Low-Cost Ways to Survive Small Business IT Failures

By Paul Mah | Posted December 05, 2012

Like it or not, IT systems and computers fail. For a small business, such failures can hit harder in terms of both opportunity costs and downtime. Moreover, smaller budgets mean that small businesses don’t have as many backup measures in place to protect their systems, and that often leads to a protracted recovery that further saps the bottom line.

Fortunately, there are a several low-cost approaches small and mid-sized businesses can use to defend against IT failure. Here's a quick overview of three such methods.

Backup Data Regularly to a NAS

Hard disk drives can fail as the result of mechanical problems, and the untimely demise of a storage drive can be the source of much grief, and it can even result in significant financial losses. While a data recovery firm may well recover the majority of lost data, the process is not immediate, and it can be costly.

As such, it makes sense for SMBs to take preventive action by purchasing a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device and use it to perform regular backups. Given its affordability, a NAS box is certainly a cheaper alternative than experiencing data loss. You can learn more about NAS and its various features and capabilities in our Small Business Guide to Network Attached Storage.

Flip the Mail Exchanger Record

Email, the lifeblood of most organizations, plays a vital role in business. Whether you rely on cloud-based or on-premises email servers, systems can crash or become unavailable for various reasons. In the case of a severe outage, some SMBs may want to modify their domain name's mail exchanger (MX) record to quickly divert incoming email messages to another provider or server.


If you'd rather not switch email vendors on a whim, highly affordable services such as Dyn’s Email Backup MX and MXSave exist to receive incoming messages for days and weeks until your email service is back up. This prevents losing email messages, and it allows employees to continue working where they left off once the outage is resolved.

Don’t Rely on Just One Internet Connection

Business dependence on the Internet simply cannot be overstated. Despite its crucial role, many businesses continue to rely on a single Internet connection for all their needs. What many SMBs don't realize is that a Service Level Agreement (SLA) of 99% availability per year translates into a staggering 87.6 hours of downtime. Moreover, compensation is often prorated based on the monthly subscription, which doesn’t come close to compensating for the inconvenience and lost productivity an outage causes.

Instead, SMBs should seriously consider the use of at least two Internet connections from multiple Internet service providers to insulate against isolated network faults. This could be setup easily enough using a hardware load-balancer. Because low-speed Internet access is usually priced cheaper, judicious planning can yield the same overall Internet performance and similar prices for a much greater level of redundancy.

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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