websites disappeared

Saving Your Practice (and Sleeping at Night)

Before I ever started working in healthcare or patient empowerment and advocacy, I almost learned this lesson the hard way.

It was 2002. I owned a small marketing company – among the first-ever marketers to focus on small business web marketing.

I managed about 15 websites in all, including my own sites, all hosted by the same company. In those days we didn’t worry about hackers or security; just space and bandwidth. There was no such term or description as “the cloud”.

My business was growing. The web was booming! And I never gave “security” a moment’s thought, until…

One morning I sat down at my desk, logged on, and discovered all 15 websites were gone. MIA. Vanished.

If you tried to access them online, you got a “no such website at this address” error message.

Panic began to set in, as you can imagine…. which takes me to today’s TIP.

What would you do if your website, and even more so, all your clients’ files and information simply disappeared? 

The question – and the basis for today’s tip – do you have that information backed up? Do you have records redundancy? If your online applications or files disappeared tomorrow, would you have a way to recover it all?

This seems to be one of those lessons everyone learns the hard way!  I’ve had conversations with advocates who have told me they were writing something (but never SAVED along the way), or they digitized client information, or they retrieved client records – and then their computer died and their files were no longer recoverable. OMG. 

And so – today’s tip is just that:  to be sure your records – everything you hold digitally about a client or about your business – is constantly and consistently backed up. And then, be sure your backups have redundancy.

There is no such thing as backing up too much or in too many places!

Here are some guidelines:

  • As you work on documents at any time, set them to “autosave” or just hit the SAVE button (or use keyboard shortcuts) constantly. In particular, never shut down your computer, or walk away from your desk without saving what you’re working on.
  • Invest in a cloud backup system that will save your local computer work. I use iDrive but there are many other systems. (APHA members can find a list here.)  They can usually be set to back up daily or in real time – your preference. (I back up daily.) The great thing about this backup is that my files can be retrieved through any computer or device from anywhere in the world. Very useful when I your work to the cloud
  • Invest in a cloud backup system for any online files you keep, too, such as your website. For this I use UpdraftPlus which backs up all our APHA and PracticeUP! websites. This backup is separate from the backup of my computer files. It means, however, that if any of our websites go down, or are hacked, or get messed up in some way, I will always have a recent version that is 100% intact. (Which, BTW, I fell back on just two weeks ago when one of our websites didn’t update properly and went askew.)
  • If your backups will involve clients’ personal information, then be sure the cloud storage you use is HIPAA compliant.
  • Periodically, back up your computer hard drive (at least your documents, images, or other files you have generated) to an external hard drive, on your desk (you can buy a terabyte of storage for less than $60.)  I back up to my local external hard drive quarterly. I create a folder with the year and month, then do a completely new backup. That way I also have an archive of files.

Here are the benefits to all this backing up:

  • In most cases, you can almost set-it-and-forget-it. Except for the quarterly external drive backup, the rest take care of themselves.
  • All that backing up and redundancy helps me sleep at night!  (Can you imagine how much sleep I would have lost since 2002?) It will help you sleep at night, too.
  • If something does go awry, then it won’t take long to retrieve from your back-ups. Your practice will not be ruined by a loss. Your client will never know the difference, and you’ll be thankful you took steps to confirm redundancy.

So – if you are wondering what ever happened in 2002 with all those websites… well… In those days, the way websites were built was by creating a file on your computer, then moving it into your web hosting space. Build a page, move it online. Build another page, or edit a page, move it online. Over and over again. That meant that I had all 15 websites on my local computer – so they weren’t totally lost. It was its own backup system.

I did learn that the hosting company had gone out of business overnight. With no warning to their customers, they simply pulled the plug on their hosting servers – and poof!  Gone.

The first thing I did was to notify my clients to tell them what had happened, what I was doing about it, that I anticipated their websites would be down for a day, and that I would be back in touch as soon as their site was back online.

Then, I found a new hosting company, and moved all those sites back online by uploading them the way I always had. Within a day of their disappearance, they were all live again. I was happy (although totally miffed at the original hosting company that had disappeared with not just my websites, but the money I had paid them too!) More importantly, my clients were happy.

As Gramma used to say – let this be a lesson! (And don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Don’t learn the hard way!  Back up and be redundant. It’s SOOO worth the effort!


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