A Guide to Small Business Data Backup and Recovery

There’s no doubt that we live in a data driven economy. Without immediate and constant data availability, companies grind to a halt. Relying solely on the small business owner’s ability to mentally recall the information is a high-risk venture that few would dare to bet their profits on. Yet gamble they do, either through becoming distracted so that data backups don’t get done, or by thinking that new technologies have everything covered.

“Most small business owners know they should backup their data, but for many it stays on the to-do list until it’s too late, which is a hard and costly lesson to learn because downtime equals lost business — 29 percent of small businesses lost revenue and 52 percent lost productivity due to a typical outage,” says Michael Krutikov, senior global product marketing manager at Symantec SMB. “For small businesses, this is a risk you can’t afford to take.”

Prepare for Data Disaster: Use a Larger Lens

Symantec’s 2012 SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey reveals quite a bit about how prepared, or rather unprepared, most small businesses are. You might want to take a look at it to see how your company compares.

Unfortunately, of the small businesses that do make data backup and recovery planning a priority, many view data recovery through too small a lens.

Typically they think of computer crashes, lost devices, and maybe a localized weather event. Such a myopic focus in data backup and recovery planning can lead to a total wipeout — either from under-estimating the impact of lost data on company earnings or by losing even the backups in a much bigger catastrophe, as happened recently with Super Storm Sandy.

Other small businesses assume the cloud can best the mightiest of storms. But even cloud-based backup and recovery services can fail to perform to expectations.

“Many cloud storage solutions do not offer historical backups, in the industry sometimes called incremental backups,” explains Jimi Mikusi, a small business cloud specialist.  “These vanilla, and often free, cloud storage solutions might only permit retrieving the most recent copy, and thus you are unable to recover data from the past.”

Mikusi adds that “some solutions offer ‘document revisions,’ which are great for spreadsheets and documents but ineffective if used for proprietary accounting databases such as QuickBooks.”

Take the smart approach; understand what your options are, the pros and cons of each, how each affects your security and compliance concerns, and what precisely you can expect should you ever need to actually recover your data and use it. In other words, due diligence is required.

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The Cloud De-Fogged

Pretend that you’ve lost all your data. Now think about which data you need to retrieve first, how fast you need to retrieve it, and how you want to retrieve it. This exercise not only helps you prioritize your data so that you don’t lose time retrieving the wrong info after an emergency, but it also gives you a good idea which storage and disaster recovery options are best for your company.

For example, do you want to retrieve the data immediately using any mobile device? This could be handy if your entire facility is destroyed, and you have no servers at the moment to download the data to. In the case of a huge storm like Sandy, you may not even have a store nearby where you could buy new servers, nor can shippers easily deliver new hardware to your door. Also, your employees may be geographically dispersed after such a disaster or otherwise unable to physically report for work.

If you want immediate access from any device, then cloud-based backup and recovery services are a good choice. But don’t just decide to use the cloud and think you are done with selecting the best option.

“An effective small business backup strategy must start with a plan detailing requirements such as how far in the past it is required to access data,” says Mikusi. “Too often the decision-making process begins with budget, which often defaults to $0, leading to free services that miss business requirements.”

Spend the bucks and get the services you truly need. In this case a penny saved is not a penny earned but rather the price of a ticket to disaster.

Remember too, that disaster survivors don’t receive a get-out-of-jail-free card. You still need to meet compliance and security requirements for your data. Make sure that whatever data recovery option you select meets those requirements.

While cloud services excel at keeping your data far from the disaster site, keep in mind that your data isn’t really in a cloud hovering over the earth. It is stored at an actual facility somewhere. Make sure that facility is far enough away that a regional disaster will not affect it or, better yet, that your data will rollover to another facility if the first one or two are affected.

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