Data Backup Devices for Small Businesses

By Carla Schroder | Posted February 22, 2016
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    Data Backup Devices for Small Businesses

    You already know you need to back up your small business data regularly, but you may get stuck figuring out the best way to manage the process. Fortunately, you don't need to spend a scary amount of money to buy and set up a reliable data backup system.

    A reliable data backup plan stores data in a least two locations: onsite and offsite. Please read 10 Top Cloud Storage Services for SMBs to learn about good commercial offsite backup services. Plus, A Guide to Small Business Data Backup and Recovery is an excellent guide to help you craft a workable backup plan. Now let us turn our attention to a selection of reliable and affordable backup devices to use in your small business.

    We look at both locally attached and network-attached backup devices. USB sticks and external USB hard drives are wonderful for making backups on a single computer, and network backup servers simplify data protection for your whole shop.

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    Data Backup Devices: USB Sticks

    USB sticks (a.k.a. flash drives) are small in size and price, but mighty in capacity and convenience. Although you can choose either USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 devices, get 3.0; USB 3.0 promises a transfer rate of 5 Gbits per second, compared to 480 Mbits for USB 2.0. Both are theoretical upper maximums, of course, and you'll be lucky to see half that: which is still pretty darned fast. (Note that you'll see 3.0 speeds only on computers with USB 3.0; they're easy to identify—3.0 ports are blue.)

    Currently, the largest-capacity USB stick is the Kingston DataTraveler HyperX Predator 1TB. It costs around $800 and comes in a nice metal case with accessories. USB sticks come in many capacities, and some have built-in encryption.

    Not all USB sticks are created equal, so stick with the best brands: SanDisk, Verbatim, Kingston, Lexar, and Corsair are all reliable and sturdy.

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    Data Backup Devices: USB Hard Drives

    USB hard drives offer the most storage for the buck. You can get a portable hard drive with a built-in USB port, like the popular Western Digital My Passport Ultra. The USB 3.0 drive offers capacity ranges from 500MB-2TB, and it comes with backup and recovery software for Windows. (Mac users get their own versions). The Passport Ultra comes with encryption, easy automatic backups, and a cloud backup option. And it comes in a variety of colors. Pricing ranges from $60 to $140.

    I prefer an external drive enclosure because, if the hard drive dies or reaches its capacity, it's easy to replace. Rosewill makes solid single-drive enclosures for about $25. Aesthetically, I like the Orico 6619US3 dock (about $30), because it looks like a single-slice toaster. It supports USB 3.0 and holds either a 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch SATA hard drive. You can also find two-slice docks; it doubles your storage, or it lets you copy one drive to another. You can find 2TB hard drives for around $100, so $130 buys a lot of backup space.

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    Data Backup Devices: Solid-state Drives

    Solid-state drives (SSDs) are expensive in comparison to hard drives, but they're durable, small, fast, and have low power requirements. SSDs are wonderful for workloads where it's worth paying more for a speed boost, like for system files and multimedia production.

    The Aegis Padlock Fortress is an advanced external USB SSD that has very strong encryption and security tools, including a built-in keypad for entering a PIN. It comes in four sizes: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB, priced at: $189, $289, $489, and $699 respectively. Nobody is going to break into this sleek little beast to steal your data.

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    Data Backup Devices: Network Storage Servers

    The FreeNAS Mini is a wonderful network storage server powered by the best network-attached storage (NAS) software, FreeNAS. You can use it exclusively for backups, or for file-sharing and multimedia streaming. If you're into doing-it-yourself you can download FreeNAS for free and install it on your own hardware.

    FreeNAS has long been one of the most popular NAS systems; it is built on the rock-solid FreeBSD operating system, and uses the advanced enterprise ZFS filesystem. ZFS gives you a host of cutting-edge features to manage and protect your data, including deduplication, Z-RAID 5, 10, and striping, and encryption.

    The Mini, a sleek little hardware appliance, holds up to four hot-swap SATA hard drives for a maximum 24TB of storage. It comes with 32GB of error-correcting RAM, an 8-core, 2.4GHz Intel processor, dual gigabit Ethernet ports, a hardware encryption module, physical locks, and FreeNAS installed on an internal flash storage module.

    This little darling has it all: speed and capacity. It will set you back $1,284 for 4TB of storage, and up to $2,249 for 24TB. The manufacturer of the FreeNAS Mini, iX Systems, uses Western Digital Red NAS hard drives. These extra-rugged drives run cooler, and they're optimized for network storage. You can talk to the nice people at iX Systems to order one made to your specifications, or you can order it from Amazon in several configurations options.

    The FreeNAS software comes with a Web control panel for controlling all aspects of your server, from configuring backups to hardware status and controls. It supports Windows, Mac, Linux, and Unix clients. There are plenty of NAS appliances, and the FreeNAS Mini gets my vote for best value and best performer.

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    Data Backup Devices: Another Network Storage Server

    Western Digital markets My Cloud EX4 storage appliance as a home media server, but it's perfect for the small business as well. Pricing starts around $700 with 8TB of storage.

    It holds up to 24TB of storage in four drive bays, 512MB RAM, a Marvell single-core 2.0GHz processor, dual Gigabit Ethernet, and a Web control panel. It's not as rugged as the FreeNAS Mini, and it's a slower performer. But it has a simpler management interface, and includes modules for connecting to cloud storage and for backing up mobile devices.

    Carla Schroder is the author of The Book of Audacity, Linux Cookbook, Linux Networking Cookbook, and hundreds of Linux how-to articles. She's the former managing editor of Linux Planet and Linux Today.

    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!

Whether you choose USB sticks, external hard drives or network storage devices, you can protect your small business data with these excellent, reliable, and affordable data backup devices.

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