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Top five tips for a small business backup strategy

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If people think a backup strategy is only relevant to large companies, they are mistaken. The reality these days is that everyone needs a backup strategy; the need to backup data is crucial when considering the myriad of ways it can all be lost, writes Fred Mitchell, Symantec division manager at Drive Control Corporation.

From theft, fire and flooding to online cybercrime attacks that can corrupt data and destroy machines, or a simple accident or broken device, consumers and small businesses face the same risks as larger companies. Whether the content is business or personal, most feel they do not need a backup strategy as the information is not all that likely to be destroyed or go missing.
This usually results in a backup strategy being regarded as a "grudge purchase".
Losing the contents of a hard drive can be catastrophic for any business, particularly the smaller business and consultants whose livelihood often depends on the data contained on their computers and other devices.
No-one expects the worst possible scenario, but imagine a user had almost completed writing a novel, a thesis or an important business presentation and their hard drive crashed – it would be impossible to recover any of the data.
Whether it is for family photographs or work related, purchasing a backup system is hardly a grudge purchase when considering that the pricing is low on backup drives. Speak to anyone who has lost information they cannot recover, and they will say that the data they lost was priceless.
These five simple tips are recommended in order to avoid the inconvenience (and sometimes downfall) that consumers and small businesses experience with data loss/loss of content.
Data backup must be user friendly
There are various options but success is not in the product used to backup, but rather in the how. It needs to fit the consumer or small business and its objectives. As soon as it takes time and effort or slows down productivity, people are unlikely to continue to backup their data.
It is important to note that external hard drives like flash drives and CDs are highly unreliable as a means of backing up data, as their lifespan is shorter.
This is due to that fact that flash drives are highly sensitive to static, and a static spark will erase information, while scratches on CDs can damage data or render it inaccessible.
In a similar vein, fragmented information is not a "backup". For example, just because users are saving their pictures on a PC and movies on their notebook, this does not mitigate risk.
Avoid manual backups
The manual backup of documentation to another device that is then stored in the same location as the machine is not recommended either, because in the case of fire or other natural disaster, the backup data will also be wiped out, rendering the exercise pointless.
Manual backups also mean that users need to remind themselves to do a backup, which may lead to non-compliance, with the "I will do it tomorrow" attitude that ultimately ends in tomorrow never arriving. The best form of backup is one that is automatic.
Backup data on the service provider's server
Although offsite storage is a good option for protecting data, this means that all data that is backed up is stored in a separate location to minimise the risk of both copies of the data being lost or destroyed.
However, this may require data to be backed up to other physical storage devices and then moved to another location, which can be time consuming and expensive, especially for smaller businesses.  
Another option is for a service provider to backup the information on their server at their premises. In this way, users can backup data on their server and on their backup drive, doing live backups at the same time on different storage mediums.
Cloud storage is key
Technology has enabled another, more convenient form of offsite storage, and that is cloud storage, which can easily and conveniently store backup data offsite without the need to physically move storage devices to another location.
Online backup facilities also enable users to recover data from wherever they are, even if they are in another city or country to where they normally run their business.
This means that if data is backed up online, not only is it useful for recovery, it can also be used to access information that may not necessarily be stored on a physical device onsite at the office when the user is out of the office.
Cloud-based online storage is also far cheaper than onsite physical storage, as the actual storage devices do not need to be purchased, and data is secure and always available should it be needed.  
Choose a holistic security and backup solution
When it comes to choosing a security solution, the smart choice, especially for the smaller business or home user, is to choose one that bundles Internet security and anti-virus with an online backup solution that will automatically backup files on schedule on an incremental basis, meaning that only data that has changed will be backed up.
This ensures that businesses and users have a complete, holistic security solution that will protect their critical data from all sides, so that in the unfortunate event that something does happen to physical devices, this data is always available and can be restored in short order, allowing business to continue as usual.
Ultimately backups save time and money, and give users peace of mind as long as they ensure their equipment/backup facility is backed by an effective system, which is reliable and user friendly.