Insurance might not protect your computer from loss or damage due to theft, power surges, fires, floods, or other disasters, but it can go a long way toward reducing the pain involved in replacing it. If you're willing to pay for it, you might even find insurance that includes coverage for loss of essential business data.
The insurance agent who provides coverage for your business should be familiar with the specific risks that are common in your industry. You can also ask trade associations and local chambers of commerce for advice about appropriate coverage. A standard business owner's policy (BOP) is often good enough to cover loss from theft, fire, flood, or vandalism.
Data recovery is sometimes included in a BOP, but if not, it may be worth the additional expense. An Electronic Data Policy (EDP) that picks up where your BOP leaves off might also include coverage against business losses caused by mechanical failure, power surges, and even viruses and spyware.
In some cases, your general business insurance might include computer coverage. However, that's not always enough to replace everything you might lose in a catastrophic event, so it's worth the time and trouble to evaluate the risks in your particular situation. If your basic coverage does not specifically include computer coverage, ask your agent to add a computer equipment rider to the policy.
Most homeowners and renters insurance includes coverage for loss or damage to computers and related equipment, up to a specified replacement cost. If you have just one computer, you're probably okay, but if each member of the family has a computer, or if you have an expensive laptop, you should review your policy and make sure you have enough coverage. Your insurance agent can tell you how much computer coverage your existing homeowner's or renter's insurance includes. If it's not enough, ask about a rider or a separate policy. Make sure your insurance covers full replacement value of any lost or damaged equipment.
Laptop computers and other portable equipment might require a special rider on your regular policy, or special coverage called a floater that protects property away from your own premises. Some floaters specify the geographic areas that are covered, so it's important to advise your insurer about unusual travel plans.
Before you talk to your insurance agent, make a complete inventory of your equipment. This is also a good time to create or revisit your plans for making and keeping backup copies of your data.
When you make an inventory, don't forget all the extra bits and pieces inside and outside your computer, including the graphics controller, sound controller and other internal expansion cards, external storage, network switches, routers and modems, the video display monitor, speakers, keyboard, and uninterruptible power supply. Your laptop inventory should include everything in your computer bag, including the power pack, PC Cards, cables, and the bag itself. The inventory should also include the serial numbers for everything including motherboards, cases, and other internal parts, and copies of the receipts or invoices for each piece.
If you have the receipts or invoices for your existing computer equipment, place a copy of each one in your inventory file folder. When you buy new computer equipment, add those receipts to the same folder. That kind of paperwork is the best way to document exactly when you bought an item and how much it cost.
As part of your inventory, keep a list of all the software installed on your computers, including serial numbers and other unique identifiers. Many software companies can provide free or low-cost replacements for lost or stolen products (your insurance claims specialist should be able to help with this).
When the inventory list is complete, make several copies and store at least one away from your own home or office-it does you no good if you lose it in the same fire that destroyed the computer. A safe-deposit box, a branch office, and the home of a family member who doesn't live with you are all good places to store a copy of the list. Your insurance agent might also agree to keep a copy in your account file.