Part 1 will deal with Desktop CRMs. Part 2 will deal with Web based CRMs.
Let’s be clear on what we’re talking about. Using the words database, backup and export is a little abstract. In more meaningful terms, we are talking about your livelihood. We are talking about your inventory. You’ve spent anywhere from a couple years to several decades creating an inventory of people who have given, or may give you business. Without them, you have to start all over again. You can re-create some of it with many hours of aggravating effort, but you will never replace all of it. And all that time you spend re-creating it is 100% needlessly wasted time that grates on your every nerve while you’re doing it. It’s one of the most depressing things that can ever happen in your business life. The most religious backer-uppers are the ones who have been there. They know they never want to go through that again. Have your attention now? J
It’s ironic that some people think that because their CRM is on their computer, that their data is safer than if it were a web based CRM. The reality is the opposite. Web based CRM data is backed up automatically in at least two different places. Can you say the same of your desktop database?
With regards to those of you who are using a web based CRM, don’t get too complacent. That’s part 2.
Let me define what I mean by desktop versus web based. Desktop means that you install the software on your computer. It is not accessible anywhere other than on the computers upon which it is installed. Web based means you have to be online and log on to your CRM via the Internet. It is not accessible otherwise.
The desktop CRM that has far and away the most users is Agent Office so I’ll use that as an example, but this is applicable to any desktop CRM. If you have a desktop CRM installed on only one computer, that’s the only place your data is unless you back it up and have it stored somewhere else. By somewhere else I mean on a removable storage device such as a thumb drive. And the only way to be 100% safe is to have that thumb drive stored somewhere other than where your computer is. If your computer is in your house and your house burns down with the computer and the thumb drive in it, you’re out of luck. I know. I can read your mind. You’re thinking, “Yeah, what are the odds?” You don’t think that can happen? Then why do you have homeowners insurance?
Many of you may already know that, but even if you are one of the wise and few who store your backups off-site, it still may not be safe. In the case of Agent Office, what happens if it stops working and you can’t get it working again? You may say, “No worries – I have a backup”. Not necessarily. The only thing that can access your data with an Agent Office backup, is Agent Office. The backup file is in a proprietary data format that can only be read by using Agent Office. That backup is useless otherwise. The exception is if you can find a database expert that can dissect the backup file and get your data out of it for you. That will be expensive if you can find someone qualified to do it.
Agent Office is no longer supported in any meaningful way so if it crashed, you may be out of luck. If you have some other kind of desktop software and it is also no longer supported, you may be in the same fix.
In order to insure that you will always have access to your data, you need to do an export in addition to a backup. An export is something you do from within the software that creates a file in a data format that any number of programs can read or import. The most common file types are ASCII and CSV (Comma Separated Values). All Real Estate CRMs have an export function within them. That said, the data/fields that each different CRM will allow you to export varies dramatically. In the case of Agent Office, you still have a problem because your backup contains all of your data, but an export only contains your basic contact information such as name, address, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc. It does not export the contact’s notes or categories. There are two ways to get notes and categories out of Agent Office. That’s one of the services I provide so just call me if you need that.
So to summarize what you have to do if you want to be 100% safe:
You have to do regular backups and store them off-site
You also have to do regular exports in a common data format and store them off-site.
Ironically, the best way to insure that you do these things on a regular basis is to create a recurring event on your calendar in your CRM, reminding you to do it!
One of the most disturbing calls I get is when someone has not been backing up, or has been backing up but not doing regular exports, and their computer crashed. Or worse, they have been doing backups but they are backing up to the computer that has crashed. I am sometimes able to help, but more often have to tell them they are out of luck. Not a fun phone call.
I sincerely hope you take this article to heart and I never get a call of desperation from you. If this article is mostly Greek to you but you get the point and want to do something about it, that is one of the services I provide.