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Have alternatives for all your business applications and social media accounts.

I’ve never heard anyone teaching new business owners how to deal with the all too common headache of sitting down to work and finding out a certain application you’ve been using to run your business is dead or dying. Having your day derailed by such news is a pain in the ass. Happened to me again this morning and I am not happy about it. (This time it’s Sliderocket, our presentation software newly acquired by ClearSlide.)

We all use various accounts and software to do our work and, generally, not much thought is given to what we would do if that critical application was suddenly unavailable. One thing I can tell you about mergers and acquisitions is it’s rarely a smooth transition so you must be prepared for the sake of your business! Vendors have a variety of goals when they engage in acquisitions and these goals often have nothing to do with better serving the customer.

You’ll know what I’m talking about immediately if you were one of the people who used Delicious as your primary bookmarking site in 2010. When the news Yahoo had decided to sunset the application was leaked, the shit hit the proverbial internet fan. It literally took me days to migrate our data to another service (Diigo) and we only had a few thousand bookmarks to worry about. Some clients had 350,000! Those bookmarks represented many thousands of hours of research and curation — we certainly could not afford to lose them!

The same applies to your social media accounts, your desktop applications, and anything you are using in the cloud. Just because it’s there and working today, does not mean it will be there for you tomorrow.

That is why you must put a process in place to protect yourself from financial, data and labour losses resulting from loss of access to applications you are currently using in your business.

Best practices dictate that an application inventory should be on your critical “to do” list. However, because this process can involve a great deal of time and manual effort, this review and related inventory procedures are often ignored or postponed. Such behaviour puts your business at risk.

So what types of activities should your process address?

  1. Create a comprehensive and accurate list of every application you are currently using in your business, including version numbers and maintenance history, even for remote users (if you have an outsourced team). This includes desktop, mobile phone, and server applications, third-party services (shopping carts, payment gateways, merchant accounts, help desks, support centers etc.), hosting and domain services, affiliate services and so on — in other words, if you use it in or to run your business, it goes on the list.)
  2. Inventory all your social media accounts and profiles. (This will be a good time to see how you’re presenting your digital brand too; if you find inconsistencies, make a plan to fix them after you deal with this.)
  3. List all past applications and social media accounts that are inactive, redundant or retired. (You can make a decision about what to do about them later; first — get them on your inventory list!)

Once you’ve got a handle on all your vulnerabilities, choose and document alternative applications and accounts you could switch to if you lost access to what you’re using today.

I promise you this is not a make work exercise; it’s a mandatory task that keeps the inevitable from becoming a disaster for you and your business.

It’s going to take me hours of extra work to protect all of the intellectual property assets we have sitting in Sliderocket. But at least I know what they are, where they are, and what to do with them to prevent the risk of loss. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to deal with this headache. 😐

PS You are even more at risk if you are storing all your work “in the cloud“. So get your head out of there and start making your inventory list. Nuff said?