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8 Handy Backup Tips for SMBs

on June 7, 2010

A computer crash is eventually going to happen to anyone. Therefore you should be well prepared for such an incident. Each backup strategy has its own particularities and depends a lot on the specifics of your business; however, all backup strategies should take into consideration the following issues to cover ALL the risks. Even if the backup operation seems too complex, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  1. Make a local backup (in the same office) but also make a backup in a remote location outside your office. This will cover the risk of a physical disaster to your office building that might destroy the computers and the local backup (e.g. fire, flood, earthquake, etc). Restoring from the remote location will take longer, so if the local backup is still intact use the local one for restore. Use the remote backup only when the local one is damaged.
  2. Back up often – as often as you can. Of course this depends on the specifics of your business; however, I would recommend daily backups for most SMBs. If that seems too often for you, you should at least do a weekly backup. For a business environment with lots of daily changes it’s best go with an hourly backup. A very common backup strategy is to make daily incremental/differential backups, and one large weekly full backup.
  3. Reduce the number of possible failures to storage devices. Choose the storage device according to the size of your backups. Avoid making backups to more than 3 CDs/DVDs/HDDs. If your backup takes 4 GB, backup to a DVD, rather than 6 CDs; if your backup needs more than 3 DVDs, try to get an external hard drive.
  4. Make regular checks of your backups. You don’t want to be surprised after a crash that your backup is having problems and you can’t read the backup disk. Verify on a monthly basis that the backup medium is not damaged and the backup data is readable (CDs/DVDs tends to degrade in time and even hard drives can become unreadable). Keep in mind that live mediums are easy to verify and with the low costs of hard-disks these days they seem to be the best choice as you can instantly spot a corrupted backup hard-drive. You can even simulate full restore operations on virtual machines to get yourself used to the process and the restoration program, and in case of an incident to get the machine operating fast.
  5. Don’t use low-cost equipment as your backup storage media. You expose yourself to higher failure risks. Invest in some decent hardware; your important documents surely deserve it.
  6. Don’t back up data to a different partition of the same disk. If the disk fails, both partitions will be gone. This setup cannot really be called a backup.
  7. Don’t back up important data to non-redundant RAID arrays. If you have a RAID controller and multiple disks set it up to a redundant mode.
  8. For fast backups, and for storage space economy, back up only the important document. If you have limited space in your backup storage device, choose to back up your business data first or personal important files (documents, emails, personal photos, etc). Don’t back up music or downloaded internet clips before you’re sure your business documents are secured first.