Data backup is a lot like flossing – we all know we really should do it, but we “forget” about it more often than not. For those of us, who actually do it, we probably learned the hard way – cavities aren’t fun at all. The risk is a little bit higher when you’re running a business – losing all your data, even just on a single computer, is a very high cost to pay for procrastination.
For small and medium businesses, backing up data is about automation, redundancy, and reliability. Your data backup needs to run itself and do that job well. The first step along these lines is to consolidate your data in a single, very reliable location. Instead of having each computer have its own backup solution, it’s better to have a specific location meant for backup.
It’s common to see small offices designate a single computer on the network to be a file server that the rest of the computers store files on. This isn’t a great idea for a number of reasons. First, the hard drive in this computer is just as prone to failure as any of the other computers. Then, it will have to be left on all the time to allow constant storage and retrieval access, which means the computer will be on 24/7 as well as dealing with multiple file saving locations, the drive will invariable fail much faster. Let’s face it if this drive’s failure coincides with any other drive failing, the data will be lost forever.
If this is the method you’re using, the best way to convert to a more secure system is to set up a cloud-based syncing program. You may have an onsite backup hard drive; but when was the last time you checked to make sure it even worked? People often discover that their server that they’ve been backing up to has failed – and discover it while they’re trying to recover data. The backup isn’t very helpful in that case.
Cloud backup isn’t at the mercy of a single computer. Once you set it up on the computers you want to back up, you can just forget about it. I like CrashPlan (www.crashplan.com). For one system, the basic plan is about five bucks a month for unlimited storage. And the pro version allows you to have multiple systems sync to a single file system that your IT administrator can monitor. Syncing is all automatic so you won’t have to deal with the ramifications of forgetting a nightly backup or an employee forgetting to save to the backup server.
The big drawback to relying entirely on cloud-based backup solutions is that you have to be online for it to work. If something fails, you’ll need to download all your data to the affected machine, which can take a lot of time.
The best solution, and obviously the most expensive, would be to set up a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive with at least two drives in a RAID configuration. It might also be best to have this in an off-site location that is less likely to be affected by whatever disasters could affect the devices at your business. Data written to these drives is replicated over all of them simultaneously, so if one drive fails, you can take it out, swap it for a new one, and put it back in without even having to take down the server. Super simple stuff. I personally really like the hybrid solution offered by Netgear Ready NAS, as they work with Egnyte cloud file server software (www.egnyte.com) to create a system where data is both cached locally for quick access, as well as synced automatically to a cloud file server. Data is backed up and accessible anywhere, which eliminates the need for FTP or VPN systems to access the files away from the office. You’ll need to pay a monthly fee to Egnyte (starting at $24.00/mo) but many people find it’s most cost-effective in the long run.