Protecting business continuity with data back-ups

With risks from insiders, accidents and acts of God, back-ups are key to business continuity

The United States Small Business Administration calls small businesses the heart of the U.S. economy. According to research by the Office of Advocacy, small businesses create the majority of the nation's new jobs and bring innovative ideas, products, and services to the marketplace. In 2006, there were nearly 27 million such organizations.

Needless to say, small businesses differ from their enterprise counterparts in many ways, from funding to infrastructure and staffing. At the same time, they also share some common challenges, including the need to ensure business continuity even in the wake of a disaster. After all, statistics paint a grim picture: half of all businesses never reopen after experiencing a catastrophic data loss and 90 percent close within two years, according to research firm Baroudi Bloor International.

What might cause significant data loss for a small business? Anything from a natural disaster to hardware or software failure, or even a simple human error. Every minute that vital information or services are not accessible can put a ruinous strain on the bottom line of a "lean-and-mean" small business.

As a result, a growing number of today's small companies are establishing and implementing a disaster recovery strategy. With best practices in place to guard against data loss and system downtime, these organizations protect business continuity and ensure rapid recovery from system crashes and other potentially disastrous events.

Back It Up

Data drives small business, and the ability to keep it always available is critical for a business' success. To that end, organizations must regularly back up their data, using a tiered approach that saves data to disk as well as to tape for short- and long-term purposes. For quick recovery, disk is often the preferred media. For long-term storage and data archiving, tape is an effective option. Both methods play a major role in the backup strategies for many organizations.

Today's most advanced backup tools for small businesses provide continuous data protection for an organization's most valuable information, whether that data is on a Windows file server, a desktop or laptop, or a Microsoft Exchange, SQL, SharePoint, or other application server. New cutting edge tools have revolutionized data protection by eliminating backup windows and enabling small businesses to recover data in seconds. For example, while traditional approaches for backing up Exchange required a full database backup and "brick level" mailbox backups, these tools offer a full, incremental, or continuous backup of Exchange and enable restores to a granular level--including down to an individual email-from a single database backup pass.

Also, because many small businesses rely on users to manually backup business-critical data to a server, a number of backup tools extend continuous disk-based protection and recovery to desktops and laptops virtually anywhere, whether in the office or on the road. For example 12,000 laptops are lost in U.S. airports each week, and two-thirds are never returned according to a 2008 study by the Dell & Ponemon Institute. In addition to improving data protection and efficiency, this capability enables users to restore their own files and maintains synchronization between multiple desktops and laptop so that the most up-to-date file versions are available on each computer. Users can also specify the files, email folders, and email attachments to be excluded from backups.

On-demand and pay-as-you-go data backup and restore services are increasingly popular among small businesses and can be easily utilized from anywhere through a Web browser. Software as a Service protect all files that have been selected for backup, collecting only changes to files after the initial full backup, then encrypted them and send them to be backed up at a secure off-site facility. Data can be restored using an online browser-based interface. By using this model for backup and restores, small organizations obviate the expense and hassle of dealing with support contracts and software licenses and businesses can potentially forego on the physical infrastructure needed for backup, allowing focus on their core business.

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