Ten Steps to Safeguard Your Small Business Data

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Ten Questions You Should Ask Your Data Backup Vendor

I came across a simple 10-step checklist to safeguard small business data and thought it would make an excellent guide for business owners who may be uncertain of where to start. Written from a solution provider's point of view to help SMBs, the pointers were offered by Dave Hallmen, VP of worldwide sales and marketing at EVault and published in full on CRN.


Using the same points, I've summarized them with my own explanations from a purely SMB-centric point of view.


  1. Make sure your data is recoverable - Making backups of existing data has long been determined as a crucial task for any business, and only foolish administrators would argue otherwise. From my experience though, not many businesses take the extra step of performing regular checks to ensure that backed-up data is indeed recoverable - a task that is equally, if not more, important.
  2. Disaster-proof your data - SMBs tend to make the mistake of not looking far enough in terms of the worst-case scenario. As such, they may not prepare adequate measures against disasters such as fire or flooding. It is important to disaster-proof backed-up data by storing them at a separate location, preferably one that is not in the immediate vicinity of the data source.
  3. Determine your data loss tolerance level - While the temptation is to back up every scrap of data, this is often not necessary and makes the entire endeavor an exorbitant one. Businesses should first determine the amount and type of data loss that their business can realistically tolerate. Next, put together your backup regime, starting with the data that the business could most ill-afford to lose.
  4. Determine how long is too long without your data - How long can your business do without access to certain categories of data? Identifying this goes a long way towards helping a business to determine their recovery time objective (RTO). This in turn makes it easy to establish the kind of hardware and architecture that will be required to safeguard the data.
  5. Find a backup solution that matches resources - Like building your own desktop computer, it is often tempting to throw in the fastest and most expensive components when assembling a backup infrastructure. The hard reality though, is that no SMB has unlimited resources at their disposal. As such, ensure that the backup solution being built matches up with available resources.
  6. Ensure your backups are secure and compliant - Backup copies should be properly secured and kept at locations that are in accordance with pertinent regulations. Where possible, use of data encryption should be used to protect the data.
  7. Make sure your applications can be backed up in real-time - This is a frequently overlooked point: Many server applications keep certain system or database files in a persistently open state. This may necessitate the use of special tools in order to perform a backup without first having to shut them down.
  8. Protect mobile devices - Not typically considered as part of the backup regime, the BYOD phenomenon and the increasing access and storage of important business data on smartphones and tablets may soon force the hand of IT departments around the world. For now, it probably makes sense to start by protecting basic components such as contact data and documents on mobile devices.
  9. Identify and discuss which backup technology is best - Not every backup technology is created equal; whether tape, online storage or network attached storage devices, each has their unique strengths and weaknesses. It is therefore important to properly identify the appropriate mix of backup appliances that will work for your SMB in the planning phrase.
  10. Pick a good vendor - Finally, Hallmen recommends that businesses pick a good backup and recovery vendor to help them along. While this may appear as self-serving advice, I think SMBs need to be open about acknowledging the possibility that specialists in this area may perform better than their own IT staffers.


Feel free to chip in if you have any anecdotes to share pertaining to the above pointers.