A computer crash can hurt any-sized company, but for a small business it can be extremely costly.

A recent survey by Brother International Corp., the Bridgewater, New Jersey-based home and office equipment company, revealed that 75% of small business respondents say a crashed computer is more disruptive than a sick employee. Not to mention, it can be the cause of missed deadlines and worse yet the inability to go after new business opportunities.

“The consequences of a crash can leave a business operation fully exposed to the danger of costly system downtime and data recovery fees that come with technology failures,” says Patrick Rardin, CEO of Eagle Feather Enterprises, a technology consulting company.  “Hurricane Sandy, for example, cost businesses billions of dollars in downtime and lost revenues.”

But a computer crash doesn’t have to mean a halt in business, or worse yet, its demise. There are a host of technologies that will keep a small business operating when their computer systems aren’t.

For most small businesses, data is the critical ingredient to keep the business operating. Because of that, computer experts say priority number one should be having a good data backup system in place. While using physical tapes and housing them off site may prevent a business from losing any data, it isn’t going to help when the systems are down. A better option, according to some computer experts, is to make use of an online storage service.

“Small businesses are really making heavy use of online backup,” says Gene Marks, founder of The Marks Group, a Philadelphia software consulting company.  Not only will using an online backup service give you access to the data anytime, and from anywhere, but it’s also a low cost alternative to housing the systems onsite. “If your server goes down or there’s a fire, your stuff is stored somewhere else,” which means all it will take to get back up and running is finding a new computer to use, he says.

For business owners who aren’t fully comfortable with storing their data online, Rardin says they can employ a hybrid cloud strategy. With that the business data would be stored in the cloud but also duplicated in the office.

“A hybrid cloud solution is the best of both worlds,” says Rardin. “It provides enhanced reliability during Internet or power outages.”

In addition to storing data online, computer experts say using cloud based applications diminishes downtime from a crash. Let’s say your business is a heavy user of spreadsheets, and without the software you can’t bill customers. If you use a cloud-based spreadsheet application, it won’t matter if your computers are down for one day or a week.

“Small businesses can use the cloud to store things, to retrieve things and to send things,” says John Wandishin, vice president of marketing at Brother. “Having your business in the cloud means if you need a contract or proposal you don’t need a PC to download it.”

Long gone are the days when everyone used a desktop or laptop computer at work, these days people are bringing iPads, smartphones, Google tablets and Macbooks into the office environment. Instead of trying to support all the disparate devices and put the server at risk from outside viruses and other security issues, Marks says small businesses are having employees connect to their servers using remote desktop software.

“With remote desktop the data is all being saved on the server, so if the computer goes down or you lose the tablet, you don’t have to worry about the data going away,” says Marks.

Even scanners and printers can keep a business running in the event of a system crash. According to Wandishin at Brother, a lot of smart printers and scanners take advantage of the cloud by enabling the business to scan and save a digital copy online. 

“An all-in-one printer has the capability to go up in the cloud and pull down documents to print without using a PC,” says Wandishin. “Scanners can connect directly to cloud which keeps business moving.”