used with permission from SBA.gov
by Caron Beesley
How are you backing up your small business data? If you are like most small businesses, you could be compromising your business and its data on a daily basis.
A 2011 survey by Carbonite, a provider of online backup solutions, found some facts about data loss that may surprise you:
- Forty-eight percent of American small businesses with between two and twenty employees have experienced data loss, up from 42 percent in 2010.
- Top causes of data loss include hardware/software failure (54 percent), accidental deletion (54 percent), viruses (33 percent) and theft (10 percent).
- Thirty-one percent of business owners surveyed think backing up company data is a hassle.
If you’ve ever lost a laptop, or been left stranded by malware or some other problem, then you already know the detrimental effect it can have on your business. For many, it can mean disaster.
So what are your options for backing up business data so you can access and restore files on the fly in the event of a data loss incident?
Finding the Best Backup Approach
The backup market is huge, so before you start looking into your options, develop a backup approach that meets your needs. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you need to back up your entire operating system or just essential data (employee records, financial records, documents and databases)? The answer will help determine how much data you need to back up. For example, an operating system can take up a lot of space, but if you have a copy of it, on an installation disk, for example, you may not need to back it up.
- What are your vulnerabilities or primary concerns? According to the Carbonite survey, most businesses still use external hard drives and USB sticks to store data. Backing up data to one location only can be risky, so assess whether your business needs an extra layer of protection. Consider backing up your most critical data to both an online backup service and a local device which could also house your less critical assets.
- How often do you need to perform a backup? What window of vulnerability can you tolerate? For businesses, a daily or weekly backup is a good idea – especially if you are fairly active in creating or updating files and documents.
Backup Options – Mix it Up!
There are endless options for backing up data, but it’s a good idea to build in some redundancy and shoot for at least two methods that will divide and conquer your data backup needs. Here are some options:
1. External Hard Drives or Disks
Disks have long been used as a go-to backup device, but they are also notorious for failing to capture all your data. Plus, it’s a manual process. A better option would be to back up to an external storage device. For $60 or thereabouts, you can buy a desktop device that stores almost 1 Terabyte of storage. These devices also offer the convenience of scheduling automatic backups for those of us who’d otherwise forget.
2. Backing Up to the Web
Cloud storage and other online solutions offer the reassurance of a remote backup strategy that complements your local backup strategy. This is a burgeoning market and backup options and pricing vary. Depending on your storage and user needs, you can expect to pay anything from $120 to $700 per year. You can keep your pricing low by using web-based storage services to back up what you don’t feel comfortable storing locally.
Providers include Carbonite, Amazon S3, DropBox, and Mozy. In addition to basic backup services, many offer various bells and whistles, including the option to access data from mobile devices, backup multiple PCs from one account, and share large files with teams. If you’re worried about not being able to access your data because of a dropped internet connection, DropBox lets you access your files offline.
Another increasingly popular option is to build your own personal cloud with the help of a wireless network and sturdy storage devices currently available in the market.
3. Server Backup
If you use a server in your business to run email, databases or business applications, backing it up is a must. You can do this using backup software that saves data to disks. Another option often favored by small businesses that don’t have ready access to IT support services is a cloud-based solution. Data is simply uploaded via the web and the cloud provider takes care of IT maintenance. The downside is that data transfer can be slow even with a broadband connection.
Be Proactive About Your Backup Strategy
At the end of the day, business data is one of your most valuable assets. So whichever backup option you use, be sure to continuously review what data needs to be protected. Set up automatic backups and monitor them to ensure they aren’t failing. Lastly, keep an eye on your backup space consumption and have a plan in place to upgrade when the time comes.