Data backup is one of most neglected areas of a small firm’s IT strategy. The irony is that it’s one of the most important. According to figures from a Yankee Group Study, 50 per cent of small businesses don’t have any kind of backup solution in place. For many of these companies, losing data can eventually cause the business to fail completely.
And as if human error wasn’t a big enough threat, add floods, fires, explosions, power cuts, disgruntled employees, hackers, vandalism, theft and viruses and you’ve got a pretty good case for raising the issue of disaster recovery, or at least, business continuity.
Most small business owners now understand the importance of network security. But shielding your systems won't do much good if, in the worst-case scenario, they no longer exist. And if you back up information but store the duplicated materials onsite or in an adjacent building you won't be any better off in a disaster that affects an entire region.
In many cases insurance covers replacement of physical assets, but if a company hasn't protected their digital assets, such as critical financial or customer information, this could be enough to send it out of business.
If a small company is serious about competing, it needs to ensure that its data is always available and that means having a backup solution. But for small businesses that don't have IT staff, how can they deal with backup in a cost effective way? Add to this the need for a disaster recovery strategy and many smaller companies will begin to start worrying about the cost implications and IT know how required.
If the potential costs seem frightening, calculate the costs of recreating your business’ critical information or, as may be, the potential damage to your business if that data is permanently lost. This will provide a good gauge for determining the potential return on investment on your storage and data recovery solution. It makes good sense to invest in the protection of vital information and comply with industry regulations governing the use and storage of data.
There are two main technologies to consider when thinking about a backup solution for your company.
Traditionally, companies relied on duplicating data onto tapes (much like video tapes), then transporting them to an offsite facility - either their own or a service provider's.
At many small companies, somebody often just took the tapes home. There have been several problems with tape because of the opportunity it gives for human error, with tapes being stolen, misplaced or duplicated incorrectly. And when the worst happens, searching for your required data is an arduous and unenviable task.
A newer option is disk. Small businesses can now back up data onto disk, which is easier to search and more durable than tapes (think about the difference between video tape and DVD).
There are now affordable disk-based appliances that can be installed and managed by a non-IT specialist. These appliances are faster and more reliable in backing up and restoring data than tape-based storage solutions.
As well as looking at appropriate technologies, it’s also important to put an information disaster-recovery plan in place for your company.
A good starting point is to take an inventory of your company's information assets. Remember to go beyond the network in order to account for data stored in e-mail, on individual desktop and laptop hard drives, on intranets and extranets, or in remote offices.
Next, rank each component according to its current relevance and importance to business processes. Critical financial documents, competitive data, and confidential customer records should receive top-priority status, as should anything you're required to keep by law.
In the first instance, focus on the top-ranked data. Back it up constantly -- preferably several times a day both on-site and at your chosen off-site location and choose storage methods that let you quickly find and retrieve what you need in a crisis.
Finally, choose a remote site that's far enough from your primary location that it's unlikely to be affected by the same disaster. For the best chance of quick recovery, select sites or providers beyond your company's own power grid.
Now that back-up to disk has become a viable reality for small business, it really makes sense to make an intelligent investment to ensure the continuity of your business in the event of a disaster. Why shouldn’t your digital assets be insured in the same way as your physical assets?
Colin Sheard is CEO of Synapse2 , exclusive UK distributor for RocketVault, a stand-alone archive, backup, compliance, and disaster-recovery appliance for small businesses. For further information, please go to www.synapse2.com or call 01624 675000.
Get the right insurance cover - save time and money