On-site Data Backup
For day-in/day-out recovery from non-catastrophic threats such as system crashes, viruses and human error, an on-site backup solution is the most traditional route. If you want more features and control than Windows' built-in backup utilities provide, consider a dedicated backup manager such as those offered by the Retrospect product line.
A long-time player in this market, Retrospect offers a range of solutions tailored specifically to small businesses data backup needs. Retrospect Single Server ($679) protects a single Windows server and an unlimited number of Windows, Mac and Linux desktops and notebooks on the network.
Of course, software is just half the equation. You'll need something to back up to. If you're the paranoid type (which is likely given that you're reading this), consider a product such as the ioSafe SoloPRO external hard drive (starting at $249). Not only is the drive enclosure stylish, it's also fireproof and waterproof -- presumably to survive not just the fire but also the water that douses the flames.
The enclosure is rated to withstand exposure to temps of 1,550 degrees for up to 30 minutes, and survive in 10 feet of water for up to 72 hours. Your purchase price also gets you up to $2,500 worth of forensic recovery should disaster strike.
Of course, keeping data out of harm's way in the first place beats having it survive a fire and/or flood. That calls for a removable backup medium that lets you take the data set and store it off-site. A tape drive like the Dell PowerVault LTO-3-060 Tape Drive ($1,798) is still the most cost-effective solution for archiving serial backups.
This drive fits in an available drive bay of your server and stores up to 400GB of data on LTO-1, LTO-2 or LTO-3 tape cartridges. The included Symantec Backup Exec software lets you select which data to back up and how often to do so.
Leverage Cloud Computing
If you want the ultimate in off-site data protection, look to cloud computing. Online backup/storage services, or hybrid products that combine on-site and Web-based components, will help you survive and recover from disasters that wipe out your physical systems.
One of our favorite offerings is Carbonite Business. Unlike traditional daily or weekly backups, Carbonite continually backs up the files on your business PCs to the its secure data centers throughout the day. There's no intervention required by your employees, and you have complete visibility into (and control over) individual backups via the handy My Company Dashboard, where you can see your users, computers, storage in use, backup status and more.
Best of all, the pricing scheme for Carbonite Business can't be beat. Instead of paying per PC, you pick the plan that fits your storage needs -- 250GB for $229 per year or 500GB for $599 (which includes service for one Windows server) -- and protects as many machines as you need.
Another way to keep your documents protected is to have them reside in the cloud in the first place. With Microsoft Office 365, your data lives in the cloud, meaning that it's accessible virtually anytime, anywhere from any Internet-connected device.
This subscription-based service (starting at $6 per month per user) has tools that look and feel like the apps you're familiar with -- Word, Excel, Outlook and so on -- and lets all your employees securely and safely access email, important documents, contacts and calendars. If a natural disaster affects your physical office location, you can continue conducting many aspects of your business operations from any location, since Office 365 lets your employees work remotely.
But perhaps the best approach is one that blends on-site speed with online peace of mind. That's where a product like the SonicWall Continuous Data Protection Backup and Recovery Appliances (starting at $1,599) really shines.
The company designed the line with disaster recovery in mind, to protect your data -- not just locally but also off-site -- should the unthinkable happen. The system includes "agent" software that resides on each PC or server to be backed up, a self-contained network appliance to store the data and manage the backups, plus an optional cloud-based service to replicate data to secure off-site servers. If a disaster wipes out your PCs and your backup appliance, you can still retrieve your data.
Now that you have a plan to keep your electronic files safe from disaster, what about your paper documents? If they should be destroyed, discarded or misplaced, there's likely no way for you to replace them. So the first step is to digitize all that paper, organize it, and then back it up.
One of the easiest ways to do that is with a document management software such as PaperPort Professional 14 ($199/99) from Nuance Communications. With PaperPort and a scanner, you can turn paper files into electronic ones that can then be edited, organized and shared -- and most importantly, backed up via one of the solutions mentioned above.
Even better, the software works seamlessly with the PaperPort Anywhere online storage service, so electronic files you create are automatically synchronized to a secure off-site server.
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