You don't have to explain the importance of computer security to Chris Cardillo, CEO of Castle “The Window People” in Mt. Laurel, N.J. “We've had our computer server go down,” he says. “But we had a backup, and it was very easy to restore in a couple of hours.”

Castle's backup includes two on-site servers that mirror each other, along with a third located off-site, and external backup tapes kept in a safe. Its consumer data is also protected. It's inaccessible to outsiders, and employees with access to the data are unable to download it. “Nobody leaves here with consumer information,” Cardillo says.

PEACE OF MIND “I feel really good that if we had a meltdown, we'd be up again really fast,” Rick Wuest, president of Thompson Creek Windows in Lanham, Md., says of his company's computer backup system. Though Thompson Creek hasn't had a computer crash, it has had some “near-misses,” Wuest says. “We lost a couple days of accounting information. It created a labor problem, and it took some time to reconstruct, but we haven't had anything catastrophic.”

Thompson Creek's computer backup system is two-pronged. An employee backs up the data daily and its server weekly, and a consultant comes on site biweekly to double-check the process. Wuest considers the consultant “a bargain” at $18,000 annually. “It's money well spent for peace of mind. If we were down for two days — a conservative estimate — we'd have to reconstruct the software and rebuild the database; it would take us a tremendous amount of time, effort, and lost revenue to get back in business. Prevention is the best policy.”

BACK UP, BACK UP, BACK UP Neglecting database security is malpractice, says Brian Leader, CEO of ImproveIt Home Remodeling in Columbus, Ohio. Leader's company has a disaster recovery and security plan, along with a backup program for the company's computer system. Like Thompson Creek Windows, ImproveIt has an in-house employee who oversees regular backup, along with an off-site data security company as a backstop.

Bil-Ray Group Home Improvements in Elmont, N.Y., has not only computer but also phone system redundancy. Its phone circuits terminated at New York City's World Trade Center and went offline after the 2001 terrorist attacks, says Michael McCarty, the company's chief information officer. But because it had system backups, its phone lines were quickly rerouted. Since then, the company has experienced several other phone circuit failures, and each time, the system has shifted into backup mode. “We have redundancy in our systems,” McCarty says.

Leader says that implementing technology backup plans is no different from buying insurance. “If you buy other insurance for your business, why wouldn't you ensure that your database is safe and secure?” he asks. “Your database is the biggest asset in your company, and you have to protect it.”