The Importance of backups
A good backup system costs money but is cheap compared to the cost of losing business data. Data can be lost for all sorts of reasons. The big four are a hardware failure, theft of equipment, fire and flood. Everyone knows that hard disks can fail, but the other three are often dismissed as unlikely. Computer equipment theft is not as common as it used to be but if it happens to your business, then data loss is going to be the result if you don’t have good backups. Flood is rare but is not just limited water rising from heavy rain, consider the risk of a leaky roof or the office above yours having a burst pipe. Faulty air conditioning damaging the equipment it is there to protect is not unheard of. Fire is thankfully the least likely event, but any business which is the victim of fire will be devastated. More common than hardware failure is user deletion of data, either by accident or maliciously. There are various ways of backing up vital data.
The best option for small businesses is online backups. These involve backing up data over the Internet to a backup service. There are several advantages to this type of backup. The data is off-site, so whatever happens to the server the information is safe. They are automatic, so no one needs to change tapes. They even work on bank holidays when a tape-based system might fail due to no one replacing the tape. On the downside, backups are limited by the bandwidth available from Internet connections.
Many businesses choose to use external USB disk drives for backup. These are better than nothing but have some significant drawbacks. Firstly they are connected directly to the server, so any disaster that befalls the server is likely to affect the external drive. In the case of fire, flood or theft the external drive will also be lost. The only real protection these devices provide is against hardware failure of the server and manual deletion of data.
Tape backup systems are the traditional type and offer excellent protection if managed correctly. They are still used where very large amounts of data need to be backed up or where company policy does not allow online backups. The benefits are that tapes can be stored off-site or in fire resistant safes to give a high level of security. As long as the backup system uses enough tapes then multiple copies of vital data will be available. This is especially useful if data loss goes undetected for some time, which is often the case if a single file or folder goes missing.
Unfortunately, tape backup systems are expensive as quality tape drives are not cheap. Tapes are relatively inexpensive, but the cost mounts up as a least ten will be required to give adequate protection. As well as the tape drive, the server will need a suitable interface and a data cable which will add to the cost. Appropriate software will also be required. Windows servers do include basic backup software, but this is not good enough to provide an easily managed system
Having the right hardware and software does not guarantee good backups. They must be configured correctly and monitored to ensure adequate and continuous protection.
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