Should I use an off-site backup service for my business?

You can never have enough backup copies of your data to achieve true business continuity and to start seeing your IT and computer services as a profit center. Your data is the lifeblood of your business and is so important that we often refer to protecting your data as buying a “data insurance” policy. The question about off-site backup is a great one, but it includes some factors that you’ll need to answer sooner rather than later:

  1. What does your on-site backup setup look like?
  2. How much data do you have between your servers and computers?
  3. How long can you afford to be down in the event of a disaster?
What does your on-site backup setup look like?

How are you backing up your servers and desktops now? At a minimum, you should have a 2-or-more disk Network Attached Storage (NAS) device (around $400 with 2 TB of backup disk space). Do not rely on a single external hard drive for your business backup (that’s OK for your home, but everything in a business environment should be redundant) as hard drives eventually fail and you don’t want to have a single point of failure with your data.

While most off-site backup services can backup directly from a specific computer, it is better for your disaster recovery plan to have your data backup locally first, verify the backup to make sure there is no corruption, then replicate to the off-site facility. You need to make sure your backup software verifies each backup as you don’t want to find out that your backup is corrupted when you need to restore it.

How much data do you have between your servers and computers?

You will pay for off-site backup based on the amount of data you have (per gigabyte and terabyte). Best practice is to only backup your server on a regular basis (2 to 4 times each day) and then make an “image” of your desktop computers only when something changes (you add a new program, etc.). It can become quite costly to backup everyone’s desktop computer, when up to 50% of the space on their computers is taken up with non-critical data such as the Windows operating system or Microsoft Office, etc. You can easily reload these programs if necessary or restore that computer image you saved from a few months ago and then restore your documents from the backup.

How long can you afford to be down in the event of a disaster?

This is the most important question as this is what separates the different vendors and their services. Several off-site backup services only backup your files, not your server operating system. This is an important distinction. If only your files are backed up and you experience a disaster situation (server hard drives fail, power supply fails, fire, flood, theft, etc.), your business continuity plan will go into effect and it needs to be bulletproof. Can you be off-line for a day, only an hour, only a few minutes?

If only your files are backed up, you will need to fix your server/computers, then reload the operating system (Windows 7, Windows server, etc.) and then you can connect to the off-site service and download your files. If you have typical Internet speed, it could take from several hours to 2 days to restore all your files (based on 25–50 Mbps download speed on your Internet and 1 TB of data).

A better disaster recovery solution is to use backup software that backs up your entire server/computers and then allows you to restore those systems in minutes from the data center where your data is stored. We use Shadow Protect backup software, which allows you to “spin-up” your entire server/computers as “virtual machines” and run your business from a laptop at your favorite coffee shop using Wi-Fi within 15 minutes of the disaster (there are also options for real-time disaster recovery where you experience no downtime or less than a minute after a disaster).

Conclusion

True business continuity uses a well thought-out disaster recovery plan including correct on-site backup at regular intervals throughout the day and then replicating those backups right away to an off-site data center where you can recover your entire server/computers quickly. Even if you think you can be down for a day or two without much problem, that’s just the time some of your customers will call wanting something right away that’s stored on your server, and without the correct plan, you will have to put them on a long hold.

About Accelera IT Solutions

Accelera IT Solutions is a Phoenix, Arizona-based provider of complete IT services and solutions including on-site support, remote support, data backup and replication (to our secure data center), consulting for HIPAA and PCI compliance, IT project management and cyber-security audits and planning. Accelera also specializes in hardware consulting and installation/setup of servers, workstation, laptops and desktops. Contact Accelera at 623-266-4190 or at www.acceleradata.com.

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