As I move from customer to customer the subject of backups comes up frequently. I am glad to see people that have a backup (sometimes old) of their data in case something happens to their PC or hard drive. I often discuss what needs to be backed up and most think they need to backup everything. To that I answer it depends.☺ I will separate the discussion to home and business because the backup needs are just different enough to warrant as well as the reasoning.
I see people that have external devices attached to their PC that they are doing backups on. However, when asked how often they backup the answer varies from once to daily. The base should be at least once a week you should backup your data. Exceptions are necessary; when my wife was working on her dissertation here is what happened for backup of that document. She kept the document on a USB stick (thumb drive) so she could work on it in multiple places. When she connected that stick to her PC at home, I had a routine that would copy it to my server. By doing this if she was working and something went wrong she could revert back to the version she started with, yes she could lose work but at least she still had the majority of her work. The server that the document was copied to has an external hard drive that I backup on a nightly basis. However, this server has the data file for QuickBooks that I use to run my business, so this PC is also connected to my Online Backup Service and is backed up to our data centers every night. This is overkill for data that does not change often, i.e., pictures, but for documents and spreadsheets, financial program data and other files that can change frequently this configuration helps me sleep at night.
You should only backup data not applications. You can always get a copy of Microsoft Word to reinstall but you cannot get back the document that is the draft of your will. Making sure you are only backing up data will also stretch how much storage you will have. If you have a 500GB external hard drive but you backup everything bit of your 160GB hard drive (applications and data) you can only get three backups before you have to delete one to make room for the next. The more maintenance required the least desirable the job gets after a while. If you are only backing up your data that 160GB probably drops to 40-50GB probably less but now you can get 10 backups on the 500GB drive before you start to have to delete an old backup. If the backups are weekly that means every 2-1/2 months compared to every 3 weeks that you have to take action.
The last thing is that you have to take the backup device with you when you leave your home. As many of you have heard me say, the fire will only burn up the PC not the backup device sitting next to it, right? Better yet talk to us about our Online Backup Service!
There is absolutely no reason you should not backup your data! The Small Business Administration estimates that 80% of small businesses that suffer a physical disaster do not recover. Do not be one of those stats! Unlike, home users you should backup applications but only if it is something that was custom designed for your business. If it is an off the shelf application then that should be excluded from the backup also. Your data is a necessity to run your business, customer information, outstanding invoices, outstanding payables, etc. so you need to backup daily. You should perform differential backups every evening after your business day is complete to capture the work from the day. Differential backups are the changes to a file from the previous backup, so if a spreadsheet has new information added to it today then it will backup that evening. (Technical definition: the difference between incremental and differential backups is important when you need to perform a restore of a system. With an incremental backup you will need all of the incremental backups to put your system back to the way it was before. With a differential backup you only need the last differential backup to put the system back to its original state.)
If you select a physical system then just as the home users need to get the device out of their homes, you need to get that device out of the business when you are not there. If you are using a tape system, make sure you have enough tapes to set up a rotation. A rotation is using the tapes at a certain day of the week or time of the week. If you are backing up nightly then you should have tapes for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on. You should also have a set of tapes for the weekly full backups. The biggest issue with a tape system is the cost and the amount of tapes you need to make it a truly effective system. You should also look into companies that specialize in picking up and storing the tapes for you. Yes it is another cost to your business but I counter with how much is the business worth to you? The offsite company will bring back tapes as they are picking up tapes so you should have what you need to perform your backups. At my last corporation we used tapes to backup all of our systems; Windows servers, AS400, PBX and UNIX servers; the first duty of the data center operator on first shift was to gather all tapes from the backup devices and replace them for the next backup. The offsite company would come in Monday, Wednesday and Friday to pick up and drop off tapes. On Tuesday and Thursday, the operator would walk the tapes across the street to another building and put them in a fire proof vault. The interesting part of this is the company was resistant to the cost of the offsite vendor and adding additional backup devices until a system was lost and the backups were not sufficient to restore it. A ton of data was lost with this incident and the company was less reluctant to spend the money when I joined them. One of the first things I implemented was a better tape rotational system that included 4 tapes for each weekday, 12 tapes for each monthly backup and 1 tape for each yearly backup. This does not seem like much but when you consider this was for each of the 40 tape devices you can see how this can get costly and time consuming.
A better solution is to talk to us about our Online Backup Service.