COMPUTER DISASTER PREPAREDNESS
Every property management company should have a plan to deal with man-made or natural disasters. Having a business continuity plan in place is crucial for any business, and especially important in property management. Property managers are asset managers who manage many millions of dollars in assets for other people with little regulation or legal requirements. The property owner hands over an asset which is of substantial value to a property manager who is not required to have any experience or property management knowledge. This property manager then places residents in this valuable asset, collects rent, remits funds and deals with repairs. It is somewhat scary how unregulated property management really is. A mutual fund manager or any type of money manager has to undergo vigorous training, education, bonding and licensing, but a property manager does not even need a license to manage property. The only time a license is necessary is if the manager is engaged in leasing, and even then, a real estate broker’s or sales person’s license suffices. Needless to say, the responsibility is huge, and potential liability is great for a property manager and the broker of the property management company. All property managers should immediately begin planning for a natural or manmade disaster, and there is something they can and must do immediately to reduce their liability, protect their business, and protect the information concerning the asset that they manage. This first step is protection of computer data.
The Typical Property Manager
The typical property manager does engage in some sort of data protection, be it an external back up hard drive, tape drive, CD or DVD burner, or some sort of simple means to copy data from a computer to something else for later use. Some managers take the tape or CD home, some place it in a safe in the office or simply on a shelf. In most instances, if there is data loss on a server or a desktop, the property manager has a back up available and can be up and running quickly with little to no downtime. Is that back up recent? Probably not. Most property managers who engage in some sort of backing up only do so once a week if that. Since backing up often requires the computer file not to be in use at the time of back up, you would most likely need to be the last person working in the office in order to back up that important data file in your property management or accounting software.
What happens if your office burns to the ground, is swept away in a flood or a thief decides he want to take all your computers, your safe and your server? None of this happens in Florida, right? Well, many property managers have insurance for their equipment. Computers can be easily replaced, and you will probably end up with better equipment than you did before the incident. The problem though is your data. Your financial data, move in and move out inspections, photos, file notes and everything pertaining to the relationship between the resident, owner and you may have disappeared or been destroyed. Sure, you can reconstruct all the financial records to a large extent, as your bank certainly has the information, but at what cost in time and money? How can you replace the file notes? What about all your digital photos of the properties you manage? They may all be gone.
The Simple Solution
Off-site back up, also known as remote data storage, is the simplest and most economical solution to these problems and the first step in a disaster recovery plan. Hundreds of companies exist now that provide safe, inexpensive storage of all your data in a remote safe location. Your computer is simply hooked up to them through the internet, and they keep all the data that you send them safe, secure and accessible to you when you need it.
What To Back Up?
Have your technical support person help you with deciding what information should be backed up. Most programs are useless when backed up, plus take a load of space in the back up, but data, scans of your file, photos, property inspection reports, emails and anything you can think of that you would need to refer back to should be backed up. You should have a plan for safekeeping of your program files, because many programs can only be installed once in one computer to avoid piracy problems. Convincing your software company that your office burned down and you need to reinstall the programs is possible, but can take hours on the phone.
How Often Do You Back Up?
Your first back up will be your largest, and then you back up changed and new files on a regular basis. Our office backs up data every single night. Since the nightly back ups are new and changed files, each nightly back up is fairly quick. It is set to back up at a specific time, and nothing is necessary on our end to accomplish the back up. The back up occurs when the office is closed, and no one is using any of the databases or computers.
Making Sure You Are Really Backing Up
It is easy to assume that you are backing up each night and that the information is going to the offsite data storage company. After all, you set it up, tested it, and it worked. The problem is that often there are network, internet, software or hardware problems which could result in your back up never occurring. Installing a firewall, changing a setting or installing that new anti-virus software could result in your back up not working. Some companies email you a report each morning showing that your back up was successful, but many do not. Remember that you only need to retrieve backed up data when you really NEED it. That is when you might find out that you have not really been backing up for weeks or months. Always confirm that your off-site back ups are in fact occurring as you expect. When restoring data, always call your technical support person if you have any doubts. You may have a corrupted data base and then restore another corrupted database, or ruin files in the restoration process.
Should You Discontinue Your Usual In-House Back ups?
We don’t. We back up to an external hard drive connected to the network on a regular basis just to have that one additional back up. This back up is done once a week on the weekends. Paranoia is a good thing when it comes to data!!
Let Your Owners Know How You Safeguard Data!
One of the selling points of a property management company is to have a disaster recovery plan which includes off-site data back up. Your owners know the risks of operating a business in Florida, and data loss will be one less thing that you and they have to worry about. Let your owners know that you have joined the ranks of the successful professional property management companies who ALWAYS back up their data off-site.
- The Curable Noncompliance Examined PART 1
- THE CURABLE NONCOMPLIANCE EXAMINED PART 2
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION – WHAT IT IS
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION AND THE FULL UNIT
- WORK ORDER COMPANY POLICY AND THE LAW