Following is a little known fact. If one were to think about it, it makes perfect sense, but I had simply never thought about it. Everyone who likes Web CRMs always says, “I like Web based databases because I don’t have to worry about backing up.” Let us think about this in some detail. Let us say your computer is stolen. With a Web based product, all you have to do is get another computer, log in, and everything is there like you left it. Very nice! And that’s the type of scenario people always think about when they think about what would happen if they had a desktop solution and their data is not backed up. They look at it in terms of a total one time loss. They think about losing their computer, or having a hard drive failure, or having a virus, etc., and losing everything.
But let us say you were working on your database on a Web based product, and you accidentally delete 200 of your contacts instead of putting them into a different category like you thought you were doing. There is a good likelihood that you are bleep out of luck. It is possible that they will be able to restore your database to the day before, or some period before, but if they can, it may cost you a fairly significant chunk of change. So what can you do to protect yourself? Not much. You can do periodic exports, say weekly or monthly. Just bear in mind that exports never contain all of your information. See “How much of your data can be exported?”
I would like to take a moment to ease some concerns about data loss that are either outright wrong, or simply overstated. They are:
• Your data is not safe with a Web based solution
• Desktop solutions make your data vulnerable due to inconsistent backups
There are actually two sub-categories here. Some people are afraid that the web based provider may steal their contact database, and sell it. There was an instance back in the 90’s when a major franchise provided a Web based solution for its agents, and unbeknownst to the agents, the people in their contact database were suddenly being deluged with e-mail and postal mail, soliciting the franchise’s mortgage company, title company, insurance company, etc. In that case, the franchise claimed a right to the data. Whether or not the franchise was entitled to use that database was debatable, but it is quite different than a third party vendor doing it. Maybe that event is where this, what I consider to be irrational fear, came from.
That scenario is considerably different than a Web based CRM provider actually compromising their user’s databases by selling the database, or soliciting to it. If they did that – their business would be over! It’s that pure and simple. They would be found out in short order, and their business would be done. For what? For a few comparative measly dollars that they could get for the sale of that data. I am sorry – I just don’t see it. Is it possible? Sure. Is it probable? Most certainly not. If it were that probable, it would have happened by now. Is it possible that it has happened, and I just haven’t heard of it? Sure, but I doubt it. People love to recount such horror stories, and I’ve spoken to thousands of people for over a decade one-on-one and to groups, and have never heard of it happening with a third party vendor. Another possibility is that a disgruntled employee could steal it. Again, that is absolutely possible, but has not happened to date to my knowledge. It takes a great deal of time and effort to develop and market a CRM solution. To then allow such a thing to happen is unlikely at worst.
Additionally, people are concerned that their online database will simply be hacked, and marketed to. Is this possible? Sure. Is it probable? With no statistical data to support this supposition whatsoever, my guess would be that it is about as likely as your personal hard drive being hacked, and having your database stolen from it. Very low odds. Getting hit by lightening also comes to mind. Also consider that Top Producer would be a perfect, well known target, given that it has the largest market share in RE CRM and it has not happened to them since they went online with their data in 2003.
With regards to an online solution simply losing your data; they always have at least one redundant set of servers – a backup. That said, my advice has always been to do at least a monthly export of your data from a Web based solution. This leaves nothing to chance. While that export will not be a copy of all your data, it will be all or most of your contact data, normally including names, phone numbers, addresses, notes, categories, etc. Note that I said an Export and not a Backup, the latter being usable only by restoring it into the software.
There is actually another topic that bears discussion here. That is the heavily blown out of proportion, and just plain misrepresented, topic of contact managers/CRM solutions that hold your data hostage. Each Web based solution is very different with regards to how much data they make available for export, but all of them enable you to export at least some basic contact data. The answer to quelling that fear is simply to find out, before you decide on a solution, exactly which, and how many, fields are available for export from your chosen solution. Also consider weighting what data is most important to you. As long as you have the primary contact information, you have your inventory. As long as you have your sphere of influence’s names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses, you have far and away the most important information. Everything beyond that may seem absolutely necessary, but if you think about it, not having it would be a nuisance, but it would not put you back to square one, as losing your inventory would.
Another sometimes overstated issue is that having a desktop solution means putting your database at risk, as many agents are bad/inconsistent at backing up. While this is a valid concern, it used to be true more than it is now. One of the reasons is that a significant number of agents have now been burned – lost their data. You have never seen more religious backer-uppers than those who have at one time lost their data. The next reason is that if you pick the right solution now, there are very often at least two copies of the data in two different locations. Consider that a significant percentage of agents have both a desktop computer, and a laptop/tablet PC, or simply two desktops. One at the office, and one at the home office. If that is the case, then the database is being shared between the two, hence two copies, and no need for a backup. For two of the contact management/CRM desktop solutions I sell, the Master Database may be stored on a thumb drive, which is used to transfer the changes back and forth between the computers, while each computer also has its own copy of the database. This means there are three copies of the database. If you have two or more computers, backing up is not an issue. Those same two solutions offer to host your master database, making it available to be shared by any number of remote users/computers. This of course, once again, makes backing up a non-issue, as the master would be the third copy of the database.
For those agents who have only one computer, which is certainly still a significant percentage of agents who use a CRM database, there are better and easier methods of backing up coming out all the time. There are automated online services which back up your computer in the background with no effort from you whatsoever, other than the original setup. My personal preferences for backing up all my data can be found on my home page. But if you still do not back up consistently, then you will be in trouble some day. For those of you who know you will not back up consistently – get an automated Web based solution! This will be a safer solution for you. Once you have finally realized that you must have some kind of method to track and maintain a relationship with your sphere of influence, without a doubt, keeping that sphere of influence (your inventory) safe, is of paramount importance. Proper research and planning will ensure that it is given the attention it deserves.