Doing business creates a lot of data. Examples include invoices and expenses. You go about doing your thing. Your computer seems reliable and your data appears secure. Then one day, all hell breaks loose. No one expects to lose data, but it happens plenty of times. It is not a case of if, but when data loss will occur. Data loss has caused businesses to fail. Before the worst happens to you, take action and put in place an effective data backup strategy for your business.
External hard drive data backups
If you are a solo or micro sized business, an external hard drive may be a solution for you. These devices are readily available from technology stores. Many offer “one touch backup” solutions where they backup a computer by the press of a button.
This solution is straightforward to get going. It is not a great solution; however, if your data is stored in multiple places. You may have two computers, you may have several employees. If this is the case, you will need to consider other solutions than only a simple external hard drive. Several hard drives will quickly get difficult to handle. You also can easily backup one computer and forget about others.
A more comprehensive strategy makes use of NAS (Network Addressable Storage) devices. The principle function of these devices is to make available a network drive. You and your people then work off this drive rather than the local storage of each computer.
If you use a NAS, you may have several options to perform a data backup. External hard drives can be plugged into nearly all NAS devices through a provided USB port. You use this external hard drive to backup the NAS device rather than using it to backup one or more computers. This is far more effective than performing data backups on individual computers. It is; however, essential that your staff work on the network drive and do not store any documents on their computers. If you achieve this level of office discipline, you benefit. You can quickly replace any crashed computer with another. Your staff can work from any computer rather than a specific one (unless there is some special computer configuration that they require). An example of a simpler NAS is the Asustor AS3102T v2
Higher featured NAS devices also provide facilities where some of the hard drives installed can act as a mirror or automatic backup device. An advantage of this approach is that you have a continuous backup provided automatically by the NAS. You will never get caught with the last backup being two weeks ago by making use of this feature. If you use a NAS with these features, external hard drives are still useful to build an off site backup. An example of a higher featured NAS is the Synology DiskStation DS1618+.
Cloud data backups
An alternative data backup strategy is to use cloud backup solutions. These services are distinct from cloud drive solutions like Dropbox or Google Drive. These solutions are designed for data sharing and collaboration rather then being purpose built for backups.
Cloud data backup services offer extensive features including backup of:
- NAS devices
- Cloud drives
- Phone and tablets
- Online services such as Office 365 or databases such as SQL Server, Oracle and PostgreSQL
By using a cloud data backup service, you have automatically resolved the off site data problem. Most services will backup your data in multiple locations.
A downside with these services is extensive internet bandwidth requirements. If you comprehensively backup every device and service, online data backup can easily dominate your internet data usage. A backup sync could easily be 50GB or more even for a small business. For larger businesses it can be many Terabytes or even more. Cloud data backup will be ineffective if it takes days to sync or to restore from backup due to internet bandwidth limits.
There is no need to backup operating systems and software. Reinstall these if required. Data generated in your business is another matter. This kind of information is what your data backups should focus on.
The 3-2-1 rule for data backups
The “3-2-1” rule is considered best practice for backing up your data.
- Three: Have three copies of your data at all times
- Two: Store your data on at least two devices. A complex device such as a RAID drive is a single device
- One: One copy of data offsite
Several approaches above meet the “3-2-1” rule:
- Two external hard drives for simple backups. One of these hard drives off site.
- NAS devices with internal backup and external hard drive. The NAS network drive is copy one. The internal backup is copy two with the external drive being the third. Two separate devices are being used, with one off site
- NAS devices with internal backup and cloud data backup. The cloud service replaces the external drive. It is superior as the off site cloud service is always up to date. It will cost more, however
- Cloud drives with cloud data backup. The cloud drive is at least one copy. The Cloud data backup service will be more than one copy so the provider can meet reliability requirements
Can you restore your data?
A major backup trap is being unable to access or restore from your backup. Test your backup to make sure it is storing data that you expect it to. This can be done by doing a test restore for a small number of files.
Your business will likely create lots of data. Don’t put your business at risk by not having an effective data backup strategy. You can implement best practice through the “3-2-1” rule by using either external hard drives, a NAS device with backup or cloud drives with cloud data backup. If the worst happens to you, you will be ready.