With our heavy reliance on computers and electronic information today, it's easy to see why we would be worried about keeping our data safe. Natural disasters, information theft or even mechanical failures of the computer system can wreak havoc on your rental business operations. What's the best way to stay protected and keep your data intact and your operations running smoothly?
Twenty years ago, when business records were kept on paper documents and in ledgers, it was easy for a rental business to protect and secure its information in locked, fireproof files and safes. There was little risk of wholesale record theft, primarily because of the volume of the records. With the advent of computers, however, new risks have developed.
"If your rental business uses a comprehensive rental computer system, all of your financial data resides in your computer," says Jack Shea, president of Solutions by Computer (SBC) Inc. "This information includes rental inventory quantities, costs and status information, customer invoices, accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, history records, equipment out on rent, reservation information, special customer rates and so on.
"Think of what you would have to go through to replace those records if you had no backups, and your computer was completely destroyed in a fire," he continues. "It would take hundreds of hours to reconstruct the information, if it were possible at all."
And if someone - a just-fired employee, for example - stole the information, not only do you lose the information, but you put your customers at risk as well.
There are two ways for rental businesses to protect their data. The first is by making sure they have a backup process. "With a backup process in place, being able to recover data in the case of a mechanical or natural disaster is important to the success of your business," says Tim Kennedy, vice president of development and support for WennSoft.
The second is to protect the customers and the company from electronic attacks. "Electronic attacks are difficult to deal with and they can cost money, but they are a reality for this industry," continues Kennedy. "Being protected against these threats will help protect your business so you can stay in business."
Taking steps to ensure that you can keep your rental business running in the event of a natural disaster - be it tornado, hurricane, flood or fire - or even a mechanical failure is an important operational function for your company.
According to Bob Shaffer with Point-of-Rental Systems, all permanently stored data in your computer system is on the "hard" drive. This drive uses magnetic platters that revolve up to 15,000 rpm to store data. Magnetic sensors situated a few microns over the platters scan the surface reading and writing data.
"Hey, it's mechanical," he explains. "Given time, something bad might happen, resulting in a disk ‘crash' and irretrievable data. If you have a recent backup of all the data on the drive, just install the new disk drive and transfer the data from the backup. If you don't have a backup, then all your programs, customers, inventory, history and transactions are gone."
While each computer system has its own method of securing its backup system, there are various media storage options to back up data. According to Shea with SBC, the most commonly used backup systems are tape drives. "These are economical, self-contained units that can store up to eight gigabytes of data on a single tape," he says. "They offer flexible scheduling, verification of data and reporting. Most businesses schedule these procedures to run overnight."
Some computer systems provide ongoing duplication of computer data. Redundant Array of Independent Drives (RAID) can be two independent disk drives set up to mirror one another. "If one of these drives ‘crash' you won't miss a beat since the other in all probability works," says Shaffer with Point-of-Rental. "In that case, simply replace the defective unit and you're ready for the next ‘crash.'