Never back down: The case for small business data backups

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Even small businesses are susceptible to hackers and other data loss risks. Without a good backup system you put your entire operation at risk.

By Steve Johnson

Fifty-eight percent of small businesses aren’t prepared for data loss, and 60 percent of SMBs that lose critical data shut down within six months. There’s no way around it — data is now a critical resource for companies of any size, and the risks of losing or damaging this data demand an active interest in keeping data safe. In fact, a massive malware cyberattack struck an estimated 300,000 computers worldwide just a few days ago. Small businesses need to be more prepared than ever to defend such cyberattacks. Here’s a look at the case for effective small business backups.

The business of backups

For many small businesses, it’s tempting to consider backups a kind of luxury — one only enterprise-level firms can afford and maintain, or one that’s simply not necessary because SMB data isn’t at risk. Both of these notions are inaccurate. Evolving, cloud-based technology has significantly reduced the price of data backups, while emerging threats demand reliable data protection.

Consider that hackers now leverage a host of common vulnerabilities to compromise data from organizations of all sizes, from large-scale weaknesses such as Heartbleed to more cutting-edge attacks that rely on “fileless” malware. Malicious actors don’t even top the list of potential data damage; accidental deletion or modification of data by employees results in far more damage than cybercriminal activity, despite its accidental nature. Speaking of nature, small businesses can’t rule out the possibility that their data storage solution will suffer a sudden or ongoing power outage at the hands of natural disasters such as fires, floods, earthquakes or storms. Put simply, data backups help defend against both easily predicted and entirely random threats.

How it works

How does data backup work for small businesses? While details vary, most companies use off-site, cloud-based backups to both maximize uptime and reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO). If you’re leveraging public cloud services, cost savings stem from shared virtual space that is logically partitioned, while if you opt for private stacks you avoid the cost of new hardware and ongoing maintenance.

In addition, you’ve got the choice of two basic backup models: incremental and differential. Incremental backups reduce the amount of data transferred and total storage footprint of your backup by copying only files that have been altered or changed since the last backup. Differential solutions, meanwhile, are based on the last full backup performed and copy all changes made since that time. As a result, subsequent differential copies increase in size.

For SMBs, there’s no single “right” choice — incremental backups offer more flexibility and reduce bandwidth consumption with smaller storage footprints, while differential backups provide complete data confidence.

Maximizing your investment

While every SMB needs a data backup, not all backups are created equal. To maximize your investment in data storage and protection technology, make sure your provider offers value-added services that both enhance data defense and lower total complexity. For example, it’s a good idea to look for providers that offer automated backup solutions, meaning you’re not responsible for manually “pushing” every backup. Not only does this free up precious time for SMB owners and overworked IT personnel, but ensures that backups are still created on schedule even in the event of employee illness or company restructuring.

It’s also worth partnering with a provider that offers data protection solutions to prevent the unwanted distribution of critical company and client information. This kind of data defense is the logical extension of reliable backups — insurance that your stored data isn’t being copied, moved or changed without your knowledge. Pairing advanced analytics tools with data backups, meanwhile, lets you ensure compliance with critical data handling rules such as HIPAA or PCI DSS, in addition to mining stored data for actionable insights.

Running a small business? You need effective data backup. Maybe it’s hackers, accidental insiders, a natural disaster or end-of-life technology failure; no matter the cause, there’s no question about the consequence — keep your SMB secure with better data backups.
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Author bio: Steve Johnson is president of Maryland Computer Service, and has been helping businesses harness the power of technology for nearly 20 years. His experiences during that time make him uniquely qualified to guide small and medium businesses through the technologies of today into the future.

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