Small business data backup made simple


If you’re anything like most business owners I talk with, you’ve got a guilty conscience about your data backup. You’re aware of the risks. You may have even heard horror stories. But at least up until now, you’ve mistakenly convinced yourself that data failure will never happen to you.

What does this have to do with your website you ask? In this article, I’m going to talk about backing up the computers in your office. But even if you don’t host your website from a computer in your office, it’s still sitting on a NORMAL computer (that’s all a “server” is) SOMEWHERE, and the EXACT same principles of good data management apply, only it’s easier to overlook because it’s not physically present.

There are basically 3 types of data failure

  • System failure – You get a virus, install a bad driver or somehow your OS gets corrupt. This is the LEAST devastating kind of data failure because your data is not lost — you just have to do some work to get to it
  • Hardware failure – Your hard drive crashes — Perhaps because it was just time, or maybe your computer was dropped/kicked/damaged in some way. This is BAD, and it is ultimately INEVITABLE. That’s right — hard drives have moving parts, and they will eventually break down just like any machine. It’s not IF, but WHEN.
  • Disaster – Flood. Earthquake. Fire. Burglary. No matter how backed up you think you are, if your data is not backed up OFF SITE (we’ll talk about that in a minute), it could be lost in this type of event

The only way to protect against all three of these very REAL scenarios is to implement some kind of off-site backup. That means that your backups are not physically stored in the same place as the main system. Off-site backup is CHEAP and it’s not as difficult to set up as many people think, so you really have no excuse for not implementing it RIGHT NOW.

In my mind, the most important attributes of a reliable backup system are (in order of importance):

  1. Off site
  2. Comprehensive
  3. Automatic
  4. Easy to restore
  5. Easy to set up

Off site – This is without a doubt the most important attribute of a good backup system. You can buy enough remote storage space to back up your entire machine for as little as $5/month. By backing up your data off site, you protect yourself against all 3 types of data failure with 1 backup. Now that’s smart!

Comprehensive – You usually don’t need to back up your entire hard drive, but you do want to make sure you’re capturing all of the non-replaceable information (documents, music, pictures, etc.). Other files like operating system or applications can be found again (even though with some difficulty), and you don’t need them taking up space in your backup process.

Automatic – I bet the reason you haven’t done a better job of backing up your data is because it’s such a pain, right? You may have a few DVDs or even a tape drive in the closet that you backed up.. When? Last year? Yeah.. Make it automatic and regular — otherwise, you’ll never find time to do it properly. There are many free or cheap software solutions out there that will do automatic off-site backups as frequently as you wish — even constantly! Think Mozy or Carbonite backup. For the do-it-yourselfers, a simple FTP program + a cron job, automator script or scheduled task

Easy to restore – How important is this? Well that depends on your business. Some businesses are losing money every second that they’re down, so you’ll want to make sure that your data can be restored quickly and easily. Maybe you even want to do a dry-run. Otherwise, as long as you aren’t going to be out for weeks while you get your backups online you should be fine

Easty to set up – Not the most important, but it is important. I’m a total do-it-yourselfer, but do you really have the time/energy/know-how to do all of this? If not, look into something like Mozy or even a professional service which will pretty much do it for you.

Backup Providers

My current favorite backup providers:

  • Mozy – expensive but turneky (for the lazy or busy people)
  • Carbonite – Similar to Mozy
  • Crashplan – Haven’t tried them, but I intend to. They’re new and have some innovative features. Plus they’re cheaper
  • Amazon S3 – lots of raw storage space for cheap, but requires some know-how
  • Dropbox – Super easy to set up. Lots of additional benefits. Not as comprehensive since you’re limited on space
  • Your web host – If you’re already paying for a web host, maybe you have enough space in your agreement with the hosting company to do your actual backups on the same server?
  • Another computer – I back up my computer’s data to my web host. But I ALSO back up my web host’s data to MY computer in case THEY fail.

What are you doing to protect against data loss? Chime in below!