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Small business backup made easy with cloud

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Data has become a crucial asset for all types of businesses, ranging from home offices to large enterprises that have multiple locations. Losing this data can be catastrophic to any business, writes Iniel Dreyer, MD of Gabsten.
The good news is that effective data protection is something that can be simplified thanks to cloud-based solutions. A cloud backup solution enables a business or individual to store their electronic data in a remote location by subscribing to a service provider, rather than storing the data locally on a physical disk such as a USB drive or tape backup.

Reasons SMEs may not have good backup
Unfortunately, many small business owners still underestimate the importance of having a good backup solution, or may not know that enterprise-level backup solutions are now within their reach.
SMEs typically do not have access to skilled staff who can advise them on the matter and as such, may receive poor advice from self-styled experts. Furthermore, many of these SMEs become overwhelmed when they are given information that is too technical.
Consequently, they more than often choose solutions that are easy to understand yet it may not be the most effective one for the needs of their organisation. These solutions also need to be supported and maintained, which adds to the overall cost and complexity of the solution.

Cloud makes backup and recovery easy
Using a cloud-based back-up solution addresses many data backup issues SMEs face. This type of solution does not require the small business owner to have any data management or IT skills, as it is a service that the business can easily subscribe to. In addition, there is no capital outlay for hardware or software.
The monthly subscription model makes cloud data backup far more affordable and accessible to SMEs. Many cloud providers offer pay-as-you-go or a pay-as-consume payment methods, which means that these smaller businesses are not tied into a contract with onerous provisions that force them to stay with the service provider even when their needs change. A pay-as-you-consume payment model also allows SMEs a great deal of scalability of service.
Another benefit of using a cloud backup service is that all tasks are automated and no manual intervention is required from the small business owner.
The business owner is able to access a number of versions of the data that they have backed up as the cloud backup process adds new data without overriding previous versions of the data.
Data loss is inevitable for all of us at some point – we have all experienced the loss of an important file. It is therefore important to develop a not only a backup plan but also a recovery plan to ensure that lost data can be recovered quickly and efficiently in the event of data loss.

What to look for in a cloud solution:
There are numerous backup solutions available on the market, and on the surface, they all look similar. This makes it difficult for SMEs to determine what cloud service is appropriate for their needs. It’s also easy to choose a service based on price without realising that the cheapest one may not deliver crucial elements when there is a data loss incident.
Here are some key considerations when choosing a cloud service provide:
* Access must be easy – Choose a service provider who will make it easier for you to access your data when you have a problem. They should communicate not only through email, but also offer telephonic support. Also check whether you can access your data from a web page and from any device from any location, or whether you need specialised software installed before accessing your data. Specialised software makes access difficult if your computer has crashed or is stolen, as you have to download a new version before you can begin the recovery process.
* Quick response times – Establish Service Levels or Time to Respond offered by service providers. A speedy response from the cloud provider is crucial, as the longer the business owner does not have access to their system, the more revenue or reputation they may lose.
* Pay for what you use – as previously mentioned, most cloud providers offer month-to-month, pay-as-you-consume products and services. This allows the small business owner the flexibility to adapt their subscription when needed and not be tied down to onerous contract terms.
* No hidden costs – Make sure there are no hidden costs to the service, such as sign-up or initial set-up costs. Many cloud providers waive set-up fees, assured that they will generate revenue from the actual service that they provide. Also check if there are costs associated with the data transfer process or for the recovery of data following an incident. You don’t want any nasty surprises.
* Clear terms of contract – Should there be a contract, establish what additional benefits the service provider offers and the minimum duration of the contract. Also find out whether there is a specific exit clause should the service no longer suit your business.
* The seeding approach – When a company first signs up for a cloud service, they need to hand over their existing data to the service provider to upload. This is called seeding and following this, only incremental changes will be backed up to the cloud. Physically handing over an external drive of the data is also more cost effective, as it ensures that the SME does not shoulder the cost of broadband for transmitting large chunks of data via the Internet. It also ensures that the process does not take too long. A good cloud provider may offer to collect the data from the SME, making the seeding process smooth and painless for the business owner.
* Data security crucial – A good cloud provider offers a secure data location. They provide the customer with insight as to where the data is stored, how it is transmitted to and from storage and whether it is encrypted.
* Onsite calls – Check whether the cloud provider can make an on-site visit to assist with data retrieval when there is a data loss incident, even if the service costs extra. This option makes working with a local company very attractive, as the business owner is assured that help is at hand and close by.