Businesses, even small businesses, have data. They generate even more data. Much of this data is important, crucial even. Losing data can be a just a setback…or even worse. Not only can it cost you time and money recovering from a loss of data, but it could be fatal if it stops you working at a crucial time.
The answer, of course, is to keep copies. In other words, keep back ups. Having suffered an incident myself recently, and sadly found my own backups lacking, I have taken some time to investigate what I should have done and what you can do if you haven’t got a plan for yourself.
What type of data needs backing up?
The answer is anything of importance. Things like your business plan are not something you want to lose. Sometimes it can be simply easier to back up everything, especially if you do not have a lot of sources and data, rather than identify things of high value. Assuming your data is well sorted or indexed, then searching through a backup of everything is not hard.
But what if you have a lot of data or data from multiple places, and it is too hard or expensive to back it all up? Then take the time to identify and separate the important things and make it easy to back them up all at once.
The how and the where
You should do two types of backups, or at least have backups in two different places: online, that is on the internet somewhere – aka in the “cloud” – and offline, on a removable media like a USB connected hard drive.
To back up online, you can copy everything yourself to a server (which you have to pay for) or take the easier option of using one of the many programs that will automatically track changes and make uploads for you.
There are several quality options. Some are free or have free account options with reduced capacity. SugarSync is one such option, but I recommend Spider Oak. Their security features make sure no one but you can access your backups and their free account gives you 2GB to use.
Some of these programs can also sync versions of files across multiple devices so you do not have to do so manually.
How many backups?
Depending on how many files you are creating or changing and how often, for many small businesses a complete back up needs to happen just once a week. Multiple weekly backups should be kept and maintained. Usually a minimum of four should be kept.
If you have more data or more changes you can do incremental backups regularly or backup multiple times a week instead.
This has two benefits. The first is that it gives you an automatic way to maintain multiple versions if required. Second, it allows you to go back in time if some data has developed an issue, and the bad data has been backed up. These complete backups should be kept offsite as frequently as possible.
When using a program that backs up regularly from your computer to the internet let this back up whenever you make a change. Such programs will usually let you specify how many versions you wish to keep.
Between the two you will be able to recover everything backed up to a certain point in time without an issue.
Backing up what is online
You may have material on things other than devices you use regularly. A great example of this is your website. This should be backed up regularly as well.
Many web hosting companies will offer regular backup options either free as part of your hosting costs, or at a small additional cost. It’s worth making sure your host is backing up your website regularly. However, you should keep your own copy as well.
Something might happen to your host (like they cease to exist) or you might want to move hosts. The easiest option is just to download everything, using FTP or some other means. If you are using WordPress then plugins like Duplicator will package everything up for you in such a way it can easily install itself if you upload it to a new place.
Once downloaded, your website backup should be put onto a device that is backed up as described above. This makes sure your copies are safe for if (or when) you need them.