By Shanon I. Rogers Owner Buckeye Tech Solutions
If you are a business owner, manager, or in some way in charge of your company’s IT systems, then ensuring that a solid backup system is in place has likely been a top priority at one point. If this has not yet been a priority for you, or maybe it has been a while, then hopefully this article will help to spur the conversation. Every business has varying needs for their backup system based on total company size, network layout and design, and, quite simply put, the monetary value associated with potential data loss. Needless to say, there is not a single solution that works for everyone, and usually a multi-tiered level of protection is needed. Let’s discuss a few of the more common, practical solutions and the purpose they serve without delving too deep into “techno- babble.”
The easiest, most cost-effective backup solution is to have an external hard drive plugged into your computer that is used for daily, sometimes hourly data backups. Windows, both desktop and server versions, come built-in with free backup software, as does Mac OS. These built-in backup programs have the ability to set a schedule for your backups and also allow for multiple versions or iterations of your files to be backed up, in case days or weeks pass by before you find out you need to restore a file. Depending on how many files you have and how many versions you want to keep, you can purchase an external drive for $50 on up. This is a fast, simple solution if you only have a few machines holding business critical data and is a good idea for your home PC as well. If you have a central file server where everyone stores and shares their data, then that would be the best place for an external drive.
Do you remember coming into work every morning and having to change out the backup tape? Thankfully, this practice has become largely antiquated, but tape backups served two critical backup functions. The first was to allow for multiple versions of files to be kept, and tapes were commonly labelled Monday – Friday. Using multiple tapes was also important, because, unfortunately, it was not too uncommon for a tape to fail during the restore process. The second function was to create a portable backup that could be taken off premises to protect your office if something catastrophic were to happen, like a fire or flooding. Tapes have largely been replaced due to how inexpensive external hard drives have become, and, more importantly, due to how feasible remote/ cloud backups have become with the advent of high- speed Internet service, such as fiberoptic Internet.
Remote/cloud backup services usually incur a monthly expense from $10-100, depending on your business’s specific needs, and in the author’s opinion is the best money a business can spend. Can a price really be put on a good night’s sleep knowing that your company’s data is constantly protected? Remote backup services function like typical backup software that allow you to select which files get backed up and how often they get backed up. A remote backup solution does not eliminate the need for a local, external backup, especially since it is inexpensive, and restoring hundreds of gigabytes of data from a local drive is much faster than downloading it from your remote service. After all, is it really possible to have too many backups? The primary consideration for employing a remote backup service is whether or not you have enough bandwidth, i.e. fast enough Internet service. Sometimes, it is required to call your Internet provider and order faster service, which frequently comes with the added benefit of speeding up day-to- day processes. Also, I have never heard an employee complain about faster Internet!
The last solution to discuss is called RAID, which stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. This is a fancy way of saying multiple hard drives, which provides redundancy and protects against hard drive hardware failure. A RAID 1 configuration is made by having a second hard drive that acts as a complete copy or mirror of your primary drive. RAID 1 is more costly than the previous solutions, but if your hard drive were to suffer hardware failure without it, it would likely mean a complete reinstall of your operating system and business software, as well as a real-world test of your backup systems when you restore all of your data. With RAID 1, if one of the drives fails, the second drive, being a complete mirror, takes over instantaneously. This is most important for servers and becomes more important when having your network down for a day or two means a big loss of productivity and a potential hit to your bottom line.
Again, no one solution meets every company’s needs, and most likely it will be of value to safeguard your data using multiple or all of the above methods. It might be wise to calculate the potential loss of time and money that data loss would incur and compare it to the costs of implementing a robust backup solution; hopefully the benefits of fully safeguarding your data will be apparent.
Shanon I. Rogers brings over 20 years of technology experience to BTS. Shanon is a graduate of The Ohio State University with degrees in Chemical Engineering and Bio-Chemistry. Opened Buckeye Tech Solutions in September of 2014. Has taught Algebra and Computer Science. Co-inventor of 3 patents.