One of the biggest challenges of being an independent contractor and having my main office in my home is technology. It isn’t that I don’t have enough technology — it’s that I have to support it all or find someone else who can.

There is such a thing as technical support with most hardware, but if you have ever tried using it the support typically involves repeating 20-digit serial numbers — located on tags that are placed upside down on the bottom of the device with the serial number in a two-point font — and repeatedly spelling your full name, slowly and loudly.

It amazes me how many questions I have to answer over and over that have nothing to do with the device or the malfunction until I can get a non-answer to the problem from someone who is working in a distant land.

Warranties on computers are wonderful, but there is a 99.5 percent chance that if the hardware fails the machine will have to be sent far away and will not return for weeks. Those hardware warranties are almost useless unless another machine can be used while the first is traveling around the country.

A couple of years ago, while on a vacation, my laptop and BlackBerry broke on the same day. The laptop was still under warranty but had to be sent to Texas to be repaired and the BlackBerry had to be replaced.

I temporarily lost access to my client database during the process. I did not permanently lose any data but no longer had access to any device that would let me access the data. The computer was gone for three weeks.

I was so traumatized by the loss of my two most important business tools at the same time that I now have systems in place so that if anything breaks or even if almost everything breaks at the same time I can keep working and probably won’t have a near nervous breakdown.

In addition to residing on my BlackBerry and in my computer, my client database and calendar are synchronized automatically with my Gmail account throughout the day.

I always have two working computers. One machine has all of my software on it and the other has enough software on it so I can run my business. My data is backed up automatically in two places. …CONTINUED

It is saved to a 1 terabyte hard drive on my home network, and the critical files are backed up via the Internet every night.

I not only know how to back everything up, and where the backups are, but I also know how to restore from the backups. I recently had my Twitter account hacked into.

I was lucky and got it back with little damage, and I did not get too stressed out because I have a backup of my Twitter account, too.

My Facebook account is backed up, although I will admit I have not tested it yet. My Flickr account is backed up as are my blogs and Web sites, and I have tested the backups and can use them to restore.

My business e-mail account is backed up, as are the links and passwords to all of my online accounts. They are all stored in a kind of digital vault on the Internet. I have a spare cell phone; I kept my last unit instead of recycling it.

If my phone should fail, the little card can be taken out of it and put into the old phone and that will keep me going while I get a replacement or repair. I pack it when I travel.

Maybe I have overlooked something but I know that I have the critical stuff I need to run my business and my life backed up, and duplicate systems in place. My blood pressure is lower than average, and I think it is because of the backups and dual systems I have put into place.

Have you backed up your data lately? Are your social media accounts backed up? Do you know how to restore your systems or do you know someone who could help?

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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