4 min read

7 Reasons Your Google Apps & Social Media Data is At Risk

Photo: ViaMoi at Flickr

Here on planet Earth, in 2012, the number of small businesses and startups that should not be networking, communicating, collaborating and organising online, is fast approaching zero.

Hint: ‘Online’ is where customers, employees and partners are.

Google Apps

With good reason, many small businesses today are using Google Apps to email, schedule time, produce and collaborate on documents, and to create internal website content.

Why? Use from anywhere. On any desktop, tablet, or smartphone. Any time. Nothing to install. No servers to maintain. Nothing to upgrade.

So far, so good…

But, there’s one last thing: Backups. Many business owners I meet seem to have forgotten that their most important asset is their data. It’s so easy to rely on Auntie Google for that too.

Social Media

More and more small businesses are using social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for networking, customer service, and marketing. The business value of the ‘social data’ they are building-up on these networks is priceless.

The general assumption seems to be: Surely it’s safe with a big online company, so no need to back it up. And I haven’t got time to figure out how to do it anyway!

The securities industry and others are subject to legal requirements like the US FINRA Regulatory Notice 10-06 which require them to keep archives of social data. In these cases, you simply don’t have a choice.

The fact is, the data you generate online is at risk. It can get lost, or you can lose access to it. What would that mean to you and your business?

Here are the main threats to your Google Apps and Social Media data:

1. Accidental Deletion

According to a survey of Google Apps users, by far the most common reason (63%) for data loss is accidental deletion of data. This could equally apply to Tweets as well as to Google documents.

What can you do? Better training might help but accidents will always happen.

2. Hackers

Facebook recently revealed that hackers are trying to break in to users’ accounts 600,000 times a day. Once in, they can take control of your account and cause havoc. We can be sure that hackers are hard at work, every day, trying to access your online accounts.

What can you do? Reduce the chances of this happening by making that sure your staff use secure, ‘hard-to-guess’ passwords. Make sure they change them regularly, and that they’re unique to each account.

3. Malware Attacks

Just last week, a computer worm infected 45,000 Facebook accounts. All the major networks are under attack including Twitter and LinkedIn.

These sort of attacks can not only corrupt your data, but can transfer themselves across to your customers’, and partners’ accounts too!

What can you do? Reduce the chances of this happening by making that sure your staff do not click on unsafe links. But of course, this is easier said than done!

4. Service Outage

Twitter has been known to lose followers and tweets from users’ accounts, even if only on a temporary basis. Twitter has also crashed several times in the past few years and that could happen again any time. Not having access to your social connections, even on a temporary basis could badly affect your business.

What can you do? Syncing-up your social connections with a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system may get around this problem. But you don’t necessarily need a CRM system, and it’s yet more to go wrong in itself.

5. Wrongful Suspensions

Google and the social network providers do sometimes wrongly suspend users accounts if they believe the user has broken their terms of use, e.g. for sending spam. According to a survey of Google Apps users this accounted for 63% of the cases where users could not access their data.

What can you do? Assuming an account is wrongly suspended then it’s a case of appealing to the provider. Having backups of all activity can only help with the appeal procedure. Otherwise, better training might help.

6. Malicious Users

Sometimes a disgruntled employee will deliberately try to sabotage your data. This could do untold damage to your business including the impact on reputation.

What can you do? If you suspect they’re about to screw your data then suspend their accounts, immediately. Delete accounts of former staff (where it makes sense), and open new ones for new joiners.

7. External App Errors

According to a Google Apps user survey, 3% of Google Apps data loss is caused by 3rd-party apps that are granted access. Given the increasing number of 3rd-party apps that we are all allowing to access each other this threat can only increase over time.

What can you do? You can only prevent this by not allowing your online apps to talk with each other. But this is always going to be a trade-off with how useful they can be.

The Solution: Backup Your Online Data

We’ve looked at seven reasons why our online data is at risk, and that while we can try to reduce that risk a bit, the chances are it will go on getting worse…

Result: Our online data will get lost, and we will lose access to it. The impact on a small business could be severe to the bottom-line and reputation of the brand.

Fortunately there is a simple solution: setup regular automated backups, and relax.

A service that’s gained traction, and a lot of good press since it launched in 2008, is Backupify.

Backupify provide two types of daily backups:

  • Google Apps data for Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, Docs & Sites. Pricing is $3 per user per month. For 25Gb of data.
  • Social Network data for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Picasa, Flickr, Blogger, Zoho. Pricing starts at $4.99 per user per month. For 10Gb of data for up to 5 accounts. They also offer a FREE personal plan for weekly backups of 3 accounts, and up to 1Gb of data.

Backed-up data can be restored at any time with a single click.

Contracts are monthly, pay-as-you-go.

(Technical detail: Data is backed-up to Amazon’s S3 environment which is widely regarded to be as secure as it gets for business data)

I’m going to sign-up for the free trial ASAP…

Have you tried Backupify? What do you think of it? Have you tried an alternative?