Business intelligence technology systems developer Seagate Software has dubbed June as Backup Awareness Month, but the accounting profession needs no such marketing gimmick. It is already well aware of how critical backing up computer data is to practitioners, their employers and clients.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) this year identified backup and storage solutions on its annual Top Ten Technologies List as an honorable mention, and a good number of practicing accountants have written extensively about the need to back up data and the many systems available for it.
Data backup systems are a variety of data copying and storage systems, designed and marketed initially as devices to protect computer users in the case of breakdowns in their technology systems. They have become all the more critical in recent years because of the new potential for viruses and other "malware" to attack and disable systems, and the growing awareness that natural disasters hitting a physical location can kill the occupants’ business if the on-site data is wiped out.
In addition to be an honorable mention in this year’s Top Ten Technologies list, backups are a core ingredient of longtime Top Ten entry, Disaster and Business Continuity Planning, which is number three on this year’s list. Writing about disaster recovery in the Information Technology Center section of the AICPA.org Web site, Barry MacQuarrie, a CPA and technology director for KAF Financial Group in Braintree, Mass., says that effective disaster recovery means you must “Back up every file, every day.”
He adds, “In the ideal world, disaster plans would be unnecessary. However, the events of the past few years have taught us the importance of being well prepared for the potential impact of a disaster. No one knows when disaster will strike. Our best defense is to be prepared.”
Yet, surprisingly, many accountants, like the general business public, are unaware of some backup basics. For example, one of the most common backup mistakes is users’ sense that they should back up on their own PCs, Bradley University accounting professor, Simon Petravick writes in the June 2006 edition of “Journal of Accountancy.” Petravick warns, "Never store backups on your main hard disk (usually your C:\ drive) or on any auxiliary drive inside your computer. The reason, of course, is that if your computer fails, you won’t have access to any data in it.” He recommends using external hard drives that can easily be connected to PCs by cable, and he notes that there’s an array of such drives available, some as small as paperback books and with storage capacity and speeds that match most internal PC drives.
Seagate has tied its naming of June as backup awareness month to a marketing campaign for products that include its Maxtor line of external hard drives. It also claims an altruistic motivation for June’s newest designation, by citing a recent Harris Poll finding that nearly half of adult U.S. computer users risk losing their digital files forever because they don’t back them up!
K2 Enterprises, one of the accounting profession’s best known technology CPE trainers, advises CPAs to back up daily and to store the data at secure off-site locations. It suggests the following places to go to start your backup services search: Mistral Managed Backup; First Backup; U.S. DataTrust and doing a Google Search of “Online Backup Services.”