Backup Options for Small Business Owners

You’ve heard it a thousand times: backup your data. But I still find it rather amazing to walk into a client’s environment and ask, “so what do you do for backup?” and get a blank stare or “oh, we are doing ok”.

The “it will never happen to us” syndrome is prevalent in the small business environment. The result is a constant break-fix scenario that ultimately turns out to be very costly.

The cost of hard drives has fallen so dramatically that it is inexcusable for a small business owner not to have at least, a removable USB drive for backing up critical data. There are even “cloud” offerings that are pretty reasonable, although they tend to be very slow especially if you have multi-gigabyte files to backup.

For example, Carbonite will back up any amount of data you have for about $55 a year, while Mozy (owned by Iomega/EMC) offers 2 gigabytes of free storage for those who purchase an Iomega external drive.The truth of the matter is, it is always a safe bet to store critical data backup offline  and in this regard, managed backup services is still the best option. With managed backup services, some providers offer on-site backup devices that synchronizes with the data center in off-peak hours (say around 1 A.M.). They also run occassional verification on backed-up data to ensure that what is being backed up is good data.

But for getting started, you really do not need anything expensive. I recently came across a device called NetDisk from Iocell that uses a technology called NDAS (Network Direct Attached Storage). It is an enclosure that houses a SATA drive or two, and plugs into your network.

But the interesting thing is that the device does not use an IP address. It works through the installation of three drivers: a LPX Protocol, a NDAS Bus, and a NDAS Miniport controller.

Unique hardware IDs and access keys are used for mounting the drives or creating RAID arrays etc. Once you mount the drive(s), you can backup up your files to it like a regular hard drive.

There are also the so-called NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices made by manufacturers like D-Link, Netgear, Linksys, Airlink 101 etc. These plug into your network and can be assigned IP addresses.

Some can even be managed remotely. If you are adventurous, you can create your own backup server with FreeNAS, an open source software that enables you to convert a regular PC into a backup device.

However you decide to go about it, it is always a good thing to make regular backups of your critical data. It is no fun to come to the office one day and see the dreaded “hard disk not found” error and having to scramble to find a data recovery expert. And those folks are not cheap.