Big hair. Highlights. Shoulder pads and jacket sleeves rolled to the elbows.
Let’s rewind to the 1980s.
The Sony Walkman loaded with cassette tapes was the height of cool-tech. The first mobile phones needed giant aerials and something the size of a car-battery to keep them going … and weren’t exactly mobile. The internet and email were unheard of outside academic (or military) circles.
Back in those days, when you needed to carry data with you, there were two primary options:
1. Lever-arch files stuffed with print-outs and paperwork
2. The 5¼-inch floppy disk
Fast-forward to the 90s and technological progress had given us the more practical 3-inch 120mb diskette and CD-ROM. That still meant a choice between carrying paper files or plastic disks.
But if you looked after your disks – avoiding losing them, leaving them behind in someone else’s office, or spilling coffee on your desk – they were a reliable way of storing business data.
System crash? No problem. If you had backed-up your data, all you needed was to boot up another machine, load the disk and off you went.
Periodically saving your work-in-progress then backing up the finished file to a disk was part of the rhythm of the working day and week.
And, according to Tony Anscombe, Senior Security Evangelist at internet security firm AVG Business, it was a good habit we need to revive.
‘Having to back-up to a disk made you think about the value of data – what was vital to keep and too precious to lose,’ he says.
‘It made you think about what to store where, in what format, and most important of all, what to call each file so you could find it easily. But today those reflexes have become slow. We’ve got out of the back-up habit.’
Let’s apply some 1980s logic to today’s computing
Today, we tend to see data as ‘all the same’. Data is typically stored either locally – on your system’s hard-drive – or in the Cloud. That applies to images, spreadsheets, text files, video clips.
As long as we can access the files when we need to, wherever we are and whatever device we’re using, we’re happy.
But last year saw some stark advice from one commentator for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the group representing more than 300,000 small businesses across the United States.
The advice was anything you wouldn’t want to go public – or be seen by a competitor – keep out of the Cloud.
By that, the NFIB meant ‘company financials, employee records, health records, customer credit card and banking details’.
For those using cloud apps to run their business – often an easy way to cut IT running costs – keeping essential business documents offline would not be practical.
Regularly back up your most important information
But according to Anscombe, the NFIB’s broader point holds true. If you’re denied access – even temporarily – to Cloud data because of an outage or a forgotten password, you’ve lost access to vital business information.
‘Compared to the 1980s, computer memory has become extremely cheap,’ he says.
‘You can store terabytes of data on relatively small, inexpensive external drives. Often, it’s just a case of plug-and-play: just put the external drive in a USB port and you have an easy way to back-up important documents, data and files.
‘So we need to get back into the habit of when we create important data, we don’t just store it in one place – even the Cloud. Back-up your most important information regularly’.
Adding password protection to external drives adds another layer of security to the backed-up data.
Why the concern? Read the terms and conditions of your Cloud service. Who is responsible for the integrity of your data? You? The service provider?
The answer is both; it’s like a partnership arrangement.
Typically, they provide the infrastructure and you agree to use it properly and implement good processes to ensure data is as secure as it can be when you upload or download.
So make sure you know what your Cloud provider does – particularly around encryption of data on the move – and make sure you have good security procedures in place to prevent access being compromised.
And if the worst happens, if you’ve got your data on a back-up drive, disruption can be minimised.
Maybe it’s time to learn a lesson from the 1980s, and make the back-up habit part of your 21st century business culture.