How to avoid your biggest technology nightmare

Friday, 18 October 2013, 9:21 | Category : General
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We have another guest on the blog this week, whose experience is very pertinent to our army of “virtual” PR consultants. Francesca Geens founded Digital Dragonfly to offer technology advice to the growing number of independent professionals. Working with freelancers, consultants and virtual teams from all sectors, Digital Dragonfly gives those running their own businesses confidence in the tools they rely day to day- from email to backup to cloud working. Passionate about productivity and getting things done with the right tech tools she loves helping her clients achieve tech nirvana. 

Francesca headshot

As I write this to you I am actually experiencing my own technology nightmare, but to my relief it is proving a bit of a non-event. As a mainly home based IT consultancy that has its entire business in the cloud being cut off from the internet is actually my worst possible problem. But here we are on day 4 happily working away. Thanks to a generous data plan on my mobile contract I have been able to run all my devices from a personal hot-spot generated by my phone and the connection speed is surprisingly good. So far so good with Plan B. Plan C if necessary will mean going to a co-working space in Canterbury. I won’t bore you with the full detail of why my entire village in East Kent has been ‘offline’ for this length of time but it involved network rail severing ‘the’ line into the village…let’s just hope its been resolved by the time you read this.

Plan B definition highlighted in green and Plan A marked in the dictionary

But let’s focus on you and your business. What would be your worst nightmare and how can you make sure you can keep working no matter what?

For most of my clients it would mean losing all their data – access to emails, contacts, calendars, notes, invoices, accounting information, presentations, proposals…you get the picture. Would your business’s reputation or revenue suffer if you lost this data? You bet.

What’s the answer? Using the right combination of cloud services and a good backup plan.

In terms of overall productivity and business continuity a service like Office 365 offers a great solution to businesses of all sizes – I use it myself. Most people have their data fragmented into various accounts and not synced across devices- this makes it hard to back it up (and also makes you unproductive as you duplicate effort and waste time looking for information). A recent study found that on average in the UK data is split across as many as 14 devices (I do find that a surprisingly high number- you can only have that many peripherals, right?)- so the fewer accounts you have to configure and maintain the better.

I’m a big fan of bringing all your email, calendar, contact data into Outlook and using Office 365 to sync it and back it up online. You can access everything from a browser, it offers a huge mailbox (50GB) and a 99.9% uptime guarantee so even when all else fails at your end if you can get to a browser you can keep working. You also don’t have to worry about pesky Outlook .pst files which get very big and hard to backup. Mac users should note that it works a treat on Outlook for Mac too. So in terms of access to business essentials it doesn’t get much easier than Office 365- if you can get access to a computer or device that is connected to the internet you can keep working.

So that covers your Outlook data. What about the rest of your essential business documents? Using a service like Dropbox or Google Drive allows you to store all your documents, spreadsheets, photos etc locally on your computer but also automatically backup to your online account. For a bigger business or one which works with a virtual team you will want to look at something more robust like SharePoint Online which has much better version control and security features. All of these are a great way to get your data off-site and accessible through a browser – so that yet again you can keep working.

Once you have all our data into the right cloud solutions you still need to consider a more ‘old fashioned’ approach to backing up. Important data should always be backed up in more than one place- so think cloud + an external hard-drive. The advantages of a hard-drive is that it will be faster to restore your data and it is also available off line. As your business grows you’ll want to consider something a bit more complex but the same principle remains.

So be sure to spend some time looking at the different kinds of data you have, how you access it and how you can simplify your setup and eliminate down time by using the right combination of cloud and backup solutions. Basically you want to ultimately be hardware independent- it shouldn’t matter if your laptop gets stolen or you forget your Blackberry in the back of a taxi or which computer you decide to work on – with the right cloud tools your business can go anywhere you go and on any device. And that’s a great way to work. Unless obviously your entire broadband connection goes like it has in my case right now- but let’s be honest it’s always possible to get online somewhere these days, and if your business is portable it will be all the easier to keep working.

If you want to learn how to achieve tech nirvana in your business, you can download Francesca’s free e-book, “The Ultimate Guide to Technology for Independent Professionals”,  from the Digital Dragonfly website. Or email her for a chat: f@digitaldragonfly.co.uk

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