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Backup critical for SMEs

As businesses become more digitised, with critical information being stored on computers, a backup and recovery strategy is a critical element of continuity and sustainability for both enterprisees and SMEs, says DAWIE BLOOMBERG of Green Apple IT.

While backup tends to be a low priority for this market, without it the consequences in the event of a disaster or data loss can be crippling. This is particularly relevant when considering that much of an SME’s data resides on PCs and portable devices such as notebooks, tablets and smartphones. While implementing a backup and recovery strategy may seem like a daunting task, evolving technology offers easy to use and cost effective backup solutions that automate this process. This means there is no longer any excuse for not having the right backup solution in place.

According to Boston Computing, 60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of a disaster. The Strategic Research Institute claims that 93% of companies that lost their data centre for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. This means that companies that are not able to recover their data and resume operations within a short period of time are unlikely to survive, making backup a critical component of business continuity and sustainability.

While many SMEs are aware of the importance of backup, the main challenge that they face is the sheer variety of different solutions available, and a lack of understanding of which solution will fit their business best. Coupled with this is the challenge of a limited budget, which is something that large corporates do not necessarily need to content with. As a result, although smaller businesses are aware of the need for backup, there seems to be a lack of urgency around implementing a proper strategy and solution. However, when it comes to backup and recovery, the importance of having the right system in place only becomes clear when disaster strikes, and by then it is simply too late.

There are various different backup and recovery strategies available, which can suit the needs and the budget of the SME. One of the most common is to adopt a rotational backup approach, whereby servers, PCs and notebooks are backed up onto external drives, with one drive kept onsite and the other offsite in a rotational fashion. This approach has its merits, chiefly that it is very cost effective since external storage is inexpensive to purchase, and that data is always readily available onsite for quick recovery. However, it does not provide for backup of mobile devices when they are away from the external drive, such as on the road, and if these devices are lost or stolen there is a security implication as well as the risk that some data may be lost. The drives themselves are also at risk, especially the onsite backups, as if a fire, flood or other disaster destroys the office and all the machines, the onsite backup will also be destroyed. For this reason, multiple hard drives are needed and should never be kept in the same location.

Increasingly, SMEs are turning to the cloud to provide effective, efficient and above all secure backup and recovery solutions. As bandwidth has become more plentiful and more affordable, online backup solutions have gained popularity and offer a number of benefits. The cloud offers an easy and convenient option for backup that is always available when there is an Internet connection, and this process can be automated to remove the risk of human error and forgetfulness. As files are changed on the system, they can be automatically backed up, to ensure that the latest data is always available in the event of a disaster. Cloud backup solutions can also be delivered for a monthly fee, allowing this to be integrated into operational expenses and reducing capital outlay.

While the original upload of data may be fairly bandwidth intensive, this is a once off occurrence, and after a snapshot of the data is captured any further backups will be incremental. This reduces the amount of bandwidth needed on a day-to-day basis for backup. Solutions can also be configured for certain types of data, so that not everything is backed up in the cloud, only mission critical information and documents. All that is needed for cloud backup is a stable Internet connection such as ADSL, and the services of a reliable and reputable provider who understands the backup needs of the business and can provide a solution that is ‚’fit for purpose’.

The one downside of cloud backup, however, is that in the event that data needs to be recovered, it must be downloaded from the cloud storage, which can take some time depending on the size of files and can be bandwidth intensive. Combining a hardware-based backup system, such as an external hard drive, with cloud storage and backup, provides the best of both worlds to ensure that data is always safe, secure and available in the event of a disaster. If hard drives fail, data can quickly be recovered from onsite backup, but in the event of a complete system failure or disaster, SMEs can rest assured that their critical information is safely stored in the cloud and can be recovered in short order.

The SME market is highly competitive in South Africa, and businesses rely on being agile and delivering effective services. Without their data however, they are unable to do this. If companies lose their critical information and are unable to recover it, their chances of survival are not high. Even if data can be recovered, time is of the essence as while they are scrambling to get back up and running they are losing revenue and potentially losing customers to their competition. Having the right backup solution in place is critical not only for large corporates, but for SMEs too.

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