Losing some or all of your business data may have devastating consequences. Even if the data isn’t considered critical to your business, the loss of emails, contact data and other documents may still have a considerable impact in lost downtime and productivity.
Creating a back-up of your data is a sensible and easy way to ensure that in the event of a fire, computer theft or virus infection you can recover all of your business information from your computer or website quickly and easily.
The financial cost and time that it takes to create and implement a back up strategy is likely to be only a fraction of what you will spend if you need to recover from a data loss without one.
Think of a backup strategy as insurance for your data.
- Make regular backups of critical data and programs on your computer. Store the backup disks in secure offsite storage.
- Make sure you avoid needing to recover data by having good security practices in the first place. Install and use security software including a firewall and anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
- Use a strong password to secure your back-up. This will make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for someone to view it or misuse it.
Develop a back-up strategy
- Develop a disaster recovery plan. Start by assessing your level of risk and identifying what actions you can take to minimise the risk.
- Assess what data and programs on your computer need to be backed up and how often. You may either back up all the data and certain programs on your hard drive each time you back up or you may do incremental back-ups. Incremental back-ups only include the files that have changed since the last time therefore saving time and space.
- Select a back-up device that is large enough to store the files and fast enough so it is not too time-consuming. Examples include CDs, DVDs, memory sticks or an external hard drive.
- Make a note somewhere obvious, such as in an office diary, reminding you to do the back-up.
- Test the data that has been backed up successfully and that your process is working properly.
- Store the back-up copies in a safe location away from your computer systems i.e. away from your home or business premises. Remember putting this information on portable media makes it vulnerable to physical removal so secure it.
Back-up storage devices
Data can be backed up to an external USB hard disk, DVD ROMS, or high capacity tape drives. The cost of storage has fallen dramatically over the past several years. An external portable hard disk big enough to store the data for most small or medium businesses will cost less than $200. Some portable hard drives even come with free back-up software. Larger business can invest in back-up tapes which hold even more data in a small easily transportable format and are usually more cost effective for large amounts of data.
All back-up software should allow back-ups to be created automatically on a scheduled basis. All you have to do in most cases is change the storage media. If you are using USB hard disks you should have several of them that you can rotate, one for each day. This eliminates the chance of a corruption in your main data overwriting your only back-up copy.
You should undertake regular testing of your back-ups to ensure that they are working correctly. This could be as simple as restoring a copy of all or some files to a temporary folder on one of your computers. Most back-up software will come with a feature that can be used to verify the data once it has been written to the back-up device. This makes the back-up process slower but should stop any errors occurring with the process.
Offsite or online storage of back-ups
You should ensure that you create additional copies of your data so that they can be stored offsite. Having an offsite copy ensures that in the event of a break in or fire that you have a copy of your data away from the danger.
A typical back-up strategy could involve making daily back-ups of data which are stored in a secure location on premises with a weekly back-up that is removed from the premises each week.
Companies on the internet offer online back-up of data. Some antivirus products now come with free online backup with around 2GB of space. These can be an ideal solution for some small business but remember that you are entrusting your data to a third party company and that you have no control of who has access to it from within their organisation.
Don’t forget to ensure that all back-ups (onsite, online and offsite) are encrypted and protected with a password.
Password protect back-ups
A back-up on a single storage device makes it convenient for anybody that steals or finds your data! Using a strong password to secure your back-up will make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for someone to view it or misuse it.
Most back-up software will allow you to set a password on the files. Some versions of modern operating systems such as Window Vista and Windows 7 include software for encrypting entire drives on your computer and your back-up devices. There are also free open source software programs that will allow you to do this. Searching the internet for terms such as “open source encrypt backup” will find these software applications.