Data is the life blood of individuals and small businesses alike, from electronic invoices to client emails. For the majority of us, data is a vital part in everything we do. So the real questions is what are you doing to protect this data? A good backup system is a lot like homeowners insurance. You hope you’ll never have to actually use it, but when disaster strikes words will never adequately describe how happy you are that you have it.
4 steps to ensure that when disaster strikes, you don’t find yourself in a world of regret:
Step 1: What’s Critical?
You should start by identifying the most critical aspects of your data. Try imagining waking up in the morning with absolutely nothing; no email, no files, no office. What would it take to keep your business running? Do you store client files somewhere or keep your booking keeping files on your computer? Identifying the essential files you’d need to keep your business running is a good start to knowing what you need to backup.
Step 2: What’s Already Being Backed Up?
A lot of things are already stored in the “cloud”. Email for example is one piece of data that could be stored both on your computer or phone, while still being saved on the server depending on how your devices were initially setup. Perhaps your accounting software has a built in backup to the software providers’ servers. It’s important to know what pieces of your data puzzle are already being saved and where they’re being saved, so in the event of a disaster you know exactly where to go to get the pieces back.
Step 3: How Much Data is There?
Once you have a good idea of what you need to backup and what’s already being backed up, the next step is to figure out just how much space you will need for your backup system. The good news is that storage space in the form of external hard drives is getting cheaper by the day. A decent 3 Terabyte (3000+ GB) external hard drive can be purchased for anywhere from $150 – $200. For most small businesses and individuals an external hard drive in the 2-4TB range will cover your backup needs with plenty of room to spare.
Speaking of spare space, remember when purchasing a hard drive to buy for the future and not “for the now”. Any hard drives you buy should have ample room to accommodate your growing data, as every day your data is likely getting larger and larger.
Step 4: How Many Backups Should I Have?
A good rule of thumb for backup systems is the “2+1 Rule”. What this is saying is that you should have 2 backups stored locally (perhaps through an external USB drive or Network Area Storage (NAS) device) and one backup that is stored in a geographically different location. In the event of complete destruction like a building fire, tornado, theft, vandalism, flood, etc, it’s important to remember that a backup being stored in a different geographical location is the key to recovering from such a large scale disaster. Storing a backup in a different geographical location can take a couple of forms: physical or online media.
Before the rise of broadband Internet the best way to backup data and save it off-site was to use a physical media; often magnetic tape cartridges or CD/DVDs depending on the amount of data you were trying to backup. While these options are still in use today, a lot of individuals and companies are moving to cloud based solutions to avoid keeping track of and transporting physical media from one location to another. Typically a physical media solution will cost less over the long haul, depending on how often you’re making physical backups of your data.
There are many businesses out there that offer cloud based storage solutions specifically geared toward small business and individuals. Sites like Dropbox or Sugar Sync are a couple of good places to start looking when you’re trying to find a cloud based storage solution. With so many choices out there it can be a little daunting to settle on just one, so take some time and do some comparison shopping and reading up on reviews for the various sites. Most importantly, you’ll want to know your data is safe and sound. Prices can range based on how much storage space you need, but expect to pay anywhere from $50-$150 a month for most cloud based services.
In the end, backup solutions can look expensive and may be a bit on the confusing side of things, but knowing that your data is safe and secure and that your business is prepared for the worst case scenario will give you peace of mind. Take the time to do the proper research and make the investment in your business and you’ll be prepared for the worst case scenario.