Disaster to Done: 3 Steps to Bounce Back After A Computer Crash

For all the potential such topics as artificial intelligence, the metaverse and similarly tantalizing subjects offer, small businesses are often best served addressing fundamentals first. For example, one of the most likely and common technology-related frustrations small businesses suffer is unplanned downtime caused by a desktop or laptop failure. Whenever a key employee’s computer, in particular, fails, smaller firms must typically obtain and configure a replacement to restore operations. Unfortunately, the number of ways computers fail typically far exceeds the options available for quickly recovering a dead PC or Mac. The best time to speed up the replacement of a dying or broken computer is before the machine gives up the ghost. 

Maybe you already knew, or at least sensed, that fact. But you can’t exactly go out and purchase and preconfigure computers for each employee in your small business. It doesn’t make sense having capital tied up in assets that just sit in boxes depreciating. 

Yet, the challenge remains. Organizations, especially small businesses, almost always need a failed computer replaced and back up and running quickly. Several factors often conspire to make such crises particularly stressful, however. 

Smaller companies typically don’t have the resources to keep multiple extra computers on hand. Nor do they usually boast a sizable IT department that’s already prepped computer images and supporting infrastructure needed to stage and deploy a replacement within just a few hours. 

Instead, smaller firms often must recover computers the hard way: from scratch. And when production lines are held up, customers are waiting on orders or users are unable to fulfill their responsibilities, other significant issues can arise, too, including delays processing orders or financial transactions and being unable to communicate with customers, receive payments or submit payroll. 

The best bet is to prepare in advance for a desktop or laptop failure. Such contingency planning need not necessarily even require purchasing new equipment. Follow these three steps to help your small business prepare for inevitable computer failures, minimize corresponding disruption and eliminate unnecessary stress. 

1. Confirm and monitor backup status

Whether a user continually copies files to a thumb drive, the organization employs an automated offsite backup or an external hard drive is configured to collect daily backups, ensure all the data on computers important to your business’ operations are safely stored in a second location. When hard drives fail, all the corresponding data can be lost. 

Data loss resulting from power surges, failed hard drives and other factors commonly occurs. Only by continually backing up important files and information to a second source can you be assured data can be recovered quickly to a new machine when the need arises. When replacing a PC or Mac, it’s sometimes necessary to recover files from a backup first before getting a user running again, so ensure a backup will prove available when the time comes. 

2. Record software licensing information for each important workstation

Trust IT consultants with decades of experience when they say small businesses need to document their software information. Often, and especially within smaller organizations, applications are purchased and deployed over time. Software licensing information, subsequently, can end up in a variety of locations or even be lost. 

You don’t want to experience unnecessary delays trying to recover a point-of-sale machine, an accountant’s QuickBooks software, a key designer’s Adobe programs or an industry-specific or proprietary app. Yet, the inability to track down an app’s registration information, license number, credentials or product key (necessary to reinstall and activate the software) is one of the most common delays encountered deploying a replacement computer. 

Prepare in advance. Record license information for all the important programs and computers within your business and place the information within an easily accessible location to help ensure recoveries proceed quickly without undue delays. 

3. Prepare a hardware replacement plan

Before you can replace a failed computer, you need a second workstation to take the first one’s place. Rapidly obtaining a business-grade PC–the kind that includes a Windows professional operating system that can properly connect to Windows server-powered networks–is sometimes a challenge. If you place an order on a Monday, you might be lucky to receive the replacement computer that same week. Most small businesses can’t wait that long to restore a key employee’s workstation, though. 

Plan in advance. Is there another computer in the office that’s sometimes used by an intern or a part-time staffer? Maybe you could redeploy that system to buy time when a key user’s computer fails. Or, if the business has more than 20 employees, chances are it needs to regularly replace computers anyway. Consider purchasing a single spare that can be pressed into service quickly. After all, the more workstations in use, the higher the likelihood one will fail. 

As long as you have a plan and understand any corresponding implications–such as the intern might not be able to work for a few days while awaiting a replacement but at least your controller will be back up and running–you’ll be better prepared. A basic hardware replacement plan will also help you avoid being caught by surprise by the easily overlooked but consequential dependency of requiring an appropriate replacement. 

Seeking more small business tech tips?

This year Louisville Geek celebrates its 20th anniversary of servicing and supporting small and medium businesses. Over the decades we’ve collected proven expertise we regularly share to help SMBs benefit from such knowledge. Consider checking the site regularly to stay current with technology tips impacting your small or medium-sized business. 

For example, you may find the following topics helpful:  

Should you have other questions, drop us a line. You can reach Louisville Geek at 502-897-7577 or by emailing [email protected].