Are you prepared? I mean really prepared?

I’m writing to you from a borrowed Mac laptop. My trusty PC died a couple days ago at the end of my workday, without warning. My immediate reaction was, “Agh!! I run my entire business from this computer! What am I going to do?!?”  My next thought was, “Oh yeah. I have a virtual business. I can access my documents and databases from anywhere. I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine and start my evening. I’ll work off a borrowed computer tomorrow and it will be business as usual.”

Think for a minute about what would happen if you had to be without your computer or physical work space without warning. Do you feel panic rising to the surface? Are you worried how you will be able to assist your clients? There are many free and easy programs that will help you do that.

Here’s a quick and easy checklist of the absolute basics you should have available to you virtually:

  • Email: If you rely on Outlook, look into how you can access your email from a web-based portal. If you don’t know, contact the company that hosts your email/website and ask them.
  • Contacts: Not many people can remember phone numbers of family members without the help of a cell phone. I’m sure having the email and phone info of clients and business contacts will not be at top of mind either. Be sure you have your contact database available to you online or through an external storage device.
  • Calendar:  If you don’t have a way to access your computer through your phone or online, sign up with Google calendar. It’s free and it syncs with Outlook, iCal, etc., and reads easily on iPhones and Blackberries.
  • Documents: I’ve heard stories of people losing thousands of dollars in business because they couldn’t access documents customers and clients need, or worse yet, they lost the files all together.  A simple online document storage area (like Dropbox.com, Box.net or Google docs) allows you to access them from anywhere. For complete protection, use an online backup system for your computer so every single file from your computer gets backed up regularly and can be accessed online. Check out mozy.com or ibackup.com for low-cost options.
  • Bookmarked websites: If you rely on certain websites everyday and their domain names are not easy to remember, have that information available to you someway other than clicking on your bookmarks tab. I had to ask one of my VAs to send the link to a website that I use on a regular basis. Could I have found it without her help? Probably, but it was much faster with her help.

I hope this quick checklist will help you think of other areas of your life and business that should be made accessible to you at anytime and from anywhere. As I was just reminded, computers don’t always give us warning that they are going to call it quits.

If you are not sure the best online programs to use, do some research or ask others, but be sure you take action to be as prepared as possible for your business and your clients. And recommend that your clients have the same safeguards in place.

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