Planning for Computer Emergencies in Property ManagementHumans have a tendency to ignore something dire that could occur – a car accident, an illness, computer virus, or other difficulties. This is very normal. Let’s face facts, things happen and it seems always at the worst possible time. I am a flawed human who had two irritating incidents with my office computer within the last fifteen months. It’s not the end of the world; just “prepare for the unexpected.”

In 2013 it was my plan to order a new computer because my attitude is a laptop or computer is only good for about 2-3 years since technology moves so fast. Plus (I have to admit), I love getting and playing with a new computer! Then, last year my trusty all-in-one computer had a major problem 2 days after the 3 year warranty expired (of course). I was not amused when the start button disconnected from the computer. A week or two before my cleaning crew had hit the computer but it didn’t appear to have any problems and I moved blithely on.

The bad news: I suddenly was without my main computer and of course, I had two urgent matters that morning. This was not a good start to my day.

The good news: I have three other laptops with Internet service, my files are backed up and copied in several media, and I put all my important documentation on Dropbox. In addition, there are various programs and services with stored information for my business available online. It was not a disaster but it was not a good time for this, but then it never is.

I proceeded to solve my two immediate client problems with my laptop and evaluated the main computer situation. After investigation, it was obvious that fixing the button would cost me 3-4 times what a new one would cost and frankly, no one wanted to touch it. I shopped the best price for a new computer on the Internet with my laptop and found the best solution with Amazon. I have Amazon Prime (another blessing) and for an additional $4.00 they delivered a new one to my doorstep the next morning. Of course, I had the job of loading a new computer but I was basically up and running in 24 hours.

Although this is a frustrating experience, I was prepared. Let’s face it – reloading is a big pain but think how much worse it would have been if I did not have everything backed up and my programs documented. It did inspire me to increase the organization of all my backup, passwords, account numbers, etc. I do have full back up with Carbonite but learned that it takes quite a while to “restore” and having other types of backup/copies available is a plus. Who knows when something could happen again?

Then it did!

I didn’t pay enough attention to the various malware problems in the news a couple of months ago. I was buzzing along with my anti-spam/anti-virus program and one day started noticing that my Internet was having difficulties with pop-ups, programs showing up in my computer, and more. Malware is very sneaky and had planted unwanted programs and bugs in my computer. I was busy, had a bad case of the flu, and kept saying to myself, “tomorrow I will investigate these problems.” OK – this was another case of human frailty.

Fortunately, I had bought a full-service coverage package again with my new all-in-one computer and a call to HP settled the problem. They “refreshed” my computer, cleaning up the malware, checking it thoroughly, and removing the programs. However, I did have to reload my programs but again I was up and running in 24 hours. Meanwhile, I still had my trusty laptops if needed.

Here’s my best advice to you to prepare for computer failure.

  • Install reliable computer protection programs and don’t hide your head in the sand. Although I have reliable anti-spam/anti-virus protection, I did not investigate my protection against the increasing malware. Don’t make my mistake, tackle this immediately. There are many programs available and seek reliable sources for advice.
  • Have a laptop for emergency situations. Most people have an office computer and a laptop. For some, a laptop is their main computer. If so, have a secondary laptop to use if something happens to the primary one. Just have another machine to use when something happens.
  • Use several types of backup, local and online. Be sure there is at least one or more backup that is cloud-based. Talk with your IT person if you are networked on how often backups happen, how often it is tested, what programs protect it, and of course, how secure your data is.
  • Develop a backup “plan.” Too many people do not recognize the need for a comprehensive backup plan that happens regularly and on an on-going basis.
  • Invest in a large external USB hard drive. The newer external drives are in Terabytes and they are now affordable. Store them properly and recycle backups. Put important backups, such as your bookkeeping (if not too large) on this drive if you can and “copy” your most important documents as well. A good example is copying your lease and other related documentation to an external drive. You don’t want to hold up renting a property because you cannot execute the rental agreements now. Remember, there are times when we cannot access the Internet or reinstallation of backup data takes time – be prepared to keep operating.
  • Copy your most important operating documents to the cloud.I use Dropbox for my documentation (not my financial data) because it is affordable and I can access it from any of my computers. There are many cloud programs and they are affordable; just check that the one you choose is reliable
  • Subscribe to a backup program for your bookkeeping on the cloud. I have backup provided for my QuickBooks online and I also backup on my local external hard drive. Most property management bookkeeping software programs have online/cloud backup. If they don’t, ask yourself why.
  • Organize your computer information in one place. Because problems are bound to happen with computers, both major and minor, it is a great benefit to be able to quickly load your programs, account numbers, usernames, passwords, those pesky questions/answers, etc. There are programs available to store this information online – again, find one that is reliable. Remember Internet services go down from time to time so have the most important information in some paper form stored safely as well.
  • Make a “reload” priority list.When you need to reload a computer, it helps to have a plan, particularly when you are in a stressful situation. We all have programs that are a “luxury” but not a necessity so organize your programs/documentation into three categories – critical, important, and other. This also will help you if you need to delegate reloading to others.

My last piece of advice – even if you do all of this – things will still happen so take a deep breath and press on. You just have to develop a plan to not only protect yourself and your computers but to reload when necessary.

Jean Storms - Owner and Author of LandlordSource ProductsJean Storms, MPM® is the founder/author of LandlordSource and has been a NARPM® member since January 1993.

Disclaimer: LandlordSource does not represent the article content in this website as legal advice. It is shared information only and up to the reader to use this information responsibly, seeking legal advice as necessary to their business.