Would your business survive a fire, burglary or complete systems failure? Adrian Young directed us to a useful Business Link article on www.businesslink.gov.uk. The URL for the article is very long but Geoff Lane noted that http://tinyurl.com/an625 points to it. Both http://tinyurl.com and http://makeashorterlink.com are free services providing short URLs that redirect to long URLs.
One member had problems with hard disk failure. She diligently backs up to an external hard disk, so no data was lost, but she would like to avoid the time-consuming task of setting up software, e-mail accounts and so on. The engineer who fitted her new hard disk suggested Norton Ghost, which mirrors all data and all settings onto an external hard disk.
Peter Finch suggested using an old PC for back up and data storage, and finding a local business that provides IT support. Most machines can be easily and inexpensively networked.
Tony Kershaw uses Genie Backup Manager (www.genie9.com) to back up to CD, scheduled at specific times. Files are saved with a self-restore program, so you can restore them to a different computer, without first installing Genie. When the CD is full, Tony takes it to his father's house, so he always has two generations of backup, one off-site.
For data backup alone, Jane Teather uses BT Datasure online backup, which you can schedule to run at night. It has the advantage that 'your work is safe if your house burns down'. Iain Wright uses Norton Ghost, along with an Iomega tool that allows versions of files to be backed up automatically.
One member asked for our experiences of the PCG (www.ipse.co.uk). All the numerous responses were positive.
Steve Rickaby noted that the PCG was set up as a campaigning organization to combat IR35, which is legislation that allows the Inland Revenue to treat certain types of contractor as employees of the company in which they are contracting, even if operating as limited companies. The PCG took the Government to court over IR35, and the process of judicial review and appeal helped to clarify this unclear legislation. The Inland Revenue recently changed the way it interprets S660A legislation for married couples, and the PCG is challenging this too. (In a limited company, where the freelancer is the main fee-earner and where the other owner receives dividends, the Inland Revenue is using S660A to extract more tax. A big problem is that claims are backdated.) Steve added that the PCG provides information and expert advice to contractors, and offers networking through regional meetings.
Although Geoff Lane values his PCG membership, he suggested that another good source of information is Shout99 (www.shout99.com). If you operate as a business rather than a contractor, the FSB (www.fsb.org.uk) might be a more suitable organization, according to Jane Dards.
One member asked for recommendations for insurance. Stuart Smithuses MFL Professional Partnerships (www.m-f-l.co.uk) for Professional Indemnity Insurance. Costs vary depending on the type of work you are doing and whether the work is for use abroad. His general business policy through Icon Insurance includes Public Liability and Employers Liability insurance. He also has Legal Expenses insurance (LawSuit, through Icon) to cover claims over data protection, employer/employee prosecution, contracts and so on.
Geoff Lane wrote that the PCG has an insurance scheme for members, and that Shout99 (www.shout99.com) offers competitive insurance. Richard Burnham uses Caunce O'Hara (www.caunceohara.co.uk). Of course, you won't know how good your insurance is until you need to use it.