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Backup Guide for Small Business Owners

By January 22, 2019 No Comments

Watch This ASAP If You Use Cloud backups

How Dangerous Are Untested Backups?

When was the last time you really tested your backup system?  Have you ever tried to restore your backup data to a blank computer, just to see if it will even work?

You aren’t alone if you have never tested your backups or only did it that one time after setting it up.  According to a study from the insurance division of The Hartford Financial Services Group, only 19% of businesses test their backups.

The bigger concern is that 60% of all backups are incomplete or will completely fail to restore your data after a crash. This means that over half of the businesses that experience data loss will lose their files, forever!  Can your business afford to start over from scratch?

Half of all Small Businesses Are Unaware of Faulty Backups Risks

eWeek (Enterprise Newsweekly) released a troubling report citing 51% of small business owners believe that lost or stolen data would not seriously harm their business.  Would your business be harmed if you woke up tomorrow and all your customer contacts, design files, accounting data, emails and other files were just gone? How many weeks, months or years did it take to create all those files?

Technology is so integrated into our lives that we have begun to take it for granted. Many of us can no longer imagine a world without heaps of information available at the touch of a button.  I can’t stress it enough, but all of that data can be ripped from your grasp in the blink of an eye if you do not properly maintain a backup and data security policy for your business.

Most Likely Causes of Data Loss

  1. Hardware Failure
  2. Human Errors
  3. Software Errors
  4. Virus, Malware or Ransomware
  5. Theft and Destruction

It’s a common misconception that the evil stereotypical hacker in a dark room is the main threat to your data.  In reality, hardware failure and accidentally deleting files are much more likely to steal away days of your productivity and profits.

Hardware failure

Most of our data is still stored on mechanical hard drives.  These hard drives contain a fast-spinning magnetic disc that holds every file on the system.  The many moving parts inside our mechanical drives will wear out and lead to a failure as they age.  Most drives are warrantied for 3 years.  All bets are off once that warranty runs out.  How old are your computers?

Faulty components inside your computer can also destroy an otherwise perfect hard drive.  A damaged power supply can cause a destructive and costly voltage spike to be sent directly to your hard drive.  Faulty memory can cause your files to be incorrectly written to your drive and corrupted.

There are countless ways for hardware failure to destroy your data and that’s why it will always hold the top spot on any list about data loss.

Human Error

We might hate to admit it, but we all make mistakes for time to time.  Accidentally deleting data or saving over the wrong file are all very common causes of data loss.  There is no shame in these occasional accidents and that’s why having complete backups are vital to your business.

Software Error

Proving that machines are still not perfect, software errors are still a leading cause of data loss.  Everyone has heard the horror stories about Windows updates causing issues, but individual programs can be just as destructive.

Poorly tested updates, application crashes and other software bugs are responsible for millions of wasted hours of lost productivity each year.  Despite our best efforts to purchase quality software for day to day tasks, software errors are here to stay.  It’s up to us to recognize that things won’t always go as planned and take the steps to protect our data.  Backups are like seat-belts and airbags for your computers.

Virus, Malware or Ransomware

People often tell me that they had no fear of hackers or cybercrime related data loss.  They normally rationalize this by explaining that they don’t have enough valuable data and are not worth a hacker’s time.  Hollywood has led many people to believe that only banks and large companies should worry about cybercrime. This is another extremely dangerous misconception that can cost you dearly.

Almost every form of hacking attack is performed by an automated system or a bot.  Imagine a robot that walks down every street in your town and jiggles the doorknobs looking for one that is unlocked.  That scenario is a lot closer to what actually happens versus the masked hacker in a hoodie trying to topple your business, as seen in the movie.

The average user received 16 malicious emails each month in 2018 according to the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR)

Cybercriminals also release their viruses and malware onto the internet, this malicious code acts as a digital landmine for anyone unlucky enough find it.  The FBI Cyber Division still warns about the dangers of these attacks as well as ransomware.

Ransomware is a form of malware that locks all the files on the victim’s device with powerful encryption.  The ransomware will then demand payment to unlock your data. In many cases, your data will never be unlocked even after paying the ransom.  This why the FBI recommends not giving in to ransomware demands.  Ransomware is easily defeated by a complete backup of your data. Hospitals, schools and government networks have all been crippled by ransomware and incomplete backups.

Theft and Destruction

There are many other causes of data loss on our computers and devices, but loss from theft should still be considered a valid threat.  Corporate espionage level theft is rare, but numerous laptops are stolen from cars and homes each year.  This can cause your confidential data to be exposed and result in embarrassment or legal repercussions from your clients or customers.

Natural disasters and severe storms can also cause massive amounts of data from your business to be lost forever.  Wildfires are becoming more common on the west coast as well as Flooding from hurricanes in other parts of the country.  Imagine backing up on to an external hard drive in your home and losing it along with your business after a disaster strikes your city.  Insurance will help rebuild your home and business, but not your data.  This makes the need for offsite backup solutions more important than ever.

The fire suppression system in your building was probably designed to protect the structure and not the electronics.  Computers will rarely survive torrents of water from the sprinkler systems in the event of a fire. Lightning strikes are also fairly common and many surge protectors won’t protect equipment from a direct strike.

How You Can Protect Your Data

A robust backup system is your best weapon in the war against data loss.  There are a dizzying amount of backup solution providers.  Unfortunately, this has caused expensive marketing campaigns with misleading claims and information to become a common practice.

The Two Main Types of Backups:

File Level Backup –  These backups will store your individual files, such as documents and spreadsheets.  File Level Backups are great for situations when you just need to retrieve something that was accidentally deleted.  However, they don’t back up your programs or operating system.  This means reinstalling all of your software when your hard drive completely fails.  That may cause lots of extra downtime for your business.

Disk Image Backup – These backups record an exact replica of your hard drive in the form of a disk image file.  This image file contains your operating system, software and any files on your computer.  Drive Image Backups are larger than most File Level Backups but will allow you to quickly restore your computer with minimum downtime and effort.  Restoring from a backup image is like going back in time to the moment that it was created.  A disk image level restore is the only real defense against ransomware and most other types of malware.

Which Backup Works best?

Disk Image Backups are far more desirable in almost every situation.  File Level Backups can come in handy if you need a single file, but most backup image solutions allow you to restore single files too.  You will need to invest a little more of your budget to store these larger disk images, but it is a small price to pay for the protection they offer your business.

Cloud Backup Solutions have become very popular, but many of them can get you into trouble.  If you watched my video review of Carbonite, you saw how long it took to restore my files and I still couldn’t even open them.

Some cloud backups will support disk image type backups, but I would highly recommend testing the restore process.  Many of these companies will overnight mail a hard drive full of your restore data for an additional fee.  They offer this option because downloading your restore data from their cloud may take as long as a week with the slower backup companies.

Using an External Hard Drive is an affordable way to store lots of backup data without worrying about slow restore speeds or monthly fees.  However, this means you must protect your external hard drive from being stolen, damaged or lost.  Some people make the mistake of leaving their external backup drive permanently connected to the computer it is supposed to protect.

In the unfortunate event of a fire, flood or theft, the external drive would be lost along with the computer.  This is why proper offsite backups need to be a cornerstone of your backup plan.

Best Practices for Business Backups

I won’t blame you if you skipped ahead to this part of the article.  You should look through everything on this page for reference, but I will quickly outline the main design concepts that every backup system needs. You can contact us for more information on building the best backup system for your business.

  • Implement some form of backup in your business ASAP, even if you’re using a temporary solution until you can budget for a better backup system. Almost any protection is still better than nothing at all when it comes to keeping your data safe.  Over half of all businesses have no backup system in place and rely solely on luck.  Don’t let that happen to you or your business.
  • Use a Disk Image type backup solution. There are many types and I have had great experiences with Macrium Reflect.  This will give you the least amount of lost profits, productivity and downtime for your business.
  • Backup workstations as well as servers. Most people understand the importance of protecting their servers, but will often overlook the desktops and laptops in their organization.  Many of your important files only exist on your workstations while they are in the process of being created.  This means that they could be lost forever without a proper backup strategy.  Having to rebuild a workstation from scratch will take hours out of your day or a hefty repair bill.  Workstations can normally be repaired in minutes with a disk image restore.  That unnecessary downtime will cut into your bottom line.
  • Be automated! Your backup system should automatically protect all of your data without needing to be manually triggered.  You should only need to interact with your backup solution to check logs, test the restore process or restore files.
  • Use cloud storage, like Dropbox to safely keep your backup files offsite along with a local backup hard drive. Keeping a local copy of your backups will allow you to quickly restore data in almost every situation.  However, using cloud storage will protect your business after a catastrophic event such as a fire or storm.  We hope that you will never need to rebuild from the offsite data, but it’s better to have it instead of risking the total loss of your files.
  • Test your backups! This is the most important step and I hope my Carbonite review video correctly demonstrated this.  Do not become a victim of false security and a slick marketing campaign.  You need to know the limits and effectiveness of your backup system.  Your business and livelihood may depend on it.  Never just assume that your data is safe, always verify that it is restorable and complete.

We Can Help

I hope this guide was useful and gave you some insight about better safeguarding the vital data in your business.  Call One Tech Solutions is currently offering a completely free backup system audit.  You can contact us to schedule an appointment by clicking here.  We will inspect your current system and give you a report on its effectiveness to protect your data.  If you do not currently have a backup system in place, we can help you choose the best option.

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