Weather the Storm by Reining in Your Data: An Overview of Business File Back-Ups
A spilled cup of coffee on your primary work computer can wreak as much havoc as an earthquake—as far as your business’s data is concerned, that is.
Unfortunately, many small business owners and entrepreneurs put data back-up on the proverbial backburner. The results can be devastating, ranging from losing valuable work to completely halting all business operations. Even worse, it can put in you on the wrong side of the law if data you need to complete tax filings is erased.
Keeping your data safe isn’t just a matter of instituting—and religiously abiding by—a data back-up routine. You’ll also want to pay careful attention to what online services do with your data.
DIY Business Data Back-Ups
Some entrepreneurs prefer the control they can wield by performing back-ups themselves. Or, at the end of the day, it’s work they don’t think warrants paying a service company to perform. Whatever your reason, make sure your back-up plan includes these vital components:
- regular back up of vital business data
- regular storage of back-ups in a secure, off-site location
Once you’ve identified what data are critical (usually financial records, policies, customer contact information, etc.), establish a schedule for back-ups. The good news is with large-storage media devices so affordable, you don’t have to sacrifice anything. The bad news is that information like your financial records may require updates more frequently than, say, your human resources policies. You may want to back-up certain items daily and others less frequently.
For most small business owners, you don’t need an elaborate media system. While tape back-ups are the most reliable, they’re quite expensive. An external hard drive is generally fine as a main back-up. Use writable CDs or DVDs as a secondary back-up. Leave the external hard drive at the office and the CDs or DVDs at a secure off-site location—perhaps a safe in your home.
If a disaster strikes close to—or at—home, CDs or DVDs won’t do you much good. Unless you have a close, out-of-the-area friend you trust with copies or your data, this method has its limitations. Complimenting physical back-ups with free online back-ups such as Dropbox or Google Drive can help you stay in business from a remote location.
A few entrepreneurs realized the shortcomings of manual back-ups and created automated back-up services specifically for businesses. Carbonite and Mozy are among the most popular with similar pricing structures. Both operate in the same basic method:
- You install the software and decide which files you want to continually update.
- The service will create the initial back-up—depending on the amount of data you choose, this process may take hours or days.
- You will determine how often the service will automatically back up modified files and new files.
Unless you start creating files in new folder structures, your only responsibility is staying current with your bill. If a disaster strikes, you can log on to the website to download your files. If you opt for a service with version control—when each version of a file is stored separately, rather than simply overwriting a modified file—you can access older versions in case you overwrite something important on your business computer.
Whether you opt for automatic or manual back-ups, either system can only back-up what’s stored on your computers or servers. With so much business data now stored in cloud (sometimes called “Software-as-a-Service”) computer software, making sure you choose reliable cloud services is imperative.
Your Head in the Clouds, Your Data in Safe Hands
Cloud solutions have been an economical and easy choice for small and enterprise businesses alike. Entrepreneurs have become cheerleaders for online software that doesn’t require purchasing expensive hardware, upgrading software, or performing maintenance, not to mention the appeal of working anywhere an Internet connection is available.
Not all clouds solutions are created equal. If a disaster strikes one of your cloud services, will you lose your data? Will you be out of business until they’re back in the swing of things? Is your data more vulnerable to hackers on their servers than your computers?
Before selecting a cloud software service, ensure the vendor meets these standards:
- All processes and servers are redundant. This means the vendor employs identical back-ups of every piece of hardware and software critical to the cloud solution, all ready to go if anything happens to the main operations.
- Data is backed up regularly (at least daily) and stored in a secure, off-site facility. Many cloud vendors store data in the same facility in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
- The data centers are alarmed and staffed by security personnel 24/7.
- Only authorized personnel are allowed access to your data. Verify these authorized personnel are required to pass background checks and have credentials in their field.
- Their Web servers use 128-bit SSL (or 256-bit on supported browsers).
- They will only share information about your account with authorized contacts. This point is especially important for cloud solutions that involve your financial data.
- Third parties regularly audit their security and infrastructure. Ask for specific names of third parties and how often these audits are performed.
- Sensitive data such as financials, passwords, and Social Security numbers are encrypted.
While more extensive security is common in reputable cloud services, the above will meet most small business owners’ needs.
Between a reliable, regularly updated back-up system and secure cloud services, your business data can survive any disaster mother nature or your office coffee addict may throw your way.