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After weeks of arctic weather, along came the thaw and, with it, a plethora of burst pipes.

A flood can be devastating for businesses in many ways – lost stock, no premises to trade from, etc. Something else to consider is how your business would cope if your data was lost - and not just by means of a flood, but perhaps through theft.

Ian Burton of Apket (Scotland) Ltd (www.aptek.co.uk) based in Heiton is a consultant to businesses on a whole range of IT-related subjects. Here’s his advice on all things data:

“There are two aspects to the problem: data loss and data theft, fundamentally similar problems and solutions. Your data might be stolen by a competitor, an aggrieved employee, an employee taking it with them to their new employer, or someone after the hardware.

“Whichever it is, data must be secured in such a way that its protection is commensurate with its value. Everyone who has access to the data must be made aware that its theft is not acceptable and may have consequences, both to the company but also to themselves.

“Only allow access to data to those who need it, and change passwords regularly. Consider physically securing your data – place it in a safe. Keep it on a server that is hidden away under lock and key.

“Encrypt the data, but remember that highly-encrypted data is of no use if you forget the password. Take a copy and put it in a fire safe, offsite preferably. Ban USB drives and pen drives. Make sure windows and doors are locked, close blinds at the end of the day, and physically lock machines.

“Data can be lost for a number of reasons: corruption, hardware failure, theft or fire. Once data is lost you have the problem of how to recover it, or to reverse the question, how do you make sure you still have a copy?

“There are few businesses that have no useful data on their computers. For personal computers the answer is nearly always yes.

“You should always look to store your backup offsite. If there is a fire, robbery or any other travesty, having the original data and the copy in the same vicinity renders the backup useless.

“Just some of the backup options available include hard drives and memory cards. These are very popular among smaller companies; the key thing to remember is to use equipment that is dedicated to the task. Do not also use the drive for other activities. You can manually back files up by dragging them to the drive or preferably using a program that automatically makes the back-up.

“Use at least two drives, that way only one of them is on site at any one time.

“There are a variety of online services available. The better ones come with software that allows you to select what files you want to back up and when.

“Make sure you research your provider: do you trust them to look after your data? Will they still be in business when your equipment fails?

“If you have access to an external server then you can store files there. However, be cautious storing sensitive data on your web server - you would hate it to become public.

“If you are using mobile devices such as a smartphones, a tablet or a notebook, be sure to back them up. How often have you been on a business trip and that file you took with you now has a raft of updates from the meetings you held, or you have created a new document with a customer’s order details?

“Most mobile devices have back-up software shipped with them, so remember to use it! Think laterally – if you are away, send a copy to an email account you can check once you are back in the office.

“When developing a back-up strategy, consider that both your hard-copy documents and electronic documents need to be kept safe! Here’s a quick test to check if you are in good shape: switch off the machine in front of you and think, if this machine was not here, how would I get to the files that are currently on it.”

Definitely food for thought – thanks for the info, Ian.

Andrew McEwan of The Web Workshop in Morebattle (www.thewebworkshop.net) designs websites, builds brands, produces videos, and markets businesses in the Borders and beyond.