Cheap storage solutions can be costly in the long run

Do you back up your data? Nearly half of small businesses have learned the hard way why regular data backups are crucial, yet many still fail to backup critical data, or they cut corners to save a buck and find out it can be much more expensive to be cheap.

Carbonite–a provider of online backup services for consumers and SMBs–recently conducted a survey of 125 small businesses with between two and 20 employees to learn more about their data backup and disaster recovery plans. The survey found that nearly half have experienced a data loss incident.

That figure–48 percent to be exact–represents a fairly sharp jump from a similar survey conducted only four months earlier that found only 42 percent had lost data. According to the Carbonite study, the top causes of data loss for the SMBs surveyed were hardware/software failure (54 percent), accidental deletion (54 percent), malware (33 percent), and theft (10 percent).

Those figures are not all that startling. Computers are imperfect, humans are less perfect, malware exists, and theft happens. Essentially, losing data is more a matter of “when” than “if”, and that is why it is critical to have an adequate backup solution in place to minimize the impact.

The Carbonite survey reveals that 31 percent of SMB consider backing up data to be a tedious chore that takes away from the more important tasks of actually running the business day to day. Those that do backup data on a regular basis seem to focus on local removable media for storage–the most common methods mentioned were external hard drives (41 percent), CDs or DVDs (36 percent), and USB/flash memory sticks (36 percent).

For the math majors out there, you are correct that this exceeds 100 percent. I can only assume that SMBs were allowed to choose more than one, and that some SMBs rely on more than one of these technologies at the same time.

The real problem with these solutions is that they are not sufficient for many types of disasters that may occur. Admittedly, storing a recent backup on an external USB drive will do the trick in the case of hardware/software failure, accidental deletion, malware, or theft–but in the event of a fire, flood, or some other catastrophic event the backup data would be destroyed along with the original data.

Using removable media for more frequent backups, or backups stored on site is fine up to a point. Although, it should be encrypted or protected in some way or the backup data could be stolen and end up being the data loss incident instead of the solution for one. But, critical data should be backed up online, or at least offsite, to ensure its survival in the event of a catastrophe.

Carbonite says, “While many SMBs recognize that online backup solutions offer significant advantages over traditional physical-device backups–such as being automatic, continuous, offsite and requiring no extra equipment–the research indicates that those who do not backup to the cloud cited cost as the number one factor in their decision.”

Cost is relative, though. Paying a monthly or annual fee for an online backup service seems more expensive than just burning a DVD at face value, but it’s all worth it when the office is destroyed by a tornado and the DVDs are scratched and cracked in half, and you can just set up a new computer somewhere else and restore your data from the Web.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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