All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions
Good record-keeping helps control cash, evaluate the success of the business, plan for the future and demonstrate to others how the business is doing. You really can't afford to be without it.
One type of record-keeping does not suit all businesses, and your choice of system depends on:
- The size of the business.
- The type of business.
- Ownership structure.
- The record-keeping skills of the owner.
If your business handles large volumes of documents, then electronic filing can save you space, time and human resources. There are numerous software programs that offer comprehensive electronic filing and archive capabilities, and which allow you to compare and update information, cross-reference documents and automate certain tasks.
For a small business this could avoid postal delays in transferring information, a lower stationery bill (electronic signatures and billing reduce the need to print hard copies) and greater reliability (unlike paper documents, which can be lost or misplaced).
But hard disks can crash, and computers can be stolen. When your business relies on electronically stored information, you must have a back-up plan, and you must use it.
Back-up and storage
The golden rule of back-up is to make it as simple, reliable and as automatic as possible. In devising a back-up strategy, consider the following:
- What data is stored on your systemand how would it affect your business if you were without it for a few hours, days or weeks?
- What back-up media is most convenient for you?Tape drives are the most popular option for large enterprises because they are inexpensive, robust and simple to operate. CDs are transportable and convenient for smaller amounts of info, while a designated hard drive could back up large amounts of data or entire systems. Alternatively, fully-automated online server space can be rented from an external company.
Back-up is an issue of discipline, rather than money, and operating systems like Windows have built-in back-up programmes that work with any of the above media. Either way, the potential cost of lost data far outweighs any money or time you spend backing up your information.
- Make back-up a regular habit.
- Test your system periodically by restoring backed-up data.
- At least once a week, make sure backed-up data leaves your place of work.
- Periodically leave a copy with your accountant or attorney.
- Rotate your back-up media - alternate between two mediums, in case one fails unexpectedly.