Ah, information technology – isn’t it your favorite thing in the world? If you’re like most other small business owners, the hassles of the technology real probably feel more like a nuisance than a blessing, even though the technology is a necessary supportive discipline for most businesses. Unfortunately, network connections drop, hardware fails, and technology problems are as much a part of life as paying taxes.
But do you know what the most important part of any computing system is? Is it the RAM, CPU, or monitor? Is it, perhaps, the hard drive? No, the most important part of any computing system, be it a mobile device or laptop, is the data. You can always replace a failed component of a computing device or buy a new one altogether. But if you lose your data without a secure backup, your business could lose significant amounts of revenue or even close completely.
Today we’re going to look more closely at some of the best ways small business owners can not only backup their data, but implement data management to secure it as well.
The first type of backup to consider is a simple local backup. First off, note that there are two main ways to perform a local backup. The first of which is to simply copy and paste your data onto a storage medium other than the hard drive on which it currently exists. The second method, which is much more preferable, is to use local backup software on your computing system that can run automated and incremental backups so you can “set it and forget it.”
Furthermore, you should also be aware that local backups are typically stored on a variety of storage mediums. For instance, if you only need to backup light documents, such as text, a medium as small as a flash drive may suffice. However, flash drives are really best suited for backing up individual files as opposed to a backup job from a software program.
To save a backup job from backup software, it’s better to use a larger medium, such as an external hard drive. An external hard drive plugs into your PC or Mac via a USB cable and can hold terabytes of data. Though an external hard drive may be suitable for small businesses with only two or three computers, slightly larger small businesses may want to opt for a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device.
A NAS device lets users backup files to an external hard drive that has a network interface card. That way, you don’t need to carry the external hard drive around to each computer as you complete the backup procedure. NAS devices are typically more expensive than external hard drives, but many times more convenient.
Last but not least, if you want the best that money can buy, you may want to opt for a dedicated storage server for your backups. Dedicated storage servers are similar to NAS devices, but they have more capabilities because they run operating system software designed specifically for servers. In addition, they can run RAID software (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks). RAID software spreads backup data across multiple hard drives. That way, if any individual drive fails, the RAID software can rebuild the data.
The antithesis of local backup software is a cloud backup service, which has several advantages over a local backup. First of all, cloud backup services, which typically follow a subscription model, are quick and easy to deploy. Most of them only require the installation of a software client and the configuration of a handful of settings.
Also, note that cloud backup solutions can be more inexpensive than a local backup solution. One reason they can be cheaper is that you don’t have to mess around with purchasing and installing any hardware, such as routers, NAS devices, and other similar hardware.
Furthermore, note that cloud backups are generally more fault-tolerant than a local backup. If you were to only make a local backup on one external hard drive or one NAS device, you only have one extra copy of your data. Cloud backup solutions, however, keep multiple fault-tolerant backups of data spread among different data centers, making it much less likely you would lose data in the event of a catastrophe.
There is, however, one distinct drawback of cloud backup services: security. However, security concerns can be mitigated with encryption. The problem is that the end-user or small business owner doesn’t know the differences in encryption types. Just because a service claims it uses encryption doesn’t mean that you’re the only person who can read the data.
For instance, a provider may claim they use transport encryption, TLS, or another variety. While it’s true that this encryption key protects data while in transit to the provider's servers, once it’s stored away, the provider may use their own encryption key or none at all. In turn, employees of the cloud backup service could potentially see your data.
Fortunately, some providers are zero-knowledge providers, which means that even employees of the backup service can’t read your data. There are two ways to combat this massive security flaw. Firstly, you can choose to locally encrypt backup jobs before uploading them to the cloud, but there is an easier way: opt for a zero-knowledge cloud backup provider.
A zero-knowledge cloud backup provider allows its customers to manage their own encryption keys, so the backup provider can’t decrypt the data since they don’t have the key.
No matter which style of backup you choose, you need to implement it as soon as possible. If you’ve ever suffered a failed hard drive, you know how scary data loss can be. Imagine what would happen to your business if you lost Quickbooks data, customer records, invoice data, and more. Instead of risking a catastrophic blight on your business, cover your bases and engage in data management with a backup solution.