There is an interesting discussion this morning on Chinwag about data being held by third party companies, eg email service providers. This has resulted in an article written by Mark Lesbirel on ESPs, which is a must read if you outsource your email marketing, although it focuses more on the security of information and compromising the integrity of your customer data rather than outright loss of data.

Which once again raises the issue about cloud computing and the security of your data.

If you use Gmail or Hotmail, for instance, as your email provider, should their servers go down, then because they are a web-based service, you have just lost access to your email, including all your addresses. Should (unlikely but possible in the current economic climate) your webmail service provider go under, unless you have been rigorous in backing up your data to an email client on your own machine, you have just lost everything. All your archived emails, addresses – GONE!

I blogged 6 months ago about the need to back up your website, and of course hosting companies are another source for potential catastrophe if you have not backed up your data. A brief reminder – you do have the latest copy of your website in a safe place, don’t you????

Taking this further out into the cloud, many people are using social media and cloud applications for a multitude of tasks and marketing activities. Whether this is marketing through Facebook or Ning, or using online document package such as Google apps, or an ASP for CRM, accounts or similar, it is becoming ever more apparent that many do not give a second thought to back ups of the data held on such services.

The collapse of Google does not seem imminent, but there are many companies providing services to small/ medium businesses, as well as gigantic corporations, who could easily fold with little or no warning. This would make your valuable data extremely hard to rescue.

We treat data quite casually these days, with the assumption that wherever it is, it is safe. Pretty much as we assume that the worst is not going to happen in our homes and that fire/flood/theft will not occur, and are lax at considering how precious some of our belongings may prove if lost, we can be equally as ‘negligent’ with business critical data.

The worst case scenario may occur. Not saying it will, but it might, and you need to be prepared for that to happen. If you lost every email address of your customers, how much might it cost you? If your website hosting provider vanished in a puff of smoke, what would be the cost of lost business, as well as rebuilding the site? If you are holding business critical data on third party servers, then consider carefully how secure it is from a) prying eyes and b) unexpected loss.

Look at where your data is held and how safe it is, and then BACK IT UP!!

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