Back Up Now, Rest Easy Later: Small Business Tips for Keeping Data Safe

Don’t overlook the many different backup solutions for small businesses.

Tips for Keeping Data Safe

Whether you have memories of staying up all night to write a college paper, only to lose it because you forgot to save as you were going along, or your experience is more recent with a crashed computer and no back-up plan to speak of, most of us have been “there” at some point. And by “there,” we mean that tenth circle of hell, the one involving failed hard drives, lost data, and the acknowledgement that it could have been different, if only…

  • If only we’d backed up regularly.
  • If only we’d backed up regularly offsite.
  • If only we’d been a little more proactive, created a plan, and stuck to it.

Sound familiar?

Here’s the thing: no matter where your business is at today in terms of back-up plans and the like, that’s OK. You can still make positive changes, ones that will save you and your company from disaster in the future. To help, we’ve put together this post, which highlights what real business owners are doing to protect their most important assets.

What Small Businesses Need to Think About: One Business Owner’s Perspective

In 2007, Edward Hechter and his wife founded PartyPail.com, a specialty online retailer devoted to helping people celebrate life’s most important milestones, such as weddings, birthdays, baby showers, graduations, and so forth. While Edward has an extensive background in larger company data infrastructures, for his start-up business, he and his wife decided to implement a simple and straightforward approach to backups and data security.

Hechter says, “Our approach is to let high hosting companies handle the vast majority of our data storage needs, and only keep local a very minimal amount of data.”

Hechter recommends using companies that are experts in security, especially for cloud-hosted email, website hosting, e-commerce, and payment processing. “We chose Rackspace for our email and Yahoo for the hosting of our online stores.” He also can’t stress enough how important it is to avoid saving things locally. Hechter adds, “Look at ways to implement email archiving, or use shared email services like IMAP to make sure that if a specific PC fails, you don’t lose your email data.”

The same is true for any documents. Hechter says his solution involved setting up a secure network so that people can save and store data on the network. This, of course, means you should invest in a secure network server and that you back up the server to a secure offsite location.

Hechter’s other recommendations include avoiding wireless networks, using commercial grade anti-virus software (and keeping it up to date), and thinking about scenarios specific to your business. For example, is your company in an area that’s prone to bad weather and prolonged power outages? This was the case for Hechter’s business, so he made sure all computers had an uninterruptable power supply. He even invested in generators that the company used once during a four-day blackout!

The question you might have after reading Hechter’s recommendations is this: WHEN are you supposed to make all these changes? And HOW are you supposed to do it? These are trick questions, since “you” shouldn’t be the one doing these techie things and making these changes.

Instead, follow Hechter’s lead. He left the implementation to the experts: “We used a local IT company to inexpensively set all this up for us, and we never outgrew the setup. Our upfront investment was very reasonable, and even though we had multiple PCs and laptops fail over the years, we never lost any business data, emails, or information, and [we] were able to easily and quickly restore each user’s data when their machine was swapped out, replaced, or repaired.”

Take Advantage of Quality Brand Names That Get the Job Done

(Hint: Some of these products are free!)

Varun Sharma is the founder and owner of Majoreno, which provides an online marketplace for homeowners to find trusted contractors for their home maintenance and renovation needs.

Sharma recognizes the importance of backing up data. “We can’t afford to lose any of the research and files we are working on to disappear or be lost in a tragic accident, and we often need several team members to collaborate on certain projects.”

His solution? For uploading and storing any files, Sharma and his team use free products, like Google Drive and Dropbox (Dropbox also has economical subscription plans if you need more space). Sharma says, “We know they’re safe in the cloud, and easy to share.”

Sharma points out that businesses operating on a shoestring budget can use a combination of tools to help defray costs. “Small businesses can also consider Microsoft’s option of SkyDrive, which is similar to Google Drive and Dropbox. All three of these services often provide up to a certain amount of storage for free, so a business that is operating on a very tight budget can use all three of these accounts and split them up for separate departments. A paid version of Google Apps ($5/user/month) gives up to 30 GB of storage for emails, files, whatever you have for each user.”

Of course, straightforward methods can work in a pinch. Sharma notes, “Sometimes, simply emailing someone a file also ensures that it will stay in your inbox forever. Simply add proper tags/keywords into the subject line to make it easy to find.”

Repeat After Us: Back Up, Back Up, Back Up

Ashley Schwartau is the director of multimedia production at The Security Awareness Company. It’s easy to think someone in her position has only known the pain of her customers’ lost-data catastrophes, but Schwartau says she understands their pain all too well, which makes her an even more understanding ally when it comes to working with small business owners. “No hard disk lasts forever, files get corrupted, devices get stolen. I’ve had this drilled into my head since I was a kid. In high school and in college, I experienced two devastating computer failures where I had not backed up anything or had not backed up in months,” Schwartau says.

So it’s no wonder that Schwartau’s mantra is back up, back up, back up.

Schwartau explains, “In our business, one of the Top 10 Security Issues that we talk about in our training materials is BACK UP. My boss is a huge proponent of the daily incremental backup, so all of us who have Macs use the built in Time Machine app with a dedicated external drive. But having only one backup of important work and client files is a recipe for disaster, so I have a secondary drive on which I back up all of my important files.”

Schwartau says there are so many options that you really don’t have an excuse anymore. “It doesn’t matter what service you use, whether it’s Google (which gives you a ton of free storage) or iCloud or Box.com or SkyDrive or MiMedia or SugarSync or whatever! Back up stuff in the cloud AND on external drives. That way you have a fail-safe for if/when your drives fail or their servers fail.”

How about you? Do you back up your data regularly? If so, what’s your process and what products do you use? Share in the comments!

Chris Wallace

About Chris Wallace

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