For most of us, the use of IT systems is becoming more and more common place and saving business data on a PC or server is a daily occurrence. Having just one copy of business critical information such as accounts, contacts, invoices and important documents poses a risk. How would your business function if this information was not available for just one day? And what long term effects would this have for you?
Data backup is one of the most important areas of IT and yet is also one of the most ignored. Data is essential to the smooth running of any business and is the essential start to any business continuity plan. ‘Backing up’ means making a copy of your most important files; this can then be used if the original copy is lost. Preferably the second copy should be held at a different location to the original and be kept in a secure environment.
Data loss can happen in many ways, the most common causes are physical failure of your PC, accidental error, theft or disasters like fire, flood and dropped coffee mugs! It is also common for data to be saved to just one place, like ‘My Documents’ on your PC’s hard drive. Which means that if this data were to be accidentally changed or deleted it would take considerable time and expense to restore it.
Growing numbers of computer viruses are also a risk to business information, as once they have infected your machine they often delete or corrupt your data. This is another reason why backing up your data is such an important thing to do.
Choosing what data to back up is a key start to making sure you have a copy of all your business critical information. You should think about what you would need to continue working if your PC were to be stolen/damaged. Clients address/telephone details, your account information, important documents. What about your Internet favourites and email addresses stored on your machine? How long has it taken you to collate all this information and what would happen if you couldn’t get it back once lost? These are the key things that you should be thinking about backing up.
There are various types of backup available and the one you choose will generally depend on time, security and budget. There are a number of frequently used backup solutions which will suit your needs.
Memory stick devices tend to be used for smaller backups or mobile users. These are usually removable hard drives and are very popular. The disadvantages of these cheaper devices are that they are at times unreliable and easy to lose or damage due to their small size. The data which is held on them is usually unsecured, meaning if customer details or financial information is held on them this is a greater risk if they were to be lost or used by unauthorised personnel. When a backup is done the previous backup is overwritten, meaning that only one version of the backup can be stored.
Tape backup is an old industry standard backup medium for businesses with a reasonable amount of data to backup. You can perform daily, weekly and monthly backups and as long as you have a reasonable tape rotation and store the tapes offsite it is an easy to use backup solution. The disadvantages of tape are that it is slow, both to backup and to restore. As it is a manual process it can be subject to human error and unless you remember to take the tapes offsite on a daily basis it is subject to the same threats as the original backup.
Online data backup is a popular choice for small and medium businesses as there is no need to purchase hardware or software, just a small monthly cost. You select the data you want to backup and it is transferred in an encrypted format across the internet to a high security data centre. The backups are fully automated, meaning no user intervention is required and you can restore single files or full backups at the click of a mouse; total protection and availability make this a very attractive option. Different versions of backups are available; this covers accidental changes made or deletions. Disadvantages of using online data backup are that it is dependent on your internet connection so is only suitable for those with broadband or a high speed connection.
Other things to consider when backing up... always test your copied data – a backup is useless if it cannot restore correctly. Backup regularly, you don’t want to find out the last copy you made is 4 months old. Keep your backups off site, that way if you do lose data to a fire/flood/theft you know you can retrieve your information.
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