When you consider that the information on our computers is irreplaceable and often far more valuable than the computers themselves, it’s amazing how many individuals and businesses still don’t take data backup seriously.
Despite the importance of information within any business, the vast majority of small businesses do not have adequate backup and data recovery systems in place. Even when a solution is in place it is often fraught with problems; some of which are only discovered when it’s too late.
Home users are no different; often storing treasured photos of occasions never to be repeated in one place with no copy!
So why don’t we protect the information on our computers?
At The PC Support Group we have looked into this and it would appear that a combination of factors contribute to this potentially dangerous situation.
The first issue is simply that most businesses, particularly smaller ones, don’t fully appreciate the value of the information they have stored on their computers and believe that manually retrieving it (presumably by making a few phone calls and checking old paperwork) is a relatively trivial process.
This belief seems to stem from the fact that most businesses develop from the knowledge and skills of one or two people. Those people are often the major decision makers in all areas for some time and, due to day to day activity and pressures, they don’t realise the quantity or quality of information that is building up to help the business operate. As a result they don’t put protecting that information very high on the agenda.
Those that have recognised the need to protect their data are then faced with the challenge of knowing what the threats are and how to protect against them.
Data can be lost through hardware failure, software problems, malicious software such as viruses, theft of equipment, human error or major physical disasters such as fire and flood. Considering all these issues can be a major challenge in its own right.
The next issue is that backup solutions are notoriously difficult to run and manage reliably - no one wants to take day-to-day responsibility for them and all too often they are left failing for prolonged periods.
Finally we have the old favourites: time and money. With all the other pressures placed on small businesses it is natural to put data backup on the “to do” list. Spending money on marketing and sales is seen as more important, so protecting the data will just have to wait… after all, it’s not likely to fail, is it?
So let’s look at a few statistics:
• Half of all companies that lose their data go out of business overnight (Source: Baroudi Bloor International - research firm)
• 93% of companies that lost their data for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster (Source: National Archives & Records Administration)
• 34% of companies fail to test their backups, and of those that do, 77% have found backup failures (Source: Home Office Computing Magazine)
Pretty scary stuff! Clearly taking care of your information is paramount to any business and is sensible from a home user’s perspective too.
So what is data backup and what are the options these days?
Data backup is the act of ensuring your important information (which could be customer contact details for a business or cherished photos for a home user) isn’t only stored in a single place, which leaves it vulnerable to being lost through damage or theft. Since a backup system contains at least one copy of all important data, the risk of total data loss is minimised. And any data loss does not result in a total standstill of the business or heartache for the home user. Using the backup data, the system can be restored and normal service resumed.
Finding the right data backup solution can be confusing. It depends on what to backup, how to backup and what type of computer or network is being used. It might sometimes seem difficult to choose the right backup solution. Not because they are difficult to find, but because there are so many of them.
For small quantities of data you can consider simply copying it to a CD or a memory stick; both are cheap and easy to use. The main problems with these are that they are limited in what you can store and more importantly you have to physically remember to make the copy and then file it appropriately.
For larger quantities it is recommended that a local backup is made to another system such as a Server or an external hard drive. This protects you from the most common data loss issue - hardware failure. Your entire system is stored on an hourly, daily or weekly basis to a permanently connected independent disk, ready to be restored at any time. Depending on how sophisticated the solution is, you may be able to quickly search for and retrieve individual files that have been accidentally deleted… Data Backup isn’t just for total system failures!
To guard against major disasters such as flood or fire, where your entire office or computer room is destroyed, off-site storage is required. There are two ways in which you can do this. You can sign up to a service that automatically creates a backup of your critical files over the internet to a secure off-site location. Alternatively, or in addition, you can take a manual backup which stores a password protected image of your entire system onto portable disk drives that are taken off site on a rotational basis. The main advantage of this is that a complete system can be more rapidly restored than from a backup of only files and folders.
Choosing a backup system, setting it up and then managing it can be a complicated undertaking. Luckily there are companies, including The PC Support Group, who offer data backup and recovery services to both businesses and home computer users to take all these headaches away. If you decide to use on of these then you need not worry about the technicalities, process or intricacies of the data backup procedure.
One thing is certain, if you don’t arrange to have a data backup, it is not a case of if you lose your data but when, and the consequences will be at least upsetting or in the case of a business, could be catastrophic. Don’t delay, act now!