Is Cloud Storage Part of Your Disaster Recovery Plan?

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Maybe a better question would be is do you have a disaster recovery plan? A while ago, I wrote an article called Could Your Business Survive if Something Happened to You? Anyone who is running a business needs to have a plan in place in case of the unthinkable. What if something happened to you or your business? For example, in the case of fire or a natural disaster that destroyed your physical location could someone step in and continue to run your business or could you replicate your business at another location? Would it basically be lights out and the end of your business as you know it today?

Processes, Policies & Procedures

In my previous article, I talked about documenting your policies and procedures. Even if you’re a solopreneur running a home-based business, this is a subject that needs to be addressed. Some of the very basic information that someone would need to access would be your logon information to the accounts that are critical to operating your business. For example:

  • Domain Registrar: Where is your domain name registered? What username, password and email address do you use to access your account? If your domain name needed to be renewed while you were unavailable, where would the notification go? (I once went to a friend’s website and found that it had been parked at GoDaddy.com. She had not accessed her email and was very close to losing her domain name.)
  • Website Host: What vendor do you use for hosting? How do you contact them if there’s a problem? What username, password and email address do you use to access your account? Do you have a pin number or would someone need to know the last four digits of your credit card  to access your account on your behalf? How do you access your cPanel?
  • CMS Software: If you’re using a CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, what is the URL to access your administration panel and what’s your username and password? Is WordPress set to automatically update? (This has been the default since WordPress 3.7.) Do you have premium plugins like BackupBuddy and CommentLuv Premium that have user accounts associated with them? Do you use cloud storage such as Amazon S3 or Rackspace that have user accounts associated with them?
  • FTP (File Transfer Protocol): Many people use the “File Manager” program in cPanel to transfer files to their website server. A popular alternative is to use a program like Filezilla to transfer data. If you do access your website using an FTP program, what is the logon information (host name, protocol, encryption, logon type, username and password) that someone would need to access your site?
  • Social Networking Sites: If you actively participate on several social networking sites, which ones would you consider vital to your online presence (your primary sources of referral traffic)? If you assigned someone responsibility to maintain a presence for you, what username, password and email address would they use?
  • Backups: How often do you back up? How and when do your back up your website? Is this an automated process? Where do you keep your backups? Are you backing up to flash drives, external drives and the cloud? (Maintaining off-site backups as well as local backups needs to be part of your plan. Should a disaster hit locally, having your data backed up in a safe place is critical.)
  • Blog Posts: If you publish articles on a regular basis, do you have posts drafted? Do you have guest bloggers who could submit posts? When you hit that publish button on WordPress, what happens? Does a tweet automatically go out? Are your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts automatically updated? Do you have a Facebook page as well as a personal account? Are they automatically updated too? Would your blog wither and die if you were absent for a long period of time?
  • Marketing Tools: Are you using a service such as AWeber or MailChimp to handle your newsletters and email campaigns? Are you using social media tools like Hootsuite, BufferApp, Sprout Social or Dlvr.it? How do you access your Google accounts (Analytics, gMail, Webmaster Tools, etc.)?
  • Social Networking Groups: Do you manage a group on any of the social networking sites that you’re active on? Is there someone who could assume the responsibility for you if only temporarily?
  • Clients/Customers: Do you have clients/customers who you are regularly in contact with? Should they be notified that you’ll be away? Where is their contact information?  Do you currently have any projects that need to be addressed within a specific time frame? What immediate steps should be taken to safeguard your businesss?

Over to You:

I hope this gets you motivated to take an inventory of your business. Do you feel that your business is in good shape if something were to happen to you or your surroundings? If you suddenly found yourself out of commission, could someone easily step in and cover for you? Would you have a business to come back to?

This list certainly isn’t all inclusive. I could go on to include password manager software and services and we could have a lively discussion about disaster recovery plans.  What would you add? What advice could you offer to someone who’s idea of documentation is a pile of post-it notes in a shoebox?

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Published by Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

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18 Comments

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  1. Hi Sherryl, what a wake up call. What this post made me do is really stop and think about my disaster recovery plan and areas that still need improvement, or dare I even say implementation. Yikes. You got me. I’m motivated!

    1. Hi Susan,
      You’d be surprised how often I’ve worked with clients who came to me with domain names, hosting plans etc. and didn’t have access to the information that I needed to work on their website.

      I’ve yet run into a situation where we haven’t been able to eventually track down the info that they needed but it usually causes delays. If this were to happen to someone who is counting on their website as a revenue stream, it could be a real issue for them.

      Thanks for letting me know that my article resonated with you. I know you have a solid business background. So, I’m sure that none of this is new to you. Record keeping like this can sort of snowball and get away from us if we’re not careful. I’m glad this helped.

  2. That’s a colored mixture of questions you are raising, Sherryl, so I am going to respond only to the ones that I find very important for online businesses: security issues.

    For my business as well as personally, I use cloud storage with discernment: not using it as an extension of my hard drive, but for easy access of non-confidential data and files. Everything that I wouldn’t want to be exposed to the public, I don’t store in the cloud.

    I have an automated backup solution and regularly run test-restores to make sure things are working well in case I need them. I often notice that people are not prepared to take necessary steps to protect their website or personal data. Encouraging my clients to let go of fear or insecurities towards this topic and providing easy to follow checklists has proven to be a good way to raise their awareness and confidence to do what needs to be done.

    1. Hi Katrin,

      I agree with you that security issues needs to be a top priority. I do use cloud storage for (some) confidential data and files. For example, I store my site backups (and those of my clients) with Amazon Cloud Computing Services. (I have way less confidence in DropBox.) If files are confidential, I’ll password protect them as an additional layer of protection.

      I believe that if we choose a reputable vendor for offline storage and create secure passwords, most of us can benefit from having our information stored in a secure location. Thanks for the link to your article about passwords. I use a similar strategy for creating passwords as you do.

      Thanks so much for joining the conversation.

  3. Hi Sherryl,

    You really know how to choose a topic. I am not prepared for the unthinkable. I admit. These days I meditate on the passwords problem: keep everything in memory (harder and harder), use an external device (an agenda of some kind?), use a password manager? I am not decided, yet.

    I understand the importance of a disaster recovery plan. What would I add? Well, for me, the bookmarks are very important. Dozens and dozens of sites where I comment and other dozens where I go to read and find out new things.

    Another important thing for me is the knowledge. I have accumulated thousands and thousands of file (ebooks, courses, videos, docs, pdfs etc.) with knowledge in so many fields and I grouped it nicely on all kind of folders, topics, subtopics etc. Years of knowledge that can be lost in an hour. What matters is the knowledge is ordered so I can access it more easily. This would be an important point in my disaster recovery plan.

    Have a wonderful day

    1. Hi Silviu,
      Thanks for adding bookmarks to things we need to track and mentioning knowledge. I have created so much documentation over the years that it can be a little overwhelming at times.

      In my reply to Diana, I mentioned that I’m a bit of an Excel junkie. I track everything in spreadsheets including links to resources. If I find a good source like a tutorial or a video, I’ll often enter the link in my main project management worksheet. If I’ve created a document outlining a process, I’ll add a link to the file location too. That way, if I have to repeat something a year from now, I can search my spreadsheet for the process and I will find any documents and resources that I have tracked. It saves me hours of work!

      You have a wonderful day too and (as always) thanks for dropping by and adding to the conversation.

  4. I am paranoid about my business so I have a duplicate of everything. A year ago I asked my husband if anything happened to me, do you know where the bank accounts are. He had no idea. It was then I realized I needed to have a plan if anything happened to me. I have put all passwords to my computer, books, etc in the safe. The hardest thing is that I like control but now realize it is important to make sure the business survives all the work that I put into it.

    1. Arleen,
      That’s a good reminder about making sure that our personal affairs are in order too. I should really sit my husband down at my Outlook and show him how I track a lot of our personal info in contacts. I understand how I’ve organized everything but I don’t think he has a clue how I keep track of it. He just knows that if he asks me for some obscure piece of information, that I come up with it. 🙂 At least, he knows where the paper files are.

  5. I have already taken care of some things, such as social media, but you have certainly given me plenty to think about 😀 (I guess I can’t do somethings now – I have to wait till I launch the blog, but by the then, I would be prepared).

    Right now, I have a blog check list, and everyday I am trying to check one off 😀 It is slow, but it also gives me time to think and reflect on things I can do (and things I shouldn’t do) with my upcoming blog.

    Take for instance: my blog post back up plan. I am thinking about having at least 5-10 posts in reserve (just in case of emergencies). But, I am not sure how effective that plan will be (A lot of my plan depends upon my own schedule, and my schedule is determined by classes. Unfortunately, I only get to register for classes on Jan).

    Anyways, I do appreciate the post, Sherryl! Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Jeevan,
      Good luck with your blog and your classes. You do have a great start on social media whcih will be a huge help when you start blogging. Many of us already feel like we know you. 🙂

      Your plan to have 5-10 posts in reserve is great. I never seem to have posts drafted or scheduled ahead. Lots of times, I’m writing and publishing. What are you going to blog about? (I’ll be sure to check it out whatever topic it is.)

      As always, thanks for taking the time to let me know that you found value in my post. Documenting these things as you go along will be a lot easier than trying to gather all the info afterwards.

  6. I have the majority of those things written down. If something were to happen I could still figure out how to access them. However, if something were to happen to me I think it would pretty much go poof because I don’t think my family or friends would be able to piece it all together. Possibly some of it, but not all.

    I do make regular database backups, but not my files. I used to, but I have over a GB probably closer to 2 GBs of space being used in my hosting account. Even with a decent internet connection it takes too long to download. Every now and then I do backup the more important files, and skip the less important. For example I have a number of videos that consume a larger percentage of my web space. As long as I have them backed up to my computer already I don’t think it is necessary to download them on a regular basis. I really should go through them one of these days and get rid of some.

    1. Ray,
      I’m pretty much in the same situation as you. I could replicate my business and someone who is motivated could replicate it but I don’t see my family or friends committing the time to it. If anything, they could possibly sell the brand and site to someone.

      One of my clients has a 1 GB database. I have BackupBuddy installed and it FTPs her backup to my Amazon S3 storage. (Her’s just one of several sites that I have this set up on.) On the few occasions where I haven’t cleaned up those backups and I’ve exceeded my storage limit, I’ve ended up with a bill of about $1 (from Amazon). So, that process gives me peace of mind.

      One thing that this discussion has reminded me of is that I have not updated a hard copy of my documentation. I’m relying on being able to access my files online which would mean if I lost my Internet connection, even if I could access my info via my smartphone, it would be an unnecessary nightmare trying to retrieve everything.

  7. I do many fo the things you listed in your post. However, your list has uncovered some things I should be doing or thinking about. The one that sticks out is I know who I use to self host my blog but I have n ow idea how to get in contact with them if the worst should happen. I will re remedying the one for sure. Sadly, we often make a disaster plan just after one has occurred. 🙂

    1. Susan,
      I’m glad that my list uncovered some things that you may not have thought of. There really is a lot to keep track of! I just realized that I haven’t printed a hard copy recently and I know I’ve updated a few things. Having that information in hard copy in the case of a power outage would come in handy. I can just imagine sitting here accessing my site on my smartphone and missing a key piece of info if I needed to contact a vendor.

      Thanks for letting me know that it was helpful and thanks for triggering that thought in me! 🙂

  8. What a nice post, Sherryl – and a good reminder, too!

    I am ashamed to admit that for my own blog, i do nothing of the above (except regular backups online and on external hard drives; and i do have a password list and synchronized access on multiple machines).

    But when it comes to real business (mine or my clients’) – i am a control freak. Everything should be well documented – not only passwords but to-do lists, timelines what should be done when,. what has been done, when, by whom, etc. I also have all strategy docs and tactic plans in written, no matter how insignificant the task. It not only makes it easier to manage when i am not available – it also makes it VERY easy to introduce new team members – as we have everything there is in written, readily available for the new guy or gal to absorb and dive in to the company’s culture, environment and work. 😉

    1. Diana,
      You and I could so work together! I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to documentation too. It just simplifies life and saves so much time too. What’s your favorite tool for managing information? As much as I like Word, I could not live without Excel.

      1. OH, NO, i donl’t like excel much. i do use it for updating SEO related stuff (HubSpot released a few good templates that i am loving!) – but basically, i very heavily use dropbox desktop app – it makes it so easy to always have access to up-to-date version of docs at all times, on all devices; and also – multiple people can work on the same docs without having to save 138 final versions LOL – yes, i too think we so can work together; and maybe some day we will 😉

        1. Diana,
          I don’t use functions in the majority of my Excel spreadsheets. I use Excel more as a database. One of the things I like the most about it is that when I start keying a phrase (like a WP plugin name or the word “error”), it prompts me for the previous use. This adds an element of consistency of keywords that I can “find” or “sort” on.

          I also use Excel to track common steps in a process. That way, I can simply copy and paste them if I repeat them. (Since I format all of my client worksheets the same as my main blog worksheet, I can paste across all of them if I need to.)

          Thanks for letting us know that you use the dropbox desktop app. I can see how that would be especially helpful if multiple people are accessing the same documents. Since I’m the only one who updates my files, I simply email them to an account that I can access from my laptop. I also have an online storage account that I can email too. At the end of the day, when I’m closing my apps, I simply email my file to those two accounts and I’m good to go.

          As always, thanks for dropping by. Maybe we will collaborate on something some day. 🙂