Hands up if you have a backup strategy and regularly take backups of your business data? For the small number with your hands in the air, well done as this could really be the difference between having a business or not in the event of an unexpected data disaster. There are a lot of statistics out there claiming that a significant number of businesses will fail within a relatively short period of time after a serious data loss. If that is a real shock to you then please read on.
I have been involved with IT for more than 20 years and many years ago I was the System Manager for a large group of companies. As such, I had the responsibility for the data backup strategy and for the implementation of the physical data backup. It was of paramount importance both to have backups and to ensure data could be recovered in the event of data loss. Any failure to recover would have had a significant impact on the business and of course my career progression! Whilst most people can understand why companies need to backup their data, a lot of small companies/sole traders don't seem to see it as a main priority. After all, there is always something else to do! Whilst I accept that hardware is far more reliable than it was in the 'early years', the problem is still the same if you have a disk failure, or worst of all if you lose your system through either fire or theft, not forgetting human error, or viruses!
Take a few minutes to consider the impact on your business if you lost your complete system or had a disk failure and you lost all of your data. For your own personal information, what would you do if you lost all of your photographs! Consider such things as
- Customer information (names, contact details, invoices etc)
- Emails (assuming it is not all server based and already backed up)
- Documentation for your business
- Work in progress for your customers
The list goes on...
What are your backup options?
When you consider that storage costs are a fraction of what they were a few years ago, there really is no excuse to not have any backup system in place. A summary of the main types of backup media are detailed below.
Removable Optical Media: CD/DVD used to be the standard choice (and before that floppy discs, remember those?) however for most uses they have been overtaken by USB 'sticks'. They are however still a good choice for long term archival of data.
Removable media: USB sticks which now come in a large choice of sizes to cover most needs. Physically very small and therefore very portable and therefore very good for 'off site' backup
External Disk: An external attached disk has the main advantages of speed and capacity and is probably the best choice for most people to secure their data. The costs have reduced dramatically whilst the capacity has increased dramatically and it is now common to have external disks of several terabytes.
Cloud storage: Storage space provided by organisations and accessed via the internet. This is now available from a variety of sources and there are well know organisations that provide a reasonable capacity for free!
At the time of writing, the following list covers some of the well known organisations offering free storage. How much these services will satisfy your business will depend on your data volume. For more storage capacity, there are a variety of paid for plans.
- Amazon: 5GB
- DropBox: 2 to 16GB
- Microsoft OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive): 7GB
- Google Drive: 15GB
Think of these cloud systems as being an extension of your file explorer and as long as you have internet access you can access your files.
So many options, what should I do?
The answer really depends on the volume of data you have and the level of risk you are prepared to take, although I would argue that no level of risk is worth taking when it comes to backup of your data. If you currently do not backup any of your data, then the answer is simple, do something as anything is better than nothing! It takes minutes to sign up for a cloud based account and start backing up your key files. It costs a few pounds to buy a USB stick and it doesn't take long to backup your files. There really is no excuse!
For my own needs I use a combination of all of the backup options. You may think this is overkill, however I have been brought up to think otherwise. I use an external disk for my main backup (using software to schedule regular backups), but supplement this with additional copies of key data on USB sticks (fire or theft is likely to take out your external drive, so remember to remove your USB sticks and keep them 'off site' if possible). I also use cloud storage for work in progress data. To finish off, I use DVD for long term archival.
TIP: One of the advantages of cloud storage is that your data is available across multiple platforms (e.g. Windows, Mac, Android, iOS), so in addition to a backup it is great for collaborative working or if you use multiply devices. The ability to access the same data from your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone means you are always in control.
I have been in the IT industry for over 20 years and have witnessed the Internet development from its infancy to its current level of maturity with great interest. I have a real passion for everything Internet related and get a great deal of satisfaction sharing any information that can help others to develop their business.
For more business advice and information on my services, why not visit my website at the above link.
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