Natural disasters like hurricanes should remind us how vulnerable stored data can be to loss or disrupted access.
But you know how it is: It won't happen here.
People who follow these things note that too many dealers simply don't practice consistently diligent dealer management system backup procedures.
“That's understandable but not acceptable,” says Mike Del Giudice, a manager at Crowe Chizek. “Anything that might pull time away from the dealership's main objective of selling cars is not at the top of their priority list, and backups fall into that category.”
Not that backup is rocket science anymore. Many systems automatically back up data — if you remember to load the backup CD or disk.
“Backup for most DMS is about as no-brainer as it can be these days, but providers still find they must remind their customers somewhat routinely do this,” says Charlie Prophet, COO of DMS provider AutoSoft.
The company distributed a bulletin to its users reminding them of the importance of nightly back up of the dealership's critical financial and operational data.
Making regular, routine backups of DMS data is like any other business continuity insurance policy, says Dick Malaise, chief information officer for the National Automobile Dealers Assn.
“It's a business process you put in place because it is very difficult to conduct business in today's dealership environment without this data,” he says. “Should something happen and you need this backup, boy, are you glad it is there.”
Major natural disasters aren't always the culprits. A fried power supply on a server can curtail access to your data fast, too.
There are a variety of backup processes ranging from automatic tape backup systems to end-of-day manual backup to disk systems.
But then there is the more generally prevalent practice: do nothing and cross your fingers.
Malaise notes another reason for establishing and following a definite data backup process: Protecting customer information.
Del Giudice offers the following backup best practices:
- Back up data and remove that current backup tape off site, preferably not to an employee's home.
- Label and track tapes carefully so the most recent is easily identifiable.
- Assign the back up job to a specific individual, such as an IT person, office manager or sales person — whoever might be the last to leave the store each evening.
- For many stores the dealer principal often assumes this responsibility.
For daily backups, Prophet suggests that dealership have a CD disk or tape, whichever your DMS uses, for each day of the week you are open for business.
Be sure everyone has logged out of the DMS when they leave for the day. Failure to do this will prevent the system from backing up any files that may be left open due to the user remaining logged into the program.
For monthly backup, first determine which day you will perform this backup — and be sure to be consistent with executing this monthly function.
Once this monthly backup is completed, store the CD or tape in a safe place, preferably off site.
Del Giudice says website and application service provider backup tools are available, which can automatically back up data off site.
Daily and monthly backups are the only way to be sure your data will be available to restore your system should you experience a server hardware failure.