Although the jewellery making part of running a jewellery business is what we all like to think about, there are administrative and IT tasks that can’t be ignored. And, as Bronagh Miskelly, the London Jewellery School marketing co-ordinator, recently proved if you run a small business you can never have too many back ups – whether electronic or on paper.
It was a moment of utter panic and despair.
My laptop had died – something very expensive to fix had happened and now it didn’t even turn on. For someone who, apart from working for LJS, is a freelance writer and designs and edits knitting patterns it meant that my business had disappeared or at least it could have.
I’d lost my current work, my archive, my accounts, my emails, my design photographs, my notes and scanned sketches, etc, etc.
Or so I thought.
Then I took a deep breath and realised that although I did have the costly job of getting a new computer, I hadn’t in fact lost it all. I had back ups.
In the past, I’ve wondered if I worry too much about back ups or use to many internet based services but after this experience I’ve learnt that backing up can save you a lot of heartache and a lot of money.
And, don’t forget, it won’t be much fun doing your tax return if you are missing the books for your jewellery business.
So, here are some suggestions about protecting your vital information, based on what has worked for me.
I have an external hard drive that I regularly plug into my laptop. It is essentially a black box with its own power supply that connects to the laptop via a USB cable. When it is connected I use the back up option in the System and Security menu in the Control Panel on my laptop to make a copy of everything on my hard drive (including the installers for any software). I can then keep the hard drive in a different place from my laptop so that it is unlikely they would both be lost or damaged at the same time.
If you do plan to buy an external hard drive, you need to check it is suitable for your computer. If, like me, you have friends or family who work in IT get their advice on what to buy and how to make a back up. If not this article might be a good place to start.
Ideally you should make a new back up very regularly but I fully admit to getting a bit lax in the past. Luckily though, I had run a back up just days before the demise of my laptop so it was pretty well up to date.
Having the back up meant I could copy all my files on to my new computer and reinstall all my software – well almost all my software. I have file (paper, not on my hard drive) with the product codes for any software I have bought which means I can type in the code when I reinstall the software and don’t need to buy a new copy. Unfortunately, I had mislaid/misfiled one invoice, which meant I had to buy new photo editing software but it could have been a lot worse.
This is the term of all the services allowing you to save your files online such as Microsoft’s Skydrive, Dropbox, Google Drive and Apple iCloud. Once you have an account with a cloud service you can log on from any computer, plus smartphones and tablets to access your files.
I use Dropbox which has a free version allowing you store up to 2Gb of files online and you can download an app to your computer which means you can just open a folder to access the files you have stored online. I back up all my work files, my accounts, invoices and photographs, which meant I was able to access them from someone else’s computer why I was waiting for my new one.
Top tips for IT back up
Invest in an external hard drive
Set a reminder on your phone to regularly back up your computer on to your external hard drive
Sign up for a cloud account and make sure copies of your important files are saved there
Keep a record of the product codes for any software you have bought – this could be on paper in a diary or on an excel file (saved to your cloud folder – not on your computer)
And finally don’t think about the small amount of time you will have to put into setting up a good back up system as wasted or time that could be better used making or selling. Think of it as investing in not having to reconstruct your accounts from scratch or losing your mailing for good.