Backing Up for Small Business

September 2nd, 2016

blog-backup-small-business

Labor Day weekend and the end of summer is here. It’s an opportunity to raise our glasses to working people including us. If you’re a small business owner or you’re responsible for data backup at a small business, make sure to take some time to back up your essential data before donning the flip-flops and firing up the grill. Here’s some help getting started.

Small businesses serve a vital role in our economy: According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half the jobs in the United States are because of small businesses, with the number of small businesses increasing 49 percent since the early 1980s.

Here’s another sobering statistic: Lots of businesses never backup their data. One-third, according to one recent survey. Talk about flying without a net! What’s worse, almost half of all businesses only have a single copy of their backup data.

That’s a disaster waiting to happen – don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Your basic backup strategy: 3-2-1

Try to think about your company’s backup in two parts: A local, easily-accessible backup system and one that’s stored offsite. This is the basic idea behind the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy.

1 is your local copy. Users continue to rely on their local data as their primary access.

2 is a local backup. A local backup gives you immediate, instant access to whatever data you might need back, regardless of whether it’s deleted, overwritten, or lost.

3 is a copy stored securely offsite. That way, if anything happens to your location or the equipment at your location, your data is safe and sound. While many businesses still use tape-based backup with offsite rotation, there are now better cloud based solutions for offsite backup.

These days, cloud-based storage is essential. That’s where Backblaze comes into play. We help businesses backup to the cloud safely and securely in our own data center. We offer unlimited backup service for business, with continuous and automatic backups, without data caps or surcharges.

How to backup

An external USB-based hard disk drive is good to store backups for your small business. Just bear in mind that hard drives wear down and stop working, so don’t rely exclusively on this one option. Computers with faster connections (like Macs with Thunderbolt and PCs equipped with eSATA) can use their fastest connections to help cut down backup time.

Built-in software on Macs and Windows PCs backs up your computer’s essential data, which makes recovering easier when problems happen. Third-party backup software options abound depending on your budget and what you’re looking to do. More details are available in Backblaze’s complete guide to computer backups.

Backup software typically does a complete backup of your computer’s essential files, then updates periodically with incremental changes. This way, your external storage doesn’t fill up right away – it only fills up as files change.

USB-based drives tend to fall into the pile of more things to keep track of and probably more importantly you need to remember to use them. So another option is to use Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems like those made by Synology, QNAP and other companies.

NAS systems live on your network, providing pooled storage everyone on the network can use. Software either on the computer or on the NAS itself can be used to back up the computer to the NAS. That way everyone stays backed up and in sync when they’re connected to the network.

Many NAS devices and even some large desktop drives incorporate RAID storage. RAID (“Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks”) systems distribute data across multiple hard drives. RAID systems are more tolerant to failure, because a drive can stop working and can be replaced without the entire system needing to go offline. RAID is one component of our own Storage Pods and Storage Vaults.

What to backup

Any data that’s essential to keeping your business running should be backed up. That includes financial records, customer records, tax forms, sales records and any other information that’s critical to keeping your business working.

It’s a good idea to use encryption to make sure that your business data stays safe, as well. If you’re using Backblaze to backup your business systems, rest assured that encryption is built in, so your data stays safe as houses.

Also bear in mind that a lot of data is stored in the cloud. Take email, for example. Many small businesses rely on Gmail and other services to handle email for them — that data is already on Google’s servers.

Remember that having your business data only in the cloud is a single point of failure. As our 3-2-1 Backup Strategy says, keep data in three places: Your local machine, along with a local backup copy. Make updating that copy a regular part of your backup regimen.

When to backup

The best time to backup is whenever data changes, so a continuous backup system is the best (that’s how Backblaze works unless you tweak the settings otherwise).

Most backup systems work by backing up all of your data once, then incrementally updating only what’s changed or new. Also think about whether you need a backup of your backup. Some businesses make a point to rotate their backups periodically to make sure that even if one backup fails, another can take its place. How much redundancy you want or need is dictated by how much time, money, and equipment you’re willing to invest.

Still have questions? Have specific implementation issues? Give me a heads up in the comments.

Peter Cohen
Peter will never give you up, never let you down, never run around or desert you. He also manages the Backblaze blog.

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  • Data backup is very integral for the business as this is the foundation of managing risk and recovery. Routine and cloud based backup works best in my experience.

  • Paul Blits

    Nice lineup…a great informative detailed post. As a small business owner I’d like to know how my data would be most secure with Backblaze? How does Backblaze score an edge above others?

  • Lynn McGuire

    My office LAN backup is 3 TB. And we have a 12/1 mbps DSL line only since we are in the country. No way we could backup to offsite over that DSL line.

    We backup daily to D: drives on three of our PCs. Then we have seven external USB drives that live offsite, only one is onsite at any given moment.

    And then we “retire” one of those USB drives every six months so we get a snapshot of the LAN.

    • Mark

      Are you sure you couldn’t schedule something like rsync to a remote server in the off-hours? The data might not change as much as you think. If your business is open 40 hours a week, that’s potentially 144 hours per week that the DSL line could be utilized. 144 hours * 1mbit/sec * 60 seconds/minute * 60 minutes/hour / 8 bits/byte ~= 64.8GB/week. Make that say, 55GB/week, or 200GB/month. I’d be astonished if your 3TB of data changes at a rate meaningfully greater than 200GB/month. Hence, even your 12/1 line could be configured for a proper offsite backup instead of doing the “sneakernet” thing, and with proper scripting (and maybe some tweaks to the QoS settings on your internet gateway/firewall/’router’), could still be fully available and unutilized during working hours.

      • GlueFactoryBJJ

        You assume that they would get 1mbps over the course of that period. And it would still take ~15 mo to finish their cloud backup… Hopefully they don’t need it before then (say a natural disaster).

        Hmm, you’re not talking about cloud backups, are you? Never mind… :-O

  • GlueFactoryBJJ

    Frankly, I’d love to use Backblaze, but I have ~10 TB of data I need backed up. Comcast puts a 300GB data cap on my residential service (of which I regularly use 75-90%), so doing a full backup is infeasible (a business plan with higher data limits is substantially more expensive). However, I CREATE about 10-50 GB of data per month. A practical amount for me to do an online backup.

    Even at my full 20mbps upload speed (100mbps download), it would take at least 60 days for me to backup my existing data. And that is assuming I could get my full upload speed during that entire time.

    I have a NAS (FreeNAS) with 16 TB net storage that I use for my on-site storage. So I have “level” 1 and 2 of my backup plan covered. It’s the level 3 (cloud) part that is tripping me up…

    How can I get my initial data backed up on Backblaze so I can use my data connection for monthly backups?

    • DocNo42

      Unfortunately I don’t think Backblaze lets you send a hard drive into them to “seed” a backup, but other providers like Crashplan do. It’s a shame – Backblaze has one of the best policies for hard drive based restoration of data including full refund of the price of the external drive if you don’t need it and return it to them, so I’m hoping they can add a seeding feature where you buy an external hard drive from them, do a local backup to it with the backblaze client and then send it into them to seed your Backblaze backup.

      I’m also (impatiently) waiting for them to support servers for small businesses too. Once you get spoiled dealing with the excellent customer service at Backblaze dealing with other vendors pales by comparison.

      EDIT: And of course, right after I post I notice they sort of have a solution for servers: https://www.backblaze.com/blog/managing-windows-server-backup/

      Not as nice as a 100% native from them solution, but I will be eagerly reading up on it now!

    • Mark

      Build a duplicate NAS system for your off-site backup. Physically bring the machine to your site, do an initial backup with rsync, take the machine home and and then use rsync to just resync the changed data with your mirrored data through some sort of cron job. Not really sure that BackBlaze has a product for you though, as their main focus is consumers who are using consumer-sized hard drives. Not stuff like yours that requires a lot more hardware and of course a business model to match (ie: charging you a lot more than they charge ‘consumers’!).

      • GlueFactoryBJJ

        You did read the title of this article, right? ;-)

        My config is on the small to average side of home office/business and small businesses. You can easily back up 500 GB per PC (OS plus data), so a small business with only ~20 PCs would have a need for a local NAS/server for backups (~same size as mine)and a need for offsite backups of that server’s info.

        I only have 7 PCs and my photo/video habit (over ~15 years) to account for my current ~10 TB. IMO, this will become more and more common as video becomes ever more mainstream and people want that backed up.

        While I did create my NAS “on the cheap”, it would still cost me about another $800-1000 to duplicate it… and that is without any “server grade” components (i.e. cheap desktop PC components).

        Anyway, just my $.02…