Shopping list: what you need to back up your data

By: Craig Sharp

Date: 23 April 2012

Protect your business from all sorts of disasters - Godzilla?{{}}Backing up your data doesn’t have to be that difficult. It doesn’t even have to involve expensive-sounding ‘backup solutions’ or wrestling with 300 individual CDs, each of which contains a small but crucial portion of your company’s data.

Here are some straightforward ways to get started. Obviously, they’re not your only options – so it’s a good idea to chat to your IT supplier to make sure you’re backing up everything you need to.

After all, there’s nothing worse than smugly telling everyone you’re all backed up, then realising you’ve lost your ground-breaking 400-slide PowerPoint presentation.

The cheap and cheerful option for home-based businesses

Sure, it might be cheap and cheerful, but this approach will get the job done for you.

Buy yourself two external hard drives. These can be attached to your PC, allowing you to copy data to and from them. Do this regularly. Daily if you can.

Copy all your important data, including accounting data, word processing and spreadsheet files, plus your email, calendar and contacts.

Some hard drives come with software to make this a bit easier for you. If you use Windows, you can get Microsoft’s free SyncToy software to automatically copy selected folders across to a second hard drive.

Why two hard drives? It covers you against the risk of fire, theft and other physical damage (like dinosaurs attacking your house). Keep one drive on the premises and keep the other one somewhere else – like with a friend or family member you trust. You’ll probably need to back up to that drive less regularly, but doing so weekly will ensure you can get most of your data back.

The other good option is some sort of online backup service. Over time these services usually work out more expensive than buying a couple of hard drives, but they are convenient. Try Dropbox, Mozy or Carbonite.

Something suitable for office-based companies

Ok, so you’re a business with its own premises and maybe a few employees. You’re right to think that you need something a little more advanced. But don’t worry – you still have a number of choices.

Again, online backup can be a really good place to start. But you have to be careful. You want a company you can rely on (because backups are the things you turn to as a last resort). And check the costs carefully. Many online backup services copy non-essential files, pushing up your monthly bill.

The main in-house option is – again – hard drives or tape drives. Tape drives have traditionally been used by companies to back up large amounts of data, but we tend not to recommend them so much these days because hard drives are so cheap.

A good set up is to have seven hard drives. Five of them do your daily backups during the week (Monday – Friday). Use the other two to take regular archives, but make sure at least one is off the premises all the time. Keeping it at your home is the obvious thing to do.

Again, software is available to make this process more straightforward. I usually recommend BackupAssist, because it can back up all your email, calendar and contact folders, and it’s reliable. Which, let’s face it, important

Here’s the most important thing…

From unlikely dinosaur attacks to the more plausible floods, fires, virus attack, hackers, computer crashes and accidental deletion, there are plenty of threats to your company data.

So the most important thing to do after reading this article is to act on it. Otherwise, by the time you realise you really need a backup system, it’ll be too late to do anything about it.

Craig Sharp is managing director of Abussi, an IT company based in Birmingham.

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