What is the right solution for data backup in an SME?

The bottom line is this – if you have data, there is a risk that you will lose it. And that loss may be catastrophic for your business. Hence, the need for backup.

This week, I have been asked a question which has reminded me to discuss the importance of backup from a strategic viewpoint – an important decision for all SMEs.

The question came directly from my newest client, who came to me after a disaster – caused by poor IT systems set up – removed 13 YEARS of business data from her server and “backup” system.

It must be made clear that a duplicate set of data with regular replication to a single place is NOT backup – it is replication or synchronization. The client in question was sure that her IT guy had set up a “backup” system, and she slept well – not realising that he had set up a network attached storage system (NAS) to which her server was being copied regularly.

Her IT guy had also set up her server to be a web server, and gave relatively open access to the web.

When files were removed from the server, the “backup” system copied the server to NAS and wiped out the only copy of 13 years worth of company files. Scary stuff.

This particular story has motivated me to discuss good backup at a strategic level for the sake of misled small businesses, who think they have backup, but are actually at huge risk of losing irreplaceable business data.

Good backup involves creating multiple versions of your company data so that you can go back to previous versions of files on separate media. This means that if one version of a file is corrupted or lost, others will still remain. It is also prudent to take a copy of this backup off the primary site to ensure there is a recovery path from a flood, fire or lockout.

There are many ways in which you can ensure a successful backup of your data. The simplest of these is to dump the data and system information to a tape or external hard drive, on a regular basis. If this is your preferred solution, you should have at least five tapes or hard drives in rotation, with at least one going offsite regularly (if not all of them). Some organizations use 20 or even 30 tapes or hard drives to keep end-of-week and end-of-month images for longer periods.

It is also important to consider the time it takes to recover a failed server from the information that is backed up. All too often we find we have the data, but no system information. This means that recovery can take several days – sometimes more. So, save yourself a whole lot of time by keeping up-to-date images of the both your data AND your systems, so that both can be restored in a minimum timeframe.

If you have a larger server environment, it may be worth considering virtualising your servers so you can move them between physical servers – or even from site to site with a minimum of fuss. You might also want to invest in an automated backup solution that sends your data to offsite electronic storage. I’ve written about good automated backup systems previously in my article, ‘The breakthrough backup system.’

It upsets me to think that businesses are still getting bad advice about backup from glorified PC technicians who think they are doing the right thing. Until SMEs realize that replication and synchronization are not backup, they will continue to be at risk of losing irreplaceable business data. And it’s not worth taking that risk – just ask my newest client.


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David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.


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