Back it up and forget about it

The convenience of having years of work product centralized on one computer or network can also put your business’ operations at risk if you do not have a reliable way to back up the information in the event of a system crash.

An effective backup strategy is crucial for your operation, and there are many methods available for that will allow you to quickly recover files quickly and avoid any interruption in business continuity.

Two of the most popular approaches are cloud-based backups and physical media backup.

Cloud or Internet backups are widely used because they are easy to setup and there is no need to change or replace media. Depending on the service used, you could have your backup going in minutes after downloading the software.

The first question people usually ask is, “How secure is my data?” The answer to that question depends on the company you are using. If you choose a reputable company that has a proven track record in the business, it is likely your data will be far more secure than even you could keep it. These companies depend on your business and cannot afford to lose even the smallest amount of data. With their resources, they have the ability to ensure your data’s safety. As long as you create a good password your data should be safe.

When you install your software, there usually is a built-in process to identify data that needs to be backed up and automatically add it to the list. Once the list has been established, the first backup may take some time while your selected data is being sent to your service provider’s secure servers. After this initial backup, the software continually monitors your files for changes and will continually upload those changes to the server. The provider’s servers contain up-to-the-minute versions of your files.

Restoring files is just as easy. Built-in utilities will allow you to see your files and then copy and paste them back onto your computer. Some services offer file versioning. This allows you to restore a file as it existed days and weeks prior.

Improvements in backup software will allow you to even completely restore your system from the ground up, which is called a “bare metal” restore in the IT industry. This process will allow you to restore your server’s operating system and applications, not just the data.

Cloud backup services vary in price and space available. Depending on the service that you choose, you may be limited to the amount of data that you can backup. Most operations can exist comfortably within the limitations of basic backup plans. If you do need more space, it usually can be acquired by paying a per megabyte charge for overages.

Physical media backups, such as flash drives and external hard drives, are still a viable option. With proper management, these allow you to create an effective solution for your operation. You will need the actual media and a method for ensuring that your data is backed up on a regular basis. Flash drives are very cheap and easy to swap out for a backup solution. I highly recommend that you purchase multiple flash drives and ensure that they have encryption capabilities so that there is no risk of someone gaining access to your sensitive information if you lose a flash drive.

Another solution is to utilize network attached storage as a destination for backed up files. The network attached storage device can be synchronized with a second device in your home or remote location as long as you have a working Internet connection. This makes the backup process more automated and you can rest easy knowing that your files are safe in a remote location. Depending on the operating system that you have, there may be a software package built-in that will allow you to schedule backups. If your operating system does not include a backup software package, there are commercial software packages that you can purchase that will help you get your data backed up. With a scheduled backup all you have to do is ensure that backup media is in the computer and that you swap it out on a regular basis.

The downside is that physical media backups are notorious for lulling you into a false sense of security. Sometimes the data that you thought you were backing up isn’t really being backed up. For this reason you need to regularly check these backups and perform test restores of the information to ensure that you have a viable backup solution. I’ve heard too many stories where people set and forget the backup for years only to find out when they needed it that they actually weren’t getting good backups.

Once you verify that you are getting all of your data backed up, you should store the media in an off-site location. If something happened to your office and all of your backups are in that office, your data would be lost as if you didn’t have a backup plan at all. A safety deposit box is a great location to store backups.

If you would like assistance testing your existing backup solution or developing a new backup strategy, contact the IT Department at Sparkmon and Associates.