Backups are the last line of defence against hardware failure, floods or fires, the damage caused by a security breach, catastrophic virus or spyware infections or simply accidental deletion of data. How much disruption and delay would occur if you lost all your critical business data? And how long would it take you to recover?
- Plan for the worst case and protect against that.
- Keep your data in one place, for example on your network server.
- Establish a procedure whereby a disaster is simulated by restoring some backed up data to make sure the backup system is working properly.
- Store backups offsite on a weekly basis in case your backup data is stolen or damaged along with the computer it’s backing up.
- Make an archive backup every month and keep it forever, rather than recycling the media. Thus you’ll have a periodic snapshot of your data.
- Backups must always be marked clearly.
Choosing a backup method
- USB flash memory sticks: plug into a computer’s USB port. Capacity is 32 MB – 4 GB. Pros: compact, fast, portable. Cons: limited capacity, pricey, difficult to mark clearly, difficult to secure.
- Recordable CDs: With a CD drive capable of writing to CDs, it’s easy to create a backup using blank recordable CDs. Capacity is up to 700 MB per disk. Pros: can be read on any CD-ROM drive, easy to use and store, cheap media. Cons: slow to copy files, fiddly if data overspills a single disk.
- Recordable DVDs: are similar to CDs, but with more capacity – 5.2 GB per disk. Pros: can be read in most DVD-ROM drives, easy to use and store, cheap. Cons: copying an entire disk can take a long time.
- Additional hard disks: plug into a computer’s USB port. This is a fast and efficient way of backing up lots of data, but less convenient for keeping backups offsite. Capacity is from 30 GB to 400 GB. Pros: portable, high capacity, fast. Cons: not easy to store away from home, expensive. Ideal for protecting against the risk of hardware failure.
- Tape drives: larger businesses use tape drives such as DAT and DLT to make backups. Capacity is up to 36 GB uncompressed. Pros: high capacity portable media, cheapest price per MB for removable media. Cons: Start-up cost is expensive. Ideal for small businesses or users with many big files.
- Online backup. BT Digital Vault, Carbonite, Streamload, Xdrive or ClunkClick allow backups over the internet to their online vaults. See DMOZ for a list of online backup providers. Capacity is unlimited, but the more storage needed the more you pay. Pros: free trials, no equipment to buy, automated backup, encrypted offsite storage. Cons: what if they go bust? Ideal for small businesses or users with big files. Bandwidth also could be expensive.