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Making good decisions on data backup

Ken McKim

As a business owner, you know that time is money. Therefore, time spent fixing or replacing computers is money lost due to decreased productivity. This is why backing up your data should never be an afterthought. In the blink of an eye you can lose all your customer information, all your emails and contacts, important tax documents; in short, everything critical to keeping your business up and running.

Data backup solutions are big business, and they are not all created equal. Here are some things to consider before investing your hard-earned dollars in any data backup solution.

You need more than one backup

Redundancy is a key component of any good disaster recovery plan. Archiving your files to portable drive or network attached storage device is not enough. Any tech consultant worth their salt will tell you that you need to be backing up locally and in the cloud. When looking at cloud backup options, two things to consider immediately are: the cloud location should not be in the same city as your company (ideally it shouldn’t even be in the same state as your company); your data should be encrypted while it is being transmitted to the cloud location (the minimum standard should be AES-256 encryption). Having your critical information backed up locally for quick access and in the cloud for enhanced redundancy means that you are covering all your bases, thus ensuring that downtime due to equipment damage or failure can be kept to a minimum.

You need your programs and your data

Data without programs is about as useful as a car without gas. Not many backup solutions can save both programs and data, and that can be a huge problem. Most people forget that when a computer dies, you have more to do than just reinstalling Microsoft Office. You’ve just lost all of your Internet bookmarks on Explorer, Firefox or Chrome bookmarks, all of your custom Outlook signatures and all of the programs you bought off the Internet to do things like encrypt PDF files and create custom graphics (e.g. Photoshop). You may have CDs for some of these, but chances are you downloaded many of the programs you use on a daily basis from a Web site. That means you now have to remember the Web site you bought it from, your account user name and password for that Web site, the name and version number of the program, etc. Then there is the added time of having to download the program again. All of this means that you are losing more money because it’s going to take longer to restore that computer to be operational again. When shopping around for a backup solution, keep in mind that the money you may save initially for a service that only backs up data will come out of your pocket in lost productivity later when you are trying to chase down all of the programs you need to reinstall.

Uploading data is slow

Download speeds are almost always faster than upload speeds. Most businesses don’t consider this when shopping around for a backup service, and then they are confronted with the frustrating realization that it is going to take days or weeks to complete their initial backup.

For companies with a large amount of data to back up initially, your best bet is to find a solution that includes an option for what is known as data seeding. Data seeding means that the initial backup is done to an encrypted external drive that is then shipped directly to the data center (where your cloud storage is located) and the initial backup is done locally at that data center. Using this method your initial backup will be done in hours instead of days or weeks. When shopping for a backup solution that uses data seeding look for one that, after the initial backup has been completed, will have you backing up to a local appliance and performing incremental backups to the data center (incremental meaning only backing up changes that have been made since the previous backup). Remember, redundancy is a key factor in any backup solution.

Local companies versus Internet companies

Let’s face it: Nobody likes to call an 800 number for help. With most Internet-based backup companies, that is your only option. In the best case scenario you might end up speaking to someone in the United States, but they probably won’t be located in Nevada. If they can’t fix your problem over the phone, then what? It’s not like they can send someone to your office to investigate further.

For the individual consumer, an online backup service that can’t back up programs and that only offers phone support is probably good enough. A business needs a backup solution that is far more sophisticated than that of the average home computer user. You need a backup solution that gives you access to all of your data, all of the time. Nothing less will do for you or your customers. You also need to know that if something goes wrong, a real person can come to your office and fix the problem.

There are many computer service companies. Shop around. Find the ones who specialize in business-class data backups and business continuity planning. The companies that believe in their products should give you a free consultation that includes an assessment of your current backup procedures as well as a clear explanation of how their solution can fill in any gaps you may currently have. Protect your data as if your business depends on it, because it does.

Ken McKim is a business support specialist with Best PC Reno. Contact him at 775-453-4795 or at Ken.McKim@BestPCReno.com.