Backing up data over the Internet to an off-site storage facility takes a huge weight off the shoulders of many small business owners. No more worries that Shirley in accounting forgot to switch the backup tapes (again) or scrambling to buy enough hardware to keep up with the growing amount of data your business generates.
However, as with any other technology, selecting the right online backup solution requires due diligence on your part. Frank Brick, CEO of Arsenal Digital Solutions, an online data backup provider, has a few pointers to help you make the best decision when it comes to backing up your business data. There’s certainly no shortage of providers from which to choose. But no matter which company you ultimately tap, heeding Brick’s tips will ensure a better outcome.
It Starts With Bandwidth
Since the backup involves data traveling over an Internet connection, the first thing Brick recommends is making sure the connection provides enough bandwidth to handle the traffic. “Typically, these solutions work best with DSL or cable broadband,” says Brick. He adds that certain online applications may also require substantial bandwidth, such as VoIP, so check with your ISP to make sure you have enough to transport the load.
Keep it Simple
Look for a service that’s easy to use, install and maintain. “Your time is as valuable a resource as your data,” says Brick. “Just as you want to avoid down time due to data loss, you want to avoid data protection tasks that interfere with getting the work done.” When work demands already press employees to their limits, data protection simplicity becomes essential.
Hands Off, It’s Automated
Look for a fully automated system that does not require any hands-on interaction. “This offers two main advantages,” says Brick. “It eliminates human error and oversights, which often lead to lost data. The other benefit an automated service provides is decreased overhead and administrative costs. The backups happen automatically without any human intervention.”
Now Shirley in accounting can retire her IT hat and go back to crunching the numbers.
Your data backup is important, but it shouldn’t interfere with your daily business. “Look for a service that will run unobtrusively in the background,” says Brick. One that won’t take up your computer’s resources and make it difficult to run your business applications at the same time. Remember, backup takes a back seat to running your business.”
Safe, Secure, Encrypted
Look for companies that provide a secure, encrypted network. “Your data should be encrypted and protected from unauthorized access, loss and corruption,” says Brick. “This applies while your data is in transit to and from the off-site storage facility.”
Brick says one way you can feel comfortable about what a storage provider offers is whether they meet the criterion set by an independent, third-party auditor such as SAS70, an internationally recognized auditing standard developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
This type of standard certifies the compliance elements of a backup service. “It tells you about the reliability of a company’s infrastructure, security, encryption, best practices, processes and procedure,” he says.
Available and Reliable
It may sound obvious, but any online backup service you choose must be up, running and available 24/7. “Immediate data access is the whole point of data protection, so do not choose a service that doesn’t guarantee 100 percent availability.”
Another concern is whether a company can provide complete data restoration 100 percent of the time. “It’s absolutely crucial that you read a provider’s terms and conditions,” says Brick. “We’re all guilty of automatically clicking OK on the terms, but often times there are too many surprises hidden in there. Don’t make that mistake.”
Such surprises can include the ability to change pricing at anytime without notice, no guarantee that they’ll recover your data and the option to scan your data for any reason, i.e., no privacy.
“This is where a financially guaranteed service level agreement (SLA) is vital,” says Brick. “If you sign up for a daily backup and, for whatever reason, it doesn’t happen for three days, you should get your money back. A financially guaranteed SLA differentiates between an enterprise-level provider and a casual service provider.”
Avoid Growing Pains
As your company grows (and sometimes even when it doesn’t) the amount of data that requires backup keeps right on expanding. Brick recommends choosing a service that can grow right along with your data volume. “The solution should meet your increasing data without additional capital expenditures or expensive changes. It should be seamless, incremental and cost-effective.”
Quality You Can Afford
Finally, Brick says, “The solution you choose should not require a big up-front investment or come with an agreement that locks you into one vendor for an extended period of time. Also, look for hidden costs relating to implementation, training and maintenance.”
He says to look at how much data you have. “Certain data is critical to running your business, and that’s what you want to back up. Depending on the amount of data, online backup can start as low as six to eight dollars a month.”
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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