Dear FileSlinger clients, colleagues, and friends:
As any of you who have lost data in the past year will know, the best present you can give yourselves this holiday season is frequent, regular backups, now and in the year to come.
At this time of year, most of the Western world is thinking about lists. Lists of gifts to buy, lists of goals or resolutions for the New Year, lists of those to whom we need to send holiday or thank-you cards. (Not to mention all those “wish lists” that vendor sites like Amazon.com encourage you to create so other people can buy things for you.)
What would happen to you if you lost those lists? You could probably reconstruct your goals for the New Year. You probably know the addresses and phone numbers of your family members and closest friends by heart—or could get them from another family member.
But what about client contact information or newsletter subscribers? Those lists can easily run to hundreds, even thousands, of people. (Heck, I sent out 150 Solstice cards, and most of those were personal.)
Contact management programs like ACT! come with built-in backup options and reminders, and I encourage you to use them and to keep a copy of your contact backup on CD somewhere other than your office. (Like, say, a friend’s house or a safe-deposit box.)
As for your marketing databases, take it from the E-zine Queen herself—no matter who manages it for you, you need to back up your list. (See her article “There Goes My List!” for more specifics.)
Right now, my Backup Reminder List is a small one. I run it through my own website’s e-mail account feature. And even though my webhost has built-in redundancy and I can also create special website backups, I also keep a copy of it in a text file that gets saved along with all my other files, every time I start my computer. (That’s generally several times a day.)
Before too long, however, I will need to move this list to a more sophisticated distribution system such as Constant Contact, Topica, Aweber, or Ecomincs (which is rated highly for providing shopping cart as well as e-mail campaign/ autoresponder capabilities.) These services allow people to subscribe and unsubscribe themselves, and maintain the databases on their servers. (They also save you having to send massive numbers of messages out through your ISP, and they comply with the spam laws.)
All these companies probably have better backup systems than we do, but disaster can still strike them, and it’s best to keep a copy of your own list. You may not need to make a new one every week (unless you have a constant subscriber turnover), but once a month would be a good idea.
You do this by means of the “Export” feature. For example, suppose you use Constant Contact to manage your e-mail campaigns and you want to back up your list. Log in, click “Subscribers & Lists,” and then click “Export.” This takes you to a page where you can choose which information to export and whether to export to Comma Separated Values or to text. (You will usually want CSV.) Your browser will download the file to your hard drive automatically.
To make your backup, just copy the file onto a disk or external drive. (You might want to rename it or put it in a special folder so you remember what it is.) Then if you ever need to re-import your list of subscribers, you can. (This is also handy if you decide to switch from one list provider to another.)
Next week I’ll be talking about End of Year backups. Until then, go forth and back up!
Remember, if are getting rid of an old computer and want to deduct it from your 2004 taxes, you need to drop it off before the end of December. That means removing your data from it first!
And if you’re getting a new computer and want to deduct it from your 2004 taxes, you have one week left to shop. Call me if you need help.