Did you ever hear the story about the writer who suffered a computer hard-drive crash and lost two chapters of a book he was writing in the process? No? I wish I didn’t either.
It was several years ago and I was writing the third edition of my best-selling book, The Small Business Bible. That was an arduous task because, in the few years between the second and third editions, the small business landscape changed dramatically. In the second edition of the book, for example, the only social media site I mentioned was MySpace. So yes, there was a lot of new things to say in the third edition.
My publisher was anxious to get the book finished so we agreed on an aggressive publication timeline. It was all going great—until that ill-fated day when I opened up my ThinkPad and saw the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.
I tried not to panic, but at that time, my only “backup system” was emailing chapters of the book to my Yahoo email account–and there were two chapters that I still hadn’t emailed to myself. I took the laptop down to my local computer geek and was told that I was probably out of luck. Those two chapters represented about 40 hours of work. The tech determined that my hard drive crash was likely fatal. My only option would be to send it to an “ISO clean room.”
Five days and $1,200 days later, I got the data off of my hard drive including the missing two chapters. Whew.
Apparently, I needed to learn my lesson the hard way, but learn it I did. Now, needless to say, I back up my computer daily, via the cloud, using Carbonite. Aside from needing to back up to protect my data from theft, disasters and random acts of unkindness, I also back up regularly now to mitigate the risk of a ransomware attack.
Do you know about ransomware yet? If not, you should. For those of you who don’t know, ransomware is a type of malware that gets surreptitiously installed onto your computer, usually through malicious email links or attachments.
What makes ransomware different and more severe than your average computer virus? The answer is right in the name. Once these viruses are installed onto your computer, they encrypt your files and hold them for “ransom.” If you don’t pay the fee, the malware will destroy all of your files for good. And if you do pay the fee, there’s no real guarantee you’ll get the files back. These are cybercriminals you’re dealing with, after all.
What does this have to do with your small business? Well, everything. Ransomware attacks cost small to medium-sized businesses an estimated $75 billion per year. To make matters worse, there are very few things you can do once you have been hit by ransomware. In many cases, calling up your IT guy won’t work because the programs are so crafty and invasive. Because ransomware can get installed in sneaky and hard-to-notice ways, the best course of action is to simply take preventative measures. Luckily, there are two good ones:
- Antivirus software: Make sure you have reliable security software installed on your computer, and make extra sure that you’re keeping it up-to-date. This is not just a good suggestion; it should be seen as a required action.
- Backup, backup, backup. The great news is that these days, backing up is a lot easier than emailing data to yourself. Always-on programs like Carbonite back up your data continuously. So, even if you are somehow hit by ransomware or a failing hard drive, you will always have a clean, current copy of your book, err, I mean data.