Whatever type of business you’re in, it’s almost certain that you will rely on computers for at least part of your day-to-day operation. Computers and the information they hold have become increasingly essential to our everyday lives and if they stop working, or if you lose the data that’s stored on them, it can bring your business to a standstill.
If this happens it’s not only inconvenient; it could lose you money through lost work or customer confidence. So what can you do to ensure that your information and your business are properly protected?
We all know that our data storage is vulnerable and that we should do something to protect it. The problem is that knowing this and doing something about it aren’t always the same thing. Taking a backup to an external drive or to some other storage medium takes time and effort to set up and to monitor. You may start with the best intentions but in reality, these seldom remain practical. You’ll end up skipping one backup and perhaps another, and before you know it the data on your backup copies is hopelessly out of date. If you had to restore it you could be missing week’s or even months’ worth of information.
There’s also the issue of where you keep your backups. Making a copy to another disk is fine, but it loses its value if you keep it next to the computer. Should there be a fire or a burglary, you risk losing both your original data and your backup. A similar situation applies with servers. Technology such as RAID protects the data and allows you to recover a server or NAS unit in the event of a disk failure, but it’s of little help if you lose the entire machine. To be effective you need at least one recent copy of your backup to be stored in a different, secure location.
Cloud storage has become one of the main buzz words in the IT industry over the last decade. Many people see the cloud as a simple solution to their data storage and backup needs, but there are a number of things that you need to take into account to ensure that it really is the answer.
It’s easy to sign up to one of the many free or low-cost cloud storage services that are available and think that the job is done. However, whilst these services are good for transferring data easily between computers and for storing items such as family photos, they’re not necessarily suited to business use.
While there’s usually a small amount of storage available for free, you need to pay for larger amounts and it’s important to understand the pricing structure. What started off as a cheap service could become expensive as your business grows larger.
You also need to consider how secure your data is. If you’re storing sensitive information such as customer details, you need to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. A public cloud service is not really suited to this type of work unless you go to the trouble of encrypting the information.
Another issue you need to consider is where the servers the cloud provider uses are located. If they’re overseas you may have issues concerning storing sensitive data. You also need to think about how reliable access to them is going to be. Storing data in the cloud means you need a reliable, fast internet connection in order to be able to access it.
Using public cloud storage for backup purposes may be a solution for smaller businesses, but you need to ensure that you understand the full implications in terms of cost and security. You may want to use it as part of your backup strategy, whilst still retaining other local backups too.
Rather than try to build your own backup solution using local storage or a public cloud service, it’s increasingly common to turn to one of the dedicated online backup services. These use the cloud for data storage but are designed specifically for backup use. As such, they address many of the security and other worries that can arise from DIY solutions. If you’re considering a backup service there are a number of things you need to look for from your provider.
Security is a key consideration and most providers will ensure that your data is encrypted both in transit over the internet and when it’s stored on their servers. Of course a backup has to be available when you need it, so look for a provider with more than one data centre so that you can be sure your information will be safe even if there’s a failure at one of them.
As with any other cloud service, backup relies on an internet connection, but how it uses that connection is important too. It’s essential that any solution you use manages its use of bandwidth effectively so that it has minimal impact on the use of your connection for other purposes.
You also need to think about what you have to back up. There will of course be data stored on your PCs and network servers, but you also need to think about backing up your emails. If you use any cloud software services such as Office 365 then it’s a good idea to back up the data from those too for additional safety.
Ease of use is another key factor. If backup requires effort then there’s more likelihood that it will get skipped – probably during busy times when it’s most essential. Having a service that works automatically and backs up files as they’re changed takes the hassle out of the task and ensures it will never be forgotten. Most dedicated services work constantly in the background rather than running at a specific time, so your file copies will always be up to date.
The service you choose also needs to be easy to configure so you can take account of changes as your business evolves, adding new data and removing items that are no longer required. Should the worst happen and you need to recover some information, this need to be easy to achieve. It’s relatively rare to need to restore an entire system; however, recovering files that have accidentally been deleted or overwritten is a surprisingly common requirement. Your backup system needs to be flexible enough to cope with recovering a specific file or folder if need be.
You need to understand that your backup is working properly, and be able to prove it for audit and compliance purposes, so any system you use should have good reporting capabilities to show you exactly what’s been saved, when and where. You also need to be able to carry out spot checks to ensure that it’s working and that you’re alerted to any problems.