Backup – an investment, NOT an expense

by | Feb 17, 2012 | Business, Quick Skills

Last week I called a doctor’s office of which I am not an existing patient and I booked an appointment for 9 am this morning. When I showed up they had no record of me. Apparently, they suffered a major computer crash a couple of days earlier and lost at least a couple of days’ worth of data, including all of their bookings and obviously their customer database.

This place had five or six computers in the reception area, a computer in every room, and several thousand dollars in monitor arms and other medical equipment. They had Windows 7 on every desktop that I saw. They obviously are not afraid to spend money on technology and they appear to see the value in having a nice clean, professional, high-tech medical office with up to date, secure operating systems.

So what the hell happened to their data?

All I can do is speculate here, but I’m going to guess that whoever installed all of this great equipment for them severely neglected the backup system. Thousands of dollars in new equipment and monitor arms, and I would assume more thousands in service to install it all, but the backup system left me standing at the reception desk this morning repeating my first and last name to the medical office assistant as she re-entered me into the computer. It was by pure luck that I still got to see the doctor, who was great by the way.

If this was a customer of Smart Dolphins they would have lost an hour’s worth of data in a worst case scenario. The day they signed up with us, we’d order them an amazing new backup system and we’d install it for them as part of our monthly fee. This type of crash would be nearly impossible. Our backup system backs up every single hour of every day, and we monitor it 24/7 to ensure that it is always working. Backup problems (which are rare) are caught and resolved on the same day because we give them a very high priority.

I bet this crash cost them over $10,000-$20,000 in wasted staff productivity and missed appointments, and that’s extremely conservative. I’m also guessing they probably aren’t able to quantify it. I bet it also cost them some customer satisfaction, as people would have shown up for appointments only to be turned away. Perhaps some of those customers never return and thus further thousands of dollars in revenue over the next decade are lost. Perhaps word of mouth from a dissatisfied customer costs them referrals, and more thousands of dollars.

All because the backup system wasn’t robust enough. It’s probably because it wasn’t valued enough when it was put in. It’s probably because somebody treated the backup system as an expense, rather than valuing it for the investment that it truly is. Sadly this is not the first time I have visited a doctor’s office on a day where they were recovering from data loss.

It wouldn’t even surprise me if a doctor put it in given what I’ve seen in the past. The amount of doctors in Victoria that think ‘IT on the side’ is a good use of their time is just astounding to me. That’s a whole other discussion though which I won’t get into today and I’m going to assume this isn’t the case.

There’s two points to all this:

  1. When you neglect things like your backup system (or your security, as another example), the risk you take on is exponentially more expensive than whatever those solutions would have cost in the first place. Well planned technology is not an expense, it is an investment in your company’s health and well-being. It keeps your highly paid employees working, it keeps your manufacturing or services from grinding to a halt, and it keeps your customers happy.
  2. You should be demanding that your IT provider take these things seriously. If your backup system seems cheap then it probably is, and the results will show. If they don’t understand point #1 then I would fire them immediately and find somebody who does, because all they are doing is putting your business and the livelihood of you and your employees in jeopardy.