Security Strategies to Defend Small Business Data

By WebReference Staff | Posted October 20, 2011

Your small business data is priceless.  Your customer records, sales data, employee information and tax history are easily some of the most valuable assets that you own.  And -- especially for small businesses -- losing that data can be more damaging than losing a building, inventory or raw materials

Permanent data loss, whether caused by mechanical failure, natural disaster or even human error can be detrimental to the point that it is no longer possible to maintain the business.  Data backup is a small business’s first and best defense against harm.

Design Your Backup Strategy

You can approach data backup in a number of ways, so be sure to consider which combination will do the best job of protecting your business’s most valuable asset. 

The first option to consider is cloud-based data backup.  It is a cost-effective solution, and there a number of online services that offer secure, cloud-based backup solutions.  Most of these providers use redundant backup locations to secure your data, but before you select a provider, be sure to ask the following questions, as services vary from one provider to another:

  • What local restore capability will I have?
  • How do you protect my data from corruption or loss at your facility?
  • How do you handle a full restore?  Do you send media to my location, or do I need to pull it over the Internet?
  • How will you provide me with a copy of my backup data if I choose to discontinue service?

You might also consider backing up your data locally.  This can be as easy as backing up important data to a CD or DVD and storing it at an offsite location.  Finally, you might consider a disk-based system or an external storage device, such as a flash drive or hard drive. 

If you use servers for daily tasks, consider server backup as protection against a possible system failure.  Again, cloud storage companies offer backup services.  Another way to make data backup easier is to consider a Windows-based storage server instead of a standard Windows server acting as a file server. 

A storage server may help you drive down costs because it reduces ongoing storage growth and uses high-density SATA drives, which help drive costs even lower on this long-term solution.  Additionally, a storage server is simple to implement, manage and backup, making it a great option for small businesses.

Finally, don’t forget to protect your virtual servers.  A recent Symantec survey found that more than half of small companies polled don’t fully protect their virtual servers, and CDW’s Small Business Server Virtualization Roadmap found that while more small businesses are moving to virtual servers, many are neglecting to back up or secure the data in their virtual environments.

Back Up to Tape…No, Really

While data backup is moving away from tape -- or already has, depending on your available resources -- small businesses should not overlook the opportunities that data tape still provides.  Depending on your retention periods for backup, tape is still a great option for long-term retention.  

While tape may be slower than some of the newer technologies available, when you use it for backup, “fast” isn’t really a requirement if you have a disk as the initial target for the backup job. This simply makes the tape backup a copy for that long-term retention.  Even dated technology can still work for archival data backup, so be sure to consider this option before deciding that you need a complete upgrade. 

If tape is an option that works for your small business, you will need to look at your business data and determine what you need to archive for an extended period. 

Replicate for Instant Backup

Replication is another critical data backup element.  At the core of all business continuity plans is some form of data replication, which duplicates and stores vital data in a secure location where the organization can retrieve it should something damage or devastate the business’s primary data center.  There are two basic data replication strategies to consider:  host-based and controller-based. 

Host-based data replication happens at an operational level by pairing two individual servers that will each save data, which ensures redundancy.  This solution is effective because the back-up server can be deployed remotely, which eliminates the need to restart the server should something go wrong.  It also has a limited footprint, taking up less physical space and reducing your energy consumption. 

Typically, host-based strategies are the preferred choice of small businesses because they are cost effective and are easy to install, but keep in mind that most use a software system that requires a license.  Be sure to weigh the preventative expenses against the cost and value of significant data loss. 

Controller-based data replication is used more within larger organizations.  Controller-based replication occurs at the byte-level on a storage area network (SAN), an architecture that connects remote storage devices to servers, while appearing attached locally to the operating system.

Data is one of your organization’s most important assets.  Take advantage of the diverse backup options available to your small business, and craft a personalized backup strategy that works best for you.  Doing so ensures that your data is always protected and available.    

Moosa Matariyeh is a enterprise solution architect at CDW.

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