NBC’s hit television show Friends is still popular 13 years after its series finale. Why? It’s relatable, even in the behavioral health world. There’s an episode of Friends where Phoebe has to tell Monica that the cookie recipe she coveted was destroyed in the fire that burned Phoebe’s apartment.
Phoebe: I just went to my old apartment to get you the cookie recipe and the stupid fire burned it up.
Monica: No! Why didn’t you make a copy and keep it in a fireproof box at least 100 yards away from the original?
Phoebe: Because I’m normal!
But protecting your data isn’t weird. Whether it’s a family recipe, financial paperwork, or protected health information (PHI), a working back up system is a must.
Is Backing Up Company Data Really Necessary?
There are multiple factors that can cause data loss. By taking the time to protect your company’s data, you can make sure that data loss will not cripple your organization if it occurs.
It’s helpful to be aware of the various causes of data loss:
- System/hardware failure: Older or faulty machines can take valuable data with them when they inevitably stop working.
- Human error: Mistakes such as accidental deleting, or a failure to save can result in data loss.
- Natural Disaster: Disasters such as floods, fires, storms, etc. can ruin the machines your data is stored on or the buildings it’s in.
- Virus/Malware: Opening emails from unknown senders or clicking on ads from an unfamiliar website can result in a virus infecting your computer.
While some data might be able to be recovered once it’s lost, it’s never guaranteed. By having a backup system in place, you don’t have to worry about what will happen if you lose data.
What You Should Back Up
Now that I’ve convinced you to back up your data, I’m sure you’re wondering what you should be backing up. While it’s often easier to back up all of your information, you can also pick and choose what to back up. It all depends on how important the data is. Most organizations choose to back up financial information, patient information, and services rendered. Some details might also require more frequent backups or additional locations.
How to Have a Successful Back Up
A lot of the responsibility of backing up data falls on the IT department. In order to make sure it runs smoothly, there are a few things to consider:
- Make sure that there are multiple locations-both electronic and physical. Perhaps, the most widely known aspect of protecting your data is to have multiple locations. Having multiple electronic locations protects against any malware or viruses that infect your system. Multiple electronic locations aren’t enough, you also need to have multiple physical locations to protect against disasters (fire, hurricane, etc.)
- Use an automated system to back up regularly. Your system should automatically complete regular backups. It is up to your organization how often you back up your data. Some choose to do so daily, weekly, or monthly. You can back up data as often or as infrequently as you want. Be sure to stick to a regular schedule and consider the hindrance on your organization if you were to lose data before your next backup.
- Select a HIPAA compliant system. When backing up information in the medical field, it’s also necessary to consider how secure the system is. In order to be HIPAA compliant, the content of your data must be protected to ensure the privacy of your clients and employees.
- Test the system regularly. What would you do if you lost your data and then realized your back up didn’t work? Probably panic. That is why it’s important to test your back up data. Periodically perform maintenance on your system to make sure everything is working. This includes checking the mechanical aspects of the system, the accuracy of the backup copy, and the process of implementing the backup copy into your organization’s work flow.
While they’re the ones that will put the actual back up into action, it’s a team effort to successfully protect your data. Other departments need to employ safe internet practices and alert the IT department quickly if there are any issues.
Backing Up Personal Data
Backing up personal data, it is equally important. When backing up personal data, you can use USBs or online databases. Though old-fashioned, printing out materials is also an option. If you choose to print information, make sure it’s kept in a safe place and that you have multiple electronic copies.
Some computer programs like Microsoft Word will automatically save a backup of your document in case of an unexpected crash. There are also several free tools that will help you to recover lost information if you need it.
These tools are ideal for working with personal data; however, when handling your organization’s information, they might not be HIPAA compliant or large enough to hold your data.
It’s Not a Cookie Recipe, But Almost as Important
To protect your data, it must be backed up. It not only secures your information, but will also offer you peace of mind to know that you won’t lose vital details.