How important is a QuickBooks backup?

By Anne Coles

One of the most common questions from clients is, "How often should I back up my QuickBooks?" The best answer is "every day!" (Or anytime you are doing a data import or upgrading your version of QuickBooks). The challenge is that many businesses lack the discipline to back up their data daily. Unless someone has personally had to deal with recovering data, it's easy to bank on the fact that "it will never happen to them."

The quick answer to how often a backup should be done is simple: How much data can you afford to lose and how much manpower can you spend to re-enter what you've lost? If you only back up once a week, can your small business afford to re-enter every piece of data (invoices, checks, bills, payroll, and credit card transactions) that was lost between the previous backup and the date of data loss? If you enter checks once a week, and only touch your QuickBooks file weekly, then a weekly backup may work fine for you. An accounting firm that handles bookkeeping and payroll for multiple clients needs a nightly backup. The right answer for most clients is usually no less than weekly, but daily is definitely the best.

Storing your backups is the other critical piece to having a backup at all. Those clients who are very diligent about their backups often have the backup sitting on their desk or in a file cabinet near their desks. In the event of a fire or building disaster, the backups and the computers are often destroyed, and a high percentage of businesses hit by fire never reopen due to data loss. If you can clear the hurdle of making the backups, store them somewhere safe, preferably offsite. Either invest in a fire-rated safe, use a jump drive that goes with a trusted employee nightly, or burn a CD and take it to a safe-deposit box.

As for actually making the backups, I have found the easiest solution is to setup an automatic backup of client's files direct to Intuit using their Intuit Online Backup Service. For those with an Annual or Enterprise Support Plan, the service is free. For those with up to one gigabyte of data (1GB), the cost is $4.95 per month or $49.95 per year. Up to 10GBs of data is $14.95 per month or $149.95 per year (prices current as of May 2009).

Whether you use Intuit's Online Backup Service or another type of local or network drive, a backup is performed with these steps:

  1. With the QuickBooks company file open, choose File, and Save Company or Backup.
  2. Choose one of the three options:
    • Backup copy – backup of everything you need to recreate the file.
    • Portable company file – compact version that is easier to move or e-mail.
    • Accountant's copy – compact version of your file that your accountant can open, make changes, and export for you to import changes later.
  3. Choose Backup Copy and click Next.
  4. Two options are here, online and local. Choose the Online backup to utilize the Intuit Online Backup Service. Follow the prompts to set up an online account and backup your data.
  5. Choose the radio button next to Local backup and click next.
  6. A local backup gives you the following options:
    • Where to save the data – locally, on a network, or a removable drive (like a jump/thumb drive).
    • Add the date and time – this is especially useful when you need to know which backup is your most recent.
    • Limiting the number of backup copies keeps your file location clean (fewer backup copies). Usually five or fewer is sufficient. The default is three.
    • A reminder to backup every few times you close the file
    • Verification options – this checks your data each time you backup for any issues. Checking this box does make the backup slower, but insures that you don't backup data that is corrupt.
  7. Once you have selected the backup options, you can save now, save now and schedule future (which will use the defaults you selected in the backup process) or use the options you selected for future backups only.
  8. Clicking finish takes you through the process and, if you chose to save now, will back up your data.

About the author
Anne Coles is an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, an Enterprise Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and is the president of The Wren Group, Inc.

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