Surviving Information Loss from Storm Damage
Residents of the East Coast of the United States are still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, which left homes and businesses across New York and New Jersey devastated and destroyed, losing many lives in the process. As the low-lying areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island, and the Jersey shore were flooded, the destruction took millions of dollars in housing, equipment, personal belongings, and merchandise. One area of significant damage where the recovery is less simple, however, is in lost data, paperwork and one-of-a-kind documents.
Businesses working to recover from Sandy are not only facing the lost revenue, merchandise and equipment. Some of them are battling to clean up destroyed storefronts and offices; others lost merchandise stored in flooded warehouses. For others, while the offices may now be functional, there’s another loss that’s still damaging: Years of client history or financial records, stored in flooded basements.
In New York City, several large websites (including the Gawker network) and corporations (such as Verizon) were taken down when flooding resulted in damage to their data centers. But while these were eventually recovered, it’s the sodden manila folders and unreadable carbon papers all over the tristate area that will be forever lost to Sandy and her wrath.
What can businesses do in the future to prevent themselves from losing valuable data and information during a storm? Here are some simple tips, thanks to the benefits of using online software to manage day-to-day business transactions, planning and most importantly, storing customer data and information:
1. Manage your business contacts online
In the past, losing your house to flood or fire damage also meant losing your prized “black book” or Rolodex. Even if you still insist on collecting business cards when networking, make sure you enter them all into an online system so they can be stored and accessed from anywhere. Both Windows and Mac OS have in-built contact tracking systems that can sync with your email program and smartphone. Track them in your BlackBerry, your iPhone, your Outlook, or even in an Excel spreadsheet. Just make sure there’s a way you can access them no matter what, no matter where (this means back up!).
2. Store important files in a cloud storage system
The debates are still raging about cloud storage, and it’s unlikely that any business has the entire contents of their company database stored online at this stage. But with the rise of free sharing systems such as Dropbox, Amazon and Google Drive for storing information with a consistent backup, it’s worth investing for vital files that are required for access at all times. For those companies who lost power and hence, access to their data servers for a week or more during the hurricane, it was the availability of those files that were stored elsewhere – on Dropbox, or in Google docs – that enabled employees to continue working productively.
3. Store credit card information using online software
Billing numerous customers at once isn’t easy, and neither is tracking their credit card information when they’re prepared to be debited on a regular basis. Some businesses have devised their own primitive methods, whether it’s storing credit card information in client files and manually processing it monthly, or keeping photocopies on file. Keep your client data secure by storing it using an encrypted data program, such as E-Complish’s RecurPay software, which enables you to take ongoing payments from customers on a regular basis. Awkwardly calling a client for updated credit card details when the file goes missing is no longer an issue – and neither is the fraud or theft fiasco when it happens.
4. Send customers email invoices and receipts
There’s nothing worse for a customer than tracking hundreds of old invoices, bills and statements in filing cabinets and large binders. As a provider, it’s even worse: Do you really want to be tracking all the payments that arrive to your office with paper checks and the accompanying payment slips, or a credit card payment by mail? Enabling your customers to pay you online (HostPay by E-Complish, for example, lets you take payments via an online gateway that is branded to match your site) not only gets you paid faster – it puts all your payment processing records online, including bills sent, full statements, payments made and receipts. HostPay (and the matching option for making payments from mobile devices, MobilePay) sends your customers their receipts via email, complete with your company logo and branding. No need to have the stacks of paperwork and paper processing in your office – and better yet, to have the mountains returned to you. Keep it seamless and best of all – access the records online, anytime, anywhere.. Hurricane, flood or fire damage won’t have you thinking of all the customer unpaid invoices left in your filing cabinet – they will all be accessible easily from your desktop.
5. Use an Internet-based Customer Relationship Management System
Gone are the days when a few scraps of paper with your client’s birthdays jotted down and inserted into the Rolodex was enough to cut it. Customer service has become increasingly personalized in a digital age, and if your customers aren’t being emailed based on their location, interests and previous interactions with the company, then they are certainly expecting it. Tracking customer queries, complaints, and issues with an online CRM system will enable you to tailor all future marketing materials appropriately and most important – have access to important issues for follow-up, even when all employees aren’t available or if their file is missing from the cabinet. E-Complish systems enable businesses to download reports with full client transaction history, customer plans and edits, email activity, and representative activity – all in a handy and easy to store Excel or PDF format. For those in the medical or insurance field, pulling up a manila folder from a filing cabinet is not just unprofessional and out-of-date – it can be dangerous. Invest in your customers and our relationships and store the important information where it can be accessed at all times – via a secure, encrypted connection, of course.