Running A Small Business – Here’s Why You Should Consider Insurance

I’ve run a small business from home for the past 6 or 7 years, in various forms. I thought I had a good handle on the various risks that could be involved with running a business, such as IR35 legislation in the UK, through to Public Liability, Professional Indemnity and of course Safe Workplace risk reduction and things like that.

I also have in place Life Insurance and Permanent Total Disability Insurance along with Income Protection Insurance. All these are of course good things to have in an uncertain world, to ensure your income is at least somewhat maintained if something awful should happen that means you can no longer work.

But, one form of insurance I never considered was Business Continuity Insurance. I figured that since I was running a small business that consisted of myself and my wife and we were both had life cover, and TPD cover that we’d covered off every eventuality. Of course, hindsight suggests you can never cover off every eventuality and there was one consideration we certainly missed. Which is where, Business Continuity Insurance could have stepped in.

Now, I am NOT an insurance expert, and I have no affiliations with any either. If you read this article and decide you ought to look into Business Continuity Insurance or covering off the aspects of business interruption I’m about to talk about, then you MUST speak to your Financial Advisor or Legal Advisor or Insurance Broker to find the best cover that’s suitable for you.

February 7th 2009. Anyone reading from Australia will probably know where I am heading with this. At about 4pm that afternoon our world went black, sooty, and very very hot. We’d moved all our important data and documents into a safer place just in case the Victorian Bushfire that approached that day, and made the headlines for weeks and months afterwards, came to get us.

The bushfire itself passed by us. We were one of the lucky ones. We watched it burn all around us for the night, and we waited for it to come through, but somehow we were protected. It was the weeks and months afterwards that affected us more than the fire itself. Being self employed in a local community that is devastated by natural disaster means that even though you’re not physically affected there are a myriad of reasons why you’re emotionally and financially affected. And, being in business means you’re extremely unlikely to receive any Government help because they cannot be seen to be giving an advantage to a business in the natural disaster zone over one which is outside the zone.

That’s what we found. There was almost no assistance for business after the Victorian Bushfire. This isn’t in any way a criticism of the Victorian or Federal Government, I understand the reasons their hands are tied. They did help us out personally, and Business Mentors were provided to help us navigate a way through, but there was no assistance financially to help us get through. Why does this matter?

There was no power for the first week.
The police had closed the road for weeks after the fire, so they could control who had access to and from the area.
We were not mentally capable of concentrating on business aspects for MONTHS.
A number of our clients lost everything and no longer wanted what we offered.

So for months we had little to no income, and little interest due to the emotions of the event for generating an income. As a result, over a year later we’re still playing catch up. Credit cards are maxxed – mortgage is maxxed – a number of key assets have been sold in order to meet the commitments. It’s not pretty.

We NEVER considered that we’d be caught up in a natural disaster. And if you’re thinking ‘Its ok, even if we are in a natural disaster, the Government will look after us’ then think again if you’re in business. If you’re in business it’s YOUR responsibility to plan for the unplannable. Aid agencies and governments quite rightly focus on the citizens of their jurisdiction. Business will not be given a leg up because, at least in the Western Capitalist world, there is international trading legislation which forbids subsidies to most businesses – and that’s how the legal eagles see financial assistance such as this. And to be honest that’s only right and fair. If you take the bounty when times are good you have to take the pain when they’re not.

If you’re running a small business, whether it be from home or an office, you really do need to consider Business Continuity Insurance so that if the worst happens, you won’t end up falling (too far) behind. If we could do it again, we’d have had Business Continuity Insurance on Feb 7th.

I’d like to say a very public thank you to New Horizons Whittlesea church, The Salvation Army, Combined Churches of Whittlesea and Linfox and the Clayton Bushfire Relief Warehouse because without each of these, our family would be out on the street now with no home to live in.

Telstra iPhone Tethering ‘Call Telstra on 125 111 to enable tethering’

iphoneIf you’re an iPhone user on Telstra’s NextG network you may have been disappointed when iPhone tethering suddenly stopped working back in July or sometime there about, when a new set of ‘Carrier Settings’ were downloaded from iTunes onto your iPhone. The good news is that this weekend just gone, Telstra issued a new set of Carrier Settings through iTunes which re-enables tethering – and this time properly and officially.

I installed the new Carrier Settings after reading of everyone’s success around the net. I was rapt. The Optus coverage at mother-in-laws is pants and I often need to work from there while my wife and mother-in-law do other things.

Except that it didn’t work. Every time I went into Settings -> General -> Network and tried to enable tethering I just got a popup message that said to enable tethering I must contact Telstra on 125 111 or visit http://www.telstra.com. It gives you three buttons, Call, Go to Website, or Cancel. Nothing about switching it on anyway. I spent an hour on the phone with Telstra, who eventually handed me off to Apple.

After an iPhone reset, a Network Settings Reset followed by an iPhone reset, and then a full Restore of my iPhone I was still no better off.

And then I found this thread which explained that my Telstra account probably wasn’t set up right. It was highly likely since I’d actually bought my iPhone from Optus and then transferred to Telstra after the Kinglake bushfires rendered Optus unusable for weeks. My APN was set to telstra.internet because telstra.iph didn’t work. As is indicated in the thread previously mentioned, you DO need to have the ability to use telstra.iph to use tethering.

The trouble is that most people on the Telstra helpdesk don’t know about this. So you have to ring 1800 IPHONE and ask them clearly to add the iPhone codes to your account. You’ll need to be specific and possibly need to justify why you want it. But if you’re not specific they’ll go through hours of trying to diagnose why your iPhone consistently tells you to call them on 125 111.

I hope that helps someone. Please leave a comment if it does!

Find out why your data is not safe

Whether you’re in business or a personal user, you probably have a computer and on that computer will be information that you will kick yourself (or worse) if it were lost.

For personal users there’s going to be important documents you’ve written, perhaps to the bank or perhaps to the grandkids. Maybe there’s important essay’s you’ve written as part of your dissertation. Perhaps you have your CD collection in iTunes. And almost certainly there’ll be photographs that you simply cannot get back if they’re lost.

For business users the amount of data and its importance is likely to be even higher. The consequences of losing your Quickbooks or MYOB data can be quite harrowing. There’s no-one quite like the tax office to make you wake up at night in a cold sweat wondering if your accounts data is safe.

Why is this data not safe?

There’s a number of reasons your data could be comprised. Recent research from Gartner and IDC indicate the following reasons are the most likely causes for data loss;

  • 32% of data loss is due to user error.
  • 10% of laptops are stolen each year. If your data is on it, your data is stolen too.
  • 5% of laptops suffer some kind of hardware failure each year.
  • A whopping 70% of tape restores fail.

That last point is perhaps the most interesting. Anyone who’s been an administrator of a computer system for a reasonable length of time will have experienced this. You backup your system religiously every night. You perhaps use the Grandfather – Father – Son routine of tape rotation. You think everything is great. But do you know everything is great? When was the last time you tested one of those tapes to make sure it will restore for you? You don’t test the restore mechanism. Who does? Tapes are reliable right? Burning to DVD is more reliable still. And then your client rings you up and asks you to restore a bunch of critical data he needs for a presentation to the board tomorrow.

You go to your most recent tape backup and put it in the drive. Your heart sinks as the backup software tells you there are no files on the tape to restore. You become mildly concerned, but it’s ok, you have another tape to try. You put that tape in. Now that one tells you there’s no data to restore… It’s not a good scenario – and I bet it’s happened to you or a network administrator you know.

Tapes, CDs or DVDs have a number of other problems that make them less than optimal for backup purposes;

  • Drives and media can become expensive – particularly as the capacity needs to rise to cope with the mountains of data you wish to backup.
  • Large backups require multiple CDs or DVDs. It only takes one of them to go bad to throw the whole backup out the window.
  • Human error can mean the tape, CD or DVD isn’t changed tonight.
  • If the backup media is left in the machine it can become vulnerable to viruses or intrusion
  • Someone has to take the tape, CDs or DVDs with them to ensure that if the building burns down or collapses your data is safe.

This latter one is very easy to overlook. And indeed can even be worse than expected. Take for example the recent Victorian Bushfires. A number of businesses thought that their data was safe because they used tapes, DVDs or cartridges to perform nightly backups, which they then gave to an employee to take home. These businesses believed their data was safe because the backup was offsite and if the building burned down, they still had their data. What they had not counted on, was the fact that the whole area would be ablaze. Many employees also lost their homes and if any one of these had the companies offsite backup with them – they went too.

In the case of the Victorian Bushfires, one customer recalled how she had put her computer into the car in order to leave the house. She didn’t care about the computer per se, it was insured and she could get a new one if it was destroyed. What she cared about was her photos and as such had made the decision to take the computer with her to leave, in case the house burned down. Sadly, the family were involved in a collision on the road and had to abandon the car. After the fire had passed through (they made it to safe shelter) they returned to the car to discover it was burned out – taking the PC and all her photos with it. The irony is that the house they had left, which they thought they could not defend, was still standing when they returned the next day. She has no backup of her photos.

What is the answer?

The good news is that there is an affordable answer;

IDrive.com provides off site backup services that are affordable and tailored to your needs. If you’re a personal user with a small amount of photos and maybe some special documents to make sure stay safe, you can back these up to IDrive for free. If you need more space, they have options for you too.

IDrive has a number of benefits;

  • The backups are cost effective as you don’t need any additional hardware and no need to replace CDs, DVDs or tapes every so often.
  • The backups are automated. You don’t have to remember to change tapes, DVDs etc.
  • The backups cannot be interefered with by viruses or hackers.
  • If your hardware fails your backups are still safe.
  • Geographic diversity means that even if your entire township goes up in flames, you don’t risk losing your data.
  • The system is easy to use
  • Your data is continuously protected, not just when you remember to run a backup.
  • The software works on Windows or Mac.
  • You can search your backed up files anywhere using a standard web browser.
  • Your data is secured using a key known only to you. Even the IDrive staff have no access to your data.

In the case of the Victorian Bushfires, there are a number of people who wish they had an affordable, reliable offsite backup mechanism to recover their photos and/or business data.

Ask yourself this, ‘given the risks associated with your data – can you afford not to use IDrive?’

Why is this not just another ‘Infomercial’?

Well, that’s a good question. The answer is simple though – we use IDrive ourselves at Kabarty to backup everything to an offsite location. And just yesterday it saved my bacon when copying a directory into another directory didn’t go quite as I expected. Instead of the contents being copied into the directory and keeping all the existing contents too – the operating system decided that it would remove all the existing contents and just put the stuff I was copying in there. There was literally days of work that were lost through something that I didn’t expect.

I suspect this scenario comes under that 32% of data loss is through user error banner above, but nonetheless, my backups had been taking place without my intervention, without me needing to change tapes or remember anything except that it was there. Which I did after I calmed down. Within minutes the directory was restored to it’s previous state and I didn’t have to worry about trawling through days worth of changes again. The IDrive fee paid for itself yesterday, even if we don’t need to do a restore now for the entire rest of the year.

That’s how we know the value of IDrive’s service and that’s why we signed up to become an affiliate.