Develop an effective backup strategy

Many small to medium-sized businesses fail to have an effective back-up strategy to protect themselves from disaster. It is a fact that all hard drives will eventually fail. Whether it be hardware failure, software glitches or natural disaster, chances are most businesses will experience some kind of data loss in their lifetime. According to DTI/Price Waterhouse Coopers, seven out of ten small businesses that experience major data loss will go out of business within a year. The risks are too great; can you afford to operate with non-existent or inadequate backups?

Below are tips to help you develop a back up strategy.

1. Organize and Schedule your Backups
It is important to recognize what needs to be backed up. Software can be reinstalled, but all your saved documents cannot. Your back-up systems should be saving copies of all your documents, emails and user application data, such as Simply Accounting bookkeeping files. All back up software tools give you the ability to schedule your backups. Use the scheduler and remove the human factor from the equation. Scheduled daily back-ups are recommended for most businesses.

2. Choose your Backup Media
Choose the media and device you want to back up to. CD’s and DVD’s are an inexpensive option, but they are unreliable and generally don’t have the necessary capacity for a complete back-up. Magnetic tape back-ups are arguably the best option, but the cost may be prohibitive. A good tape back-up system could run into the thousands of dollars. Online back-ups offer convenience, but you may incur extra costs for bandwidth overages and there is generally a subscription fee associated with online backups. There are also security implications to consider when storing sensitive data online. The best solution for most small businesses is an external hard drive. External hard drives are relatively inexpensive and generally reliable.

3. Keep an Offsite Backup 
Many businesses diligently back-up their data to protect against hardware failure and software glitches, but fail to protect their precious data from other disasters. There are reports of a bank employee running into a burning building to try and save back-up tapes when a fire broke out at a French bank. Are your backups kept onsite where they could be destroyed in a fire or flood along with the originals? A good back-up strategy would have at least two sets of backups; one onsite back-up and a full back-up kept at another location. Your offsite back-up should be kept in a location that is secure and accessible. Another option would be to let a third party handle your backup responsibilities. For example, VS Group offers backup services for a low monthly fee, taking the liability off of the end user as well as getting rid of hardware setup and maintenance costs.

4. Test your Backups 
Don’t have complete faith in your back-up software. Even though the software reports that the back-up was 100% successful, you should test your back-ups periodically by restoring the back-up to another computer or hard drive to make sure it restores without error. Don’t wait until you need to restore some lost data to find out that your back-up was corrupted all along.

Use these tips as a basis for an effective back-up strategy to adequately protect your business. Data loss is inevitable. A good back-up strategy can make the loss of data more of an inconvenience rather than a catastrophe.