Dear Gritty VA:
How do you keep your files and information synced between computers and how do you protect your clients’ work or database getting lost in case of some kind of disaster (lost or stolen laptop, fire, computer meltdown, etc.)? –AL
Great question! This actually falls into two topics: systems and backup.
It’s always a good idea to have a backup system in place. There are a couple of ways you can go, which all boil down to personal choice: external hard drive or an online backup service. Personally, I use an external hard drive and do my own backups once a week or more. I just don’t like the idea of having all my personal business information on an outside party’s systems. I think any time you trust an outside third-party with potentially sensitive, confidential client/business info, you increase your liability if their systems become exploited or fail for some reason.
But like I say, it’s a personal choice. If you want to go the online service route, I’ve heard good things about Mozy and it is a lot easier to do daily backups when someone else is doing them automatically. My only caution would be to make sure you know and understand what is being backed up. Are they backing up your entire system (including system files and programs) or just certain kinds of regular documents and files? How easy it is to find and restore files should you need to do so? What are the storage limitations? Are you notified of fee increases for overages in advance? What is the customer service like? Can you quickly and easily get help when you need it or do they abdicate that to forums (where you could wait days for someone to respond)?
As far as backing up clients’ data for them (if that’s what you’re asking), that’s a bad idea. You’re not a storage facility. Don’t take on responsibilities and liabilities that aren’t yours to bear. Clients need to be responsible for their own businesses; it’s not your job to manage their businesses. You have your own to deal with. Their databases should be on their own computers and systems, not yours.
As far as keeping your files synced between computers, my best advice is to avoid duplication at all costs. Otherwise, you only invite confusion, mistakes, rework and inefficiency (which in itself creates more work). A business that does not run well also does not earn well. What I recommend is that you get an online virtual office and a remote access service.
I work from several different computers and laptops, but I don’t keep work in all these various places. All my files, my entire business, sits on my main office desktop computer. When I need to access files, I simply login remotely to my home office computer using LogMeIn. I could not live without this service. I can be sitting in our condo in Germany and working at my home computer in the U.S. as if I was sitting right there. No more dinking around and keeping track of portable/thumb drives that are easily lost or broken. It is simply brilliant!
My other best friend is my virtual office collaboration service, HyperOffice. This is a web-based service that allows you to organize clients, share calendars, project managements, documents, etc. and keep everything in a single online location that you both have access to. There is no moving files around or backing up between computers necessary whatsoever. This will not only simplify your work life immensely, it’s a convenience and benefit for clients working with you.
A new best friend that I can’t say enough good things about is DropBox. For those occasions when you do need to quickly and simply move, transfer or sync files between computers or with clients, DropBox is your go-to tool. It’s crazy how versatile it is and I’m constantly finding new uses for it. Super, super easy to install and use.
With these three tools, things are kept organized and not spread out all over the place and I never have to waste time and energy syncing stuff up. It’s a non-issue!