Network Backup Solutions are Mission Critical for Small BusinessesIt’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 RotationIn 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 BackupsUntil 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 MediaThere 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: