For many of us in the Northeast, Sandy was our first taste of massive destruction and outages that businesses in the South and Midwest know too well. Many franchisees lost power for over a week, faced floods, and even saw their stores and homes destroyed. Hopefully all will be rebuilt, equipment will be replaced and things will get back to normal. But what if you lost your Radiant site controller, or your manager’s workstation, or even worse your main computer that has all of your QuickBooks files, employee files, and bank files?

If Dunkin’ Loss Prevention, The Department of Labor, or the IRS serves you with an audit notice and you do not have these critical files, there is no insurance policy that will help you out of this costly situation. Fines can rise to the tens of thousands of dollars very quickly.

In my pre-Dunkin’ days I was an executive with IBM, providing disaster recovery to our clients’ critical data. These companies understood the importance of having a disaster recovery program in place, but they also had full time CIO’s and very deep pockets. So where does that leave the small business owner with one store or a network of 20 stores who has no IT staff and a much more modest budget?

Let’s look at a few options that could save you and your data. 

1. Radiant has provided a backup of your site controller to the manager’s workstation. However, in most cases, these two machines are in the same office and if you lose one you probably will lose both.

2. You could burn a CD of your manager’s workstation and your main office computer once a month and take it home. The problem with the CD is you have to remember to back it up, and large amounts of data may not fit on one CD; the same is true of USB thumb drives.

3. External hard drives are increasingly popular due to their low price and the ability to automatically set back-ups of your computer. But what if you have a network of 5 stores? That would require 5 hard drives plus the one for your office machine, and if you have an iPad you are not going to walk around with a hard drive attached to it all day long. Plus, the drive will be housed in the same location as the computer increasing the chance that if you lose the computer, you lose the backup drive.

4. Online or “cloud” backup, which until recently was reserved for Fortune 500 companies because of the cost, has now become a cheap give-away for large internet service providers. But, most offer only 2 gigabytes (GB) of space which may be inadequate for your businesses. The other issue is that your data at work may be stored by one company and your office machine by another. On the positive side, the backup process takes place automatically and can be set to run daily, weekly, or continuously. Since the process runs in the background, this takes the human factor out of the equation.

If online backup is truly the best solution, how do you choose between storage space provided by your internet provider, those you find through online search, or those which advertise on the radio? I spent the better part of a weekend researching each of the major companies to determine which would best suit my company’s needs.

I wanted a solution that would cover each of my locations: my office machine, my wife’s business computer and the three computers we have at home. I wanted something easy to set up; something that required no human interaction after the initial install. I also wanted a company with a proven track record.

I ended up going to a number of the larger firms that provide off-site data storage capabilities. These firms are consistently  data storage solutions and all meet the strict encryption protection required by the banking and credit card industry. They offer an easy-to-use platform, good customer service and the ability to operate completely automatically. The difference between them is price, which becomes a real factor when your network has more than two locations.

Some charged monthly based on the per-computer cost and the amount of storage, which I thought could end up costing me far too much money for my eight computers. In fact, one of the proposed solutions would have cost as much as $1,800 for the year. There are others however, that allow for an unlimited number of computers with 250 GB of storage for as little as a couple of hundred dollars annually. That was an easy decision for me at that point – all 8 of my computers with a total of 250GB of available space for under $300 per year—a bargain considering the benefits and peace of mind.

After I made my decision, it took less than 10 minutes to download and set up each computer, specifying which files I wanted to add or remove from the backup set. The solution also provided the ability to remotely monitor each computer and the amount of data being stored, using either a web browser or a smartphone app. The app displays all of the files that were backed up on each machine. You can open and view the file or email it. For example, if you created a file at one store, you could instantly see the file and send it to another store without being in either location.

The system will also send you an email if one of the computers fails to backup for any reason. The software is fairly small, intuitive even for a novice and I have not seen any changes in the performance of my machines (except during the initial backup which could take 24 hours if you don’t have a high-speed connection).

After using the service for the last four months, I have been extremely pleased with both the solution and the company’s 24/7 customer service. In fact, customer service representatives will gladly help walk you through the process of setting up your account and each computer on the phone. Or you can allow them remote control of your computer and they will set it up for you.

Regardless of the solution you choose, backing up your data is critical—not just when disaster strikes.

Adam Goldman is a DD franchise owner with a successful multi-store network in upper New Jersey. Contact him at njddonuts@gmail.com.