Occasionally, when we talk to business owners and executives about the importance of backup and disaster recovery planning, they bring up the fact that they already make extra copies of important client files once in a while.

While this is certainly better than having no backup plan at all, it’s important for leaders to understand that having backed-up files whether on a tape drive or other device is no substitute for having a true backup and disaster recovery plan in place.

To see why, you have to understand the key differences between a set of backup files and a true plan:

A real backup plan should be complete. In other words, you shouldn’t just have copies of client files and billing records, for example, but also any other data and applications you would need to return to normal work if you lost your computers.

Your files should be kept offsite. Tape drives and extra hard drives in the office are a good first step, but what happens if the damage is to your building? That’s why your backup should also be stored at another location.

Backups need to be regularly tested. It’s important to check that your backups are valid and usable from time to time, which is why a good plan occludes regular testing.

You should have a plan in place to restore backups in an emergency. When you lose hardware and syndication systems, time is of the essence. You should have a written plan in place that gives you the procedures and contacts you need in an emergency.