With all the attention that cloud apps and services get, it’s easy to forget one of the most important functions that cloud computing serves: backup.
Never have there been more (or better) choices for business data backup. What can be difficult, however, is figuring out what the best option is for your particular business.
Backing up your company data locally and in the cloud both have their own distinct advantages. Additionally, you can use both options concurrently if that’s what works for you. As businesses evolve, they tend to go through various levels of data backup solutions as their needs grow more complex.
To give you an idea of what options are out there for business data backup, we’ve put together a short list of the various tiers that businesses commonly progress through. Again, none of these options preclude you from using any of the others at the same time.
1) External/USB Backup
One of the quickest and easiest ways to backup critical files is with a USB drive. You can walk into any Best Buy these days and get a 256 gigabyte USB thumb drive for under forty dollars. That’s enough storage to backup the entire hard drive for many laptops these days.
If you’re willing to spend double that amount, you can get a small solid-state external flash drive with anywhere from 500 gigabytes to a terabyte of storage. There is also no shortage of programs for both MacOS and Windows to automate the backup process.
Advantages: Inexpensive, portable, and easy to use. Most USB drives are also fairly indestructible and will survive the odd drop or inadvertent dunk.
Disadvantages: USB backup is a single-user solution and doesn’t scale for multi-user scenarios. And as convenient as a thumbdrive is, they’re really easy to lose if you’re not careful. Check in your couch cushions or under the seats of your car if one goes missing.
2) Desktop Cloud Backup
Entry-level cloud backup is where many businesses start with backup solutions. Services like Dropbox, Carbonite, and Google Drive are all excellent offerings. Each offers a cloud backup solution that ensures that your files will be recoverable in the event your desktop or mobile device is lost, stolen, or destroyed.
Using a cloud backup service in conjunction with a USB storage device provides a very robust backup solution for many small businesses and those who are self-employed.
Advantages: No physical device to keep track of, and you’ll get far more storage space than what’s available on inexpensive USB drives. Your data will be accessible from anywhere you have an internet connection.
Disadvantages: Backing up individual files and folders doesn’t provide a full machine restore. If you don’t have internet access, you won’t be able to access your data.
3) Network-Attached Storage (NAS)
Network-attached storage (NAS) is an excellent multi-user local backup solution. Put simply, NAS is a small server that sits in your office. A NAS server creates its own network that users can connect to with valid credentials (username and password). Once connected users can transfer files to and from the NAS at will.
When you buy a NAS server, you’ll need to buy both the server itself plus the storage drives, which are a separate cost. Most NAS servers come with multiple drive bays, which means you can add more storage over time.
Many businesses like using NAS because once purchased, there are no monthly fees for cloud storage, and consequently no third parties involved in handling data backups. A software backup agent can be installed on users computers to automate the backup process.
Advantages: Great multi-user solution. No recurring monthly fees. More storage can be added over time if needed.
Disadvantages: If your NAS is destroyed and you don’t have a secondary backup solution, you lose all your data.
4) Offsite Business Data Backup
Offsite data backup is similar, but distinct from, cloud backup services. Offsite backup is the idea of putting copies of your data on physical media, like tapes or drives, and sending it to another location for safe keeping.
In the event of a disaster where your business’s location is compromised or destroyed, you can have physical backups sent to you from your offsite storage provider. Unlike cloud storage, you will have no access to your stored data on a day-to-day basis.
Advantages: In the event of a disaster, there is a recovery option.
Disadvantages: Requires that a physical drive or tapes be shipped back to you. Lag time before recovery. Applications and services aren’t covered.
5) Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery (BCDR)
Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery is the cutting edge of backup technology solutions. With BCDR, users can be up and running again with little downtime in the event of a disaster or total data loss.
BCDR service providers, like Datto, offer proprietary solutions that are a combination of physical device, cloud storage, and virtualization that are continuously backing up your entire work environment. This means that users can be back up and running literally minutes after any sort of failure or disaster. This includes access to all files, applications, and services without having to reinstall or reconfigure servers or desktops.
Advantages: Replication, offsite backup, and immediate recovery.
Disadvantages: The most expensive of all the options listed.