How to choose a cloud back-up service
13th Nov 2012 | 11:10
How to choose the right off-site data back-up service for your business
Every business knows that the data that it contains is its more precious commodity. Thanks top cloud services backing up your sensitive data off-site is now easier than it has ever been, but choosing the right system for your business is still important
For many businesses the data that is held about customers or commercial partners is the enterprises most precious commodity. However, many businesses still do not have a comprehensive and robust data backup, storage and retrieval system in place.
A recent study by data backup service provider Carbonite, revealed the lack of contingency planning within the small business community.
"Although many small businesses are backing up their data, they're using antiquated methods, such as USB/flash drives or CDs, which leave huge gaps and vulnerabilities. These simple solutions may be relatively easy to set up, but they require ongoing supervision to ensure they are performing, and can distract from other work," said Peter Lamson, Senior Vice President of Small Business for Carbonite.
"Small businesses are creating new, priceless data every minute of every day and they can't afford to be unprotected. Low cost, automated and easy to use methods are now mainstream, so there's no reason for small businesses to be spending time manually managing backups, when they could spend that valuable time focused on their business instead," Lamson continued.
Small businesses stay competitive by keeping costs down, but when it comes to backup, cutting costs may mean using products with limited coverage and leaving your data at risk. Carbonite research found:
- Some 21% percent of small businesses using online backup were using a free product. Since free online backup services are typically capped at two gigabytes, small businesses using these methods could be vulnerable to data loss.
- Small businesses already recognise the limitations of USB/flash drives, which are often considered low-cost. Twenty-four percent of small businesses using this method noted USB/flash drives do not work well for backup specifically because they have limited storage space.
"Our study also found that one in five small businesses don't know how much data they have, so it's unlikely they have the right solutions in place. Backup solutions like USBs or free solutions may not back up all of a business' data, and so a business must ration their backup or choose what they want to safeguard," said Lamson. "Small businesses need to ensure they use a backup solution that has the capacity and capability to keep all of its data protected."
First take a data audit
The first step in developing a comprehensive data backup system for your business is to decide which information you need to secure. Legally you need to protect your accounts information and securely store customer information. But other information such as your company's intellectual property also needs to be considered. Performing a data audit will reveal which information needs backing up.
As well as the data your business contains, does your business also need to backup any critical applications? If you are sure you have all the original installation disks for the software your business uses, then you can easily reinstate these. However, many businesses will have downloaded applications from the web, and not made a physical copy on CD for instance. Think about what would happen if you lost these applications?
Another major issue that is now evident in every business is the amount of data that is stored on mobile devices including smartphones, notebook and tablet PCs. Your data audit should take these devices into consideration.
Additionally developing a data management policy may be needed to ensure everyone in your company understands how they should safeguard the information they are carrying on their mobile device.
Backup options are onsite, online, or both?
For many businesses using legacy backup systems like tape drives, DVDs and CD ROMs is adequate if the amount of data that is involved is relatively small. It is also possible to use external hard drives as backup devices, but many businesses don't think about the security of these physical devices. If they are stolen, or destroyed through flood or fire damage you business has lost the data.
Removable data storage devices can certainly be used, but your business should consider storing these devices off site if you are simply backing up and storing legacy data, or investing in a safe that can withstand fire and water damage where your data storage devices can be kept.
Over the last few years many businesses have moved from physical backup devices to using online cloud backup solutions. Today it is possible to store any amount of data online. Services your business could consider include:
Look closely at the data plans that are on offer and any additional costs. Your data audit will tell you how much space you will need, which will allow you to shop around for the best storage deal. But cheapest isn't always best, so look at the vendors total service and ask if they can put you in touch with existing customers who can give you their hands-on experiences.
You will also need to consider your future needs and monitor your costs regularly. If you intend on growing fast then your data requirements will grow and may put you over your data plans limits and incur penalty costs, it may make your current plan less cost-effective.
Data backup checklist
There are a number of questions that your business should ask before committing to any online data backup service:
- Does the system have its own backup – preferably multiple backups - to ensure your data is secure?
- Are their physical servers housed in a secure location?
- Is encryption (at least 256-bit SSL) used when data is moved to and from your business over the Internet?
- What backup speeds does the data backup service offer? Some services have access to more bandwidth than others.
- How quickly can data be recovered? Most services will not only encrypt your data, but also compress it to save server space.
- What is the cost per gigabyte of data stored? Prices can vary and also include additional monthly administration charges.
- Does the service level agreement meet your business' needs?
It is also vital to appreciate that services such as DropBox are not backup services but designed for file sharing. They don't have the robust foundations that businesses need to protect their data, and often don't have the service level agreements enterprises expect.
Take some time to evaluate a number of services before you make your choice. After all, your business is entrusting what can be highly commercial and sensitive data to the backup service provider.