There is an old expression in IT circles: "Don't go forward unless you've backed up." The cost of data loss can be devastating; but Allóra can help you avoid catastrophe, and conduct your business with confidence. 

Network Backup Solutions are Mission Critical for Small Businesses

It’s hardly necessary to emphasize the importance of backing up your computer data; you don’t have to ask too many people before someone will recount a lost-data horror story. Lightning strikes, fire, hacker attacks, viruses, software bugs, and operator error are some of the many possible causes of data loss. But the most common cause of catastrophic data loss is simple hard drive failure, which is easily preventable with a proper backup regimen.

Even in the best-case-scenario, losing data wastes the effort it took to generate it, which is a costly irritation; but if it causes a deadline to be missed, or creates logistical difficulties, then the consequences can be disastrous. Moreover, if the system used to generate and view the data is also lost, then additional time and expense must be spent recovering the system before one could hope to recreate the vital missing data.

For server-based networks, where many coworkers depend on one device, the consequences of data loss or system loss on the server are even worse. Thus it is imperative that the server is backed up on a routine basis, and that the backup medium is transported off-site to another building, and preferably stored in a fireproof box. Failure to implement such a system will eventually result in severe inconvenience, if not outright catastrophe.

Frequency dictates the risk.

Generally speaking, the frequency of backups determines the amount of data that could be lost; in other words: data recorded since the last backup may be unrecoverable in the event of some failure or disaster, and might require recreation from scratch. Therefore, it is wise to frequently backup vital data and system files, such as accounting data or operational databases.

Archival Backups vs. Media Rotation

In order to control costs, it is often appropriate to set up a rotating schedule of backups, in which we overwrite previous backups with a more modern copy of the data. However, this approach obviously prevents you from accessing that pesky file that you evidently deleted months ago. In order to achieve that capability, you could periodically take one of the backups out of the rotation (to be replaced by fresh storage media) and store it offsite as an archive. Alternatively, archives can be stored and backed up with the data, via scripting (this technique is particularly useful for accounting files).

Data Only vs. Full System Backups

Until now, we have been using the term 'data' in the general sense of all of the information on your network's various hard drives. But in more precise terms, your data are the files that your employees have directly created by using the system. It is the distilled electronic essence of your entire company's efforts, and it is the primary concern of any backup strategy.

On the other hand, data files are not useful without a compatible system (network, hardware, operating system, software, and configuration). The time necessary to restore a complicated system (such as a groupware server) can be considerable. So while you may have the data safely backed up off-site, that alone will not save you from the down-time and labor costs associated with a system rebuild. But there are a couple of methods for backing up the entire system image, including the data. Consequently, it is wise to consider performing routine full-system backups as a preventive maintenance.

This analysis begs the question: why bother with data-only backups when full-system backups can cover everything? To keep the answer short, full-system backups are much more demanding technology-wise and they require significantly more technical expertise and labor for restorations tasks than data-only backups.

Comparison of Backup Storage Media

There is more to consider than just cost per gigabyte, when selecting a backup medium: What type of backup is it, data-only or full-system? How much data? How long does the backup need to be preserved? Is data security a priority? How often will backups be performed? Who will perform them? What is the recovery procedure? Does the backup procedure necessitate system downtime?

So how do the various backup storage technologies compare? Here are some recommendations and guidelines:

Network Backup Solutions based one Optical Drives

For data-only backups, optical drives are the preferred method of archival storage. First of all, when properly cared for, they are extremely durable, so you can expect them to be viable for decades. Secondly, optical drives are ubiquitous, so you can recover your data to virtually any computer; moreover, you can be fairly certain that the disks that you ‘burn’ now will be compatible with future technologies; avoiding obsolescence. Optical disks also present a data-backup method that is easy for the end-user to apply, which reduces labor costs. And finally, the storage size per disk is high enough to be quite useful, but low enough to keep individual disks cheap; this scenario is perfect for archiving data.

Network Backup Solutions based on Hard Drives

Backing up the full system to a hard disk is the best medicine when you consider the potential recovery procedures. Note that mirroring the drives in a server (or utilizing other non-zero RAID levels) will ‘backup’ the server, but only locally; this won't protect against fires, lightning, viruses, hackers, or an errant system update. We suggest taking a full-system backup drive offsite at least once a month, and potentially supplementing that with more frequent data-only backups to a cloud or a set of blue-ray disks which won’t take days to download.

Network Backup Solutions based on Cloud

This is a great way to backup data when the cost is not a factor and you wouldn’t need to restore terabytes of data until 2020. Cloud synchronization services like Dropbox are simply splendid when it comes to peace-of-mind for your data safety. It is super important to note that Dropbox is a continuous service, aka it syncs your data upon noticing a change. Another HUGE advantage is that they give you archives of your data, aka versioning. Some companies claim that they can backup your entire OS but in real-life environment a restoration procedure quickly becomes a sour saga of excuses and extra miles to run. Using this occasion we’d like to stress once again that BACKUP is meaningless without having a RESTORATION procedure well defined. As of 2013 the fastest way to transfer 500GB-1TB of data is still FeDex. Having said that one can see a cloud scenario would work best for small-scale deployments aka SOHO (Small Or Home Office) with no more than 100-200 GB of data. Cloud backup of 100GB would run you ~$100 a month as of this moment. The good news is that the Internet speed would reach LAN speed of 90’s (100Mbps) within the next 3-6 years and if our data appetite remains the same the cloud data backups would clearly be the prime choice (provided that you are not super concerned about privacy, full control over your data and unwanted exposure of it).

Network Backup Solutions based on NAS or Server

Even NAS for Small Business comes with backup applications capable of retrieving backup data over the network via software agents. More robust solutions by industry leaders such as Veeam deliver this functionality by means of a dedicated server orchestrating backup procedures over the network. NAS Backup or Backup Server can easily synchronize its backup storage with a cloud to ensure that in case of a local disaster your data is safe. 
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