Back It Up!
  A Vital Tech Strategy for Your Business

Computer viruses, lightning strikes, power surges, fires and floods. What do all these things have in common? They could cause you to lose valuable business data and seriously threaten the future of your company. The good news is you can protect your company's important information by using backup technology. Backing up data is a powerful tool that every business - big or small - should be using today. In this month's feature article, we discuss important data backup strategies that can help ensure the continuity of your company beyond a disaster.

Best Practices for Data Backup
Backing up your business data is more than just a good idea - your company's survival could depend on it. Determining the information to backup and setting up a regular backup schedule are two important steps in establishing an effective data backup system.

The basic rule of thumb is to backup all the data you need to do business. Software programs can be reinstalled, for example, but any files you've created and/or modified should be backed up on regular basis. These include accounting and inventory files, client and prospect contact lists, as well as email correspondence. If you don't have a backup system that automatically backs up your data, then you should back up manually at least daily or weekly, depending upon how frequently your data changes.

Backup Options
There are two basic categories of backups:

  1. Onsite backups - these are backups to any device that remains at your company's physical premises.
  2. Offsite backups - these are backups that are stored outside of your company's physical facility.

In the case of a disaster, onsite backups are easier to set up and restore from. Offsite backups protect you from a disaster at your physical premises, but can take longer to restore from. Typically, companies will want to use a combination of onsite and offsite backups.

Onsite Backups
There are many onsite backup options available today. To help you decide which is the best backup system for your company's needs, the following are most common, along with their major pros and cons:

USB Flash Drives or Memory Sticks
Pros

  • Fast and easy to use - simply plug it into your computer's USB port
  • Convenient to transport data

Cons:

  • The amount of storage space will usually be too little for your needs (less than 8 gigabytes)
  • Because of their small size, they could be easily misplaced
  • Not appropriate for backing up important data on a regular basis

 
CDs and DVDs
Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Portable
  • Easy to to setup and store (although much of the software tends to be difficult to configure to back up consistently across multiple CDs or DVDs if you have more than the capacity of a CD or DVD)
  • Typically, DVDs can hold about 4.7 gigabytes of data, while CDs can hold 700 megabytes. Most new computers come with CD and DVD burners

Cons:

  • Quality of the disk, how it is stored and how fast it's recorded determine how long it lasts
  • Both CDs and DVDs can be easily broken
  • CDs and DVDs can wear out, causing backups to fail, which can be annoying and time consuming

 
External Hard Disk Drives
Pros:

  • Large storage capacity (up to one terabyte or 1,000 gigabytes)
  • Easy to set up automated, regular backups

Cons:

  • Data is stored locally only, although it is possible to take an external disk home at night (not convenient, though)
  • Not convenient to take offsite regularly

 
Server (a dedicated commercial-grade computer with backup capabilities that is designed to store company-wide data, email and calendar applications)
Pros:

  • Can save company-wide data to a single server
  • Built to backup company data
  • Standard capabilities include saving data to tape to keep copies offsite
  • Easy to set up automated, regular backups

Cons:

  • An expensive option (can be as high as $5,000 to $10,000 for initial purchase and configuration, including labor of a professional to set up)
  • Must also purchase a tape drive to back up data from the server to a media which can be stored off premises


Online Backup: Leveraging Today's Tools to Store Data Offsite


Onsite backup options are viable ways to protect your business data. However, unless you also store copies at an offsite location, you could lose everything if your offices are physically damaged due to such disasters as fires or floods. That's why online backups are one of the most convenient and effective ways to backup data today. It essentially works by sending your data over the Internet to a secure, remote location that acts as a backup.

Advantages of online backup include:

  • Setup and installation is easy - simply download the online backup provider's software.
  • You can set up the system to automatically backup your data.
  • There's no need to worry about physically storing your media onsite or offsite.
  • Your data is stored offsite, so you don't need to worry about losing it in a fire or flood.
  • It's secure - using encrypting technology and security measures similar to that used by banks and credit card companies.
  • Online backup services can cost less than other backup options.


The following are just a few examples of the numerous online backup services available today:


Best of Both Worlds
Although you can physically carry onsite backup data offsite, most people don't do so regularly. And then disaster strikes and their critical data are not available when most needed. Typically, the best option is to select a combination of an onsite backup system and an offsite system that work together to protect your data given your needs and budget.

A small company may want to store data on an external hard disk drive, for example, which can be used for daily back ups. In addition, the company can purchase an online backup option to automatically copy data from the onsite system. In this way, you can easily restore data locally to solve a small problem. However, if a physical disaster occurs, you'd also have your data offsite. If a company chooses to purchase a server, they may want to rotate the physical tape backups offsite to accomplish a similar solution.

As the saying goes, "better safe than sorry." Hopefully your company will never experience a major computer failure, fire or flood. But if it does, you'll truly realize the investment in an effective backup system was well worth your time and effort.

Read How to Back Up for QuickBooks, ACT! & Outlook