Business backup strategy: It's nothing personal

Your data is only as good as your last backup. This is true if you are a home user with a prized digital music collection, or a business owner with mission-critical data. While backup is essential for anyone who values their data, when it comes to backup solutions, businesses have particular needs that differ from those of home users.

Traditionally, businesses conduct backup using on-site solutions. They implement backup software on a server and back up to media such as tape or disc. This media is usually rotated between sets – one set of backup is kept on-site and another set is stored off-site for safekeeping.

While this is still the backup strategy of many businesses, recent computing trends have led to other avenues being used to back up data. Of course, the biggest trend is cloud computing. Home users have taken advantage of services such as Mozy and Carbonite, which allow them to upload data (sometimes totalling gigabytes in size) to a cloud storage platform.

Certainly businesses can and do take advantage of cloud storage as part of a backup solution. However, because business data is so essential and often subject to regulations and compliance requirements, the demands of business backup go far beyond those for home use.

Amount of data

In general, a business will amass more data than a home user. Just because a business is small, it doesn't mean the amount of data that business accumulates is small. Businesses – even SMBs – can have data sets that reach several gigabytes or even terabytes in size. With large data sets, cloud-only solutions may not be the best fit, since upload speed is typically much slower than download speed with most Internet connections. Some backup vendors offer hybrid solutions, combining both local and cloud backup. With hybrid backup, you can perform a backup on-site and then have them sent to cloud storage incrementally, saving bandwidth and time for backups to complete.

Compliance

Another concern with business backup is compliance and regulations. Even small doctor's offices or legal firms have data that is subject to regulations. A home user does not have to worry if the cloud backup service she is using stores data in HIPAA or SOX compliant-datacentres.

If your business is subject to regulations, you need to find out if any cloud storage solution you may use for your business data follows those compliance requirements.

Security

For businesses, backup security is of the utmost importance. There's no shortage of news about security breaches and compromised servers, especially with consumer cloud services. While no vendor can guarantee 100 per cent impenetrability, it's important that any backup solution you, as a business owner, consider offers industrial strength security.

Some small business owners may opt to just back up to a portable device, figuring that strategy to be low cost and effective. It’s certainly low cost, but as to the latter point… government officials in Canada found out the hard way that backing up data to portable media is not always a good idea. The following is from a report issued by backup provider KeneticD:

In December of 2012, a federal government department in Canada announced that a USB key containing personal information, including Social Insurance Numbers, of about 5,000 Canadians went missing. Only a few short weeks after, in January of this year, the same agency lost data on 583,000 Canadians when a portable hard drive went missing.

"This type of data loss is unnecessary and avoidable," said Jamie Brenzel, CEO of KineticD. "Even with today’s technological advances in cloud data backup and recovery, instances such as these continue to plague small municipalities, government agencies and medical facilities. While cybersecurity is an international concern, data loss because of misplaced equipment can be prevented by taking the steps to move sensitive data to a secure cloud service."

Other considerations

Business backup requirements include the archiving of your business data. Many healthcare facilities are required to store data for a number of years, and legal firms are often required to keep years' worth of data accessible at any time. When considering a backup solution, ask about archiving data and whether that data can be easily accessed if needed.

Finally, businesses should always test the integrity of their backups. That means performing routine test restores of data. You don't want to wait for a crisis to hit to find out your backup is corrupted or unable to be restored for some reason.

Backup is an important component of sound data business strategy. As a business owner, you have to really target the backup solution that meets your business’ needs, a solution that is very likely different to the backup solution you use at home for video and music.