Online Backup - a Solution for Small Businesses?

By: Ken O'Brien

Back up is a bread and butter question, put simply if you don't back up you could end up out of business. Yet many people choose to ignore it, despite understanding the risk of losing everything, because it's easy to do so.

Even a good backup policy is no good if it is forgotten or not properly carried out.

Yet no-one forgets to lock the office door or close the windows. When you're working with any kind of technology things do go wrong, break down and important data can get lost, which is why online backup offers a realistic alternative.

When looking at online backup most businesses would see extra costs. That's undeniable but there is a much higher cost to data loss. What's more, they argue, traditional backup options are just as good and at a more manageable cost. Agreed but there are associated risks; tapes can wear out, CDs/DVDs may not store the data properly or get corrupted. Most importantly someone has to remember to do them and verify that they have worked.

This is the attraction of online backup; things don't get lost or forgotten.

What is it?

Online backup is a facility where you can store your most important data files on a secure server, offsite. Many vendors will also provide mirror copies so that there is always a backup to the backup.

The main idea of online backup is that is used it to store important data so that if there is a disaster that data can be easily recovered.

Online backup is charged at a monthly rate - based on how much you store. Data storage space, depending on the vendor, is either compressed or uncompressed. Because spreadsheets and other documents can compress substantially this allows you to store more data online for the cost of that space.

How does it work?

With online backup it's usually done with the use of vendor-supplied software. Online backup software and providers build extra safeguards into their systems. Once an online backup account is set up the account is encrypted using a key created by the user. This is fundamental to the system. Lose or forget this key and no-one can recover the files. After that it's just a matter of choosing what files to store and determining a schedule that suits you best.

Why use it?

Online backup does not fail and is not subject to human frailties. Every piece of data sent for storage is verified before it is stored. This means comparing what has been received with what has been sent. It also means that there is no corrupt data in the backup. Backup vendors typically make two copies of the data as it is being backed up, with the same checks, so that there is a backup of the backup.

What about security?

Data storage centres have a lot of anonymous data. That anonymous data is encrypted. They have no idea who you are personally. They can identify that a particular account exists on a particular server but apart from that no-one can access the data except the user. This is why the key is so important. The key that only you know allows you to backup and recover the data. All vendors are also subject to Data Protection laws. Data that is not backed up on your server is more at risk.

Online backup works well and is used by many businesses. It can provide a cost-effective secure backup solution.

Be safe back up!

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