No matter what kind of small business you operate, you will inevitably end up generating a lot of data. Receipts, contracts, sales information, employee records, visual and multimedia assets… the list goes on to interminable lengths, and varies widely from business to business. In light of this, every small business should take the time to decide on a data backup and/or archiving strategy to keep this information safe and accessible in the event of audits, physical damage to your location, legal requirements, and other important moments in which your history must be referenced.
Luckily, the per-gigabyte cost of hard disk drives and associated storage technologies has never been lower, while the advent of technology such as cloud storage offers even greater opportunities to do more with less. The proliferation of different data backup options – including offsite physical archiving of the kind provided by companies like Iron Mountain – may be enough to confuse some business owners or leave them wondering which option works best for them. No matter which solution you choose, whether overseen in-house or by a third party, make sure to codify it into the practices and standards that govern your business model.
Having multiple copies of your data is also known as retention. Retention policies are basically based on a couple of simple questions, ‘How often do I want to backup?’ and ‘How long should I retain those backups for?’ This depends largely on your business cycle. Specifically, a data backup is a snapshot or picture of the state of the data before it disappeared or was destroyed, with the data periodically overwritten as it changes. Archiving, on the other hand, is long-term and unalterable. Used for compliance or disaster recovery, redundancy and physical separation are crucial to effective archiving. Archived files can be kept for decades, usually at an offsite location, and two or more remote copies are better than one to properly safeguard this data.
The best strategy is to devise a schedule that works for the majority of your files. You can schedule a daily backup of new and modified data files, for example, and then a weekly backup of all files. There are some excellent software solutions designed to automate this process: Mac users may be familiar with Carbon Copy Cloner, one of this writer’s personal favourite tools. The feature-richness and cost of these tools will scale with the needs of your business. Another option is to back up to a cloud service: the subscription costs are relatively affordable when compared to the cost of hard drive storage space and upkeep, and most services offer a range of support options for your backup plan.
No matter what option you choose, having a set of best practices for backup and archiving will benefit your business in the long run. The cost of data retrieval in the event of an emergency may be compounded by the cost of time lost or the impact on customer confidence if your information is destroyed, corrupted or breached.