The best way to back up important data

What data can your business not afford to lose?

There’s no shortage of disasters waiting to claim your precious business data—from fire, flood and theft to hardware failure, power spike, virus or plain old human error. If such a disaster struck your office today, could the business get back on its feet? If you’d struggle, you need a solid backup regime before it’s too late. Think of it as a digital insurance policy.

How your business approaches backups really depends on what you can’t afford to lose. Remember we’re talking about project files, customer records, emails, contacts, calendars, financial data and everything else that you keep on your computers, such as sales records and inventory reports.

What if you lost it all? Today? Could you revert to last month’s backup? What would it cost the business in lost productivity, not to mention lost customers? How about reverting to last week’s backup, or yesterday’s? Once you calculate the impact of catastrophic data loss, you’ll have a better idea of what you can afford to spend to avert such a disaster.

When drawing up a disaster recovery plan, it’s important to consider which data is mission-critical. Should disaster strike, can the business afford significant downtime while you restore from your backups? Prioritising your recovery strategy will make it easier to determine the best way to back up your data.

Small businesses might juggle backups across blank DVDs and USB drives, but this is generally a stop-gap solution. It’s best to automate your backup system rather than manually copy files whenever you remember, especially when protecting constantly changing data such as project files.

Tip: Enable encryption on your backups, so if you lose the media, your data is not public.

If you’re protecting several computers around an office it might be easier to automatically back them up to a central Network Attached Storage drive or dedicated file server.

For an extra level of protection, consider a multi-drive RAID configuration which spreads your data across several hard drives to keep it safe should one drive fail. Also give consideration to notebooks and other mobile devices which regularly carry important data out the front door.

Onsite backup is a great first line of defence, but keep in mind that any disaster which claims the computer on your desk could well claim the backup devices sitting in your desk drawer or the back room. That’s why it’s important to keep “offsite” copies of your critical business data.

Tip: Be sure to implement offsite backups. If your backup is in the same room as your computer, you have no backup.

For a small business this might be as simple as rotating USB drives offsite, but once again it’s a stop-gap solution which isn’t automated. Increasing internet speeds and falling data prices have made the cloud a useful offsite backup location for many businesses.

There are plenty of free consumer-grade cloud backup and storage services around, but it’s worth investigating the extra features and improved service levels of business-grade services. For example, business-grade plans often let you backup multiple computers within the one account, which can be cost effective and easier to manage.

Tip: It’s vital to actually test your backups – make sure you can restore them!

Whatever backup strategy your business employees, it’s important to test it regularly. Don’t wait until the day disaster strikes to discover that your backup plans have gone astray.

READ: 3 backup blunders to avoid

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  • Nice one, Adam! It took me a long, long time to realise the truth of what you’re saying. Fortunately, a kind, clever reader of this blog took me from zero to a three-year off-site back-up subscription by answering all my questions.

    When my PC went offsite for a service the other week, I imagined what it’d be like if it never came back. At that point, I was mighty glad I’d seen the light. Best regards, P. :)

    Thanks to Arthur!

  • Adam Turner

    Thanks Paul, it’s the kind of thing that most people don’t think about until it’s too late — whether it’s protect business data or family photos. Hopefully we can encourage more people to think about their backup strategy.