular, I mean weekly at minimum although daily would be preferable. Once you make it a habit (it takes 21 days to make a habit) it will become second nature to always back up your data.
How? One option is to have an external hard drive that you can connect to your computer with a USB cable. Some come with backup software which will detect any differences in files between your computer and the hard drive, only copying the new data over. This is the fastest and most efficient way of backing up your data (versus a complete copy/paste of your whole hard drive every single time). External hard drives these days have large amounts of capacity (1TB or more) and are quickly coming down in price.
However, an external hard drive can be susceptible to power surges, malware, viruses, etc. as well if you leave them plugged in all of the time. It is recommended that you only plug it in to perform the backup, and then immediately unplug it.
Also, do not store your external hard drive in the same location as your computer. If your office or house burns down, not only does your computer get destroyed, but your backup does as well. We have a fire proof safe in our home, and it houses our external hard drive when it is not in use. This gives us easy access (don’t have to run to the safe deposit box at the bank every time I want to back up my data) but protects it against theft or fire.
Online backup is also an option. Services like Carbonite (http://www.carbonite.com/) can back up your computer to “the cloud” (online). I’m not a big fan of “in the cloud” backup or storage, but that will be addressed in a future article. However, if the option is no backup at all versus backing up to the cloud, I will grudgingly recommend backing up to the cloud with some security measures in place.
Sadly many of us learn lessons the hard way. It’s like the client that refuses to take travel insurance, and then learns the painful expensive lesson of why they should’ve taken the insurance. Don’t wait until your computer is fried and your data is lost forever. Protect yourself now – think of it as a form of insurance – get good surge protection and back up your data on a regular schedule. It can be a painful and expensive lesson otherwise.
(Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel (www.shipsntripstravel.com) located in Brentwood, Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations (www.kickbuttvaations.com) she focuses on travel for young adults under 35. Susan can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209).