Take a moment to think about all of the data your business currently has stored digitally. Customer account documents, databases, financial statements, years of tax documents, personnel records, presentations, inventory/sales, the list goes on and on.
All of this data is important and worth saving. From a business perspective, this data likely keeps your company up and running. Unfortunately, there are numerous ways data can be lost, including cyber-attacks, viruses, computer crashes, power outages, and human error.
Worrying about losing data isn’t something you have to lose sleep over if you have an active data backup strategy.
March 31st is World Backup Day and there’s no better time to evaluate your business backup plan.
Three Backup Strategies
A common rule of thumb for keeping important data from disappearing forever is the 3-2-1 Rule. It dictates that you should:
- Have THREE copies of your data. One is a primary backup and two are copies.
- Save copies of your backups on TWO different types of media or devices.
- ONE backup copy should be kept offsite in case of disaster.
Each of these points is meant to create data redundancy to ensure that you always have your data available to you in case the worst happens. That said, your backups should be kept current to prevent data loss of more current files. Ideally, schedule backups to happen daily and at night when there’s minimal business activity.
Choosing Your Backup Options
The right backup storage strategy for a particular business is going to depend on how much data an organization has and how it is used, but in general, the best option for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) is often network attached storage (NAS).
A NAS solution connects to a local area network, such as your WiFi router via Ethernet, and is used for sharing data among multiple different users who are also connected to the local area network. The device itself is usually comprised of multiple hard disk drives (HDDs).
Each HDD can store different data, or they can be configured to mirror data on another drive to create more data redundancy. More on that in a moment.
You can think of NAS as a mini on-site cloud. It can be configured to serve as a collaborative file server, web server, virtual machine, backup target and media center.
Best of all, a NAS system can scale as your business grows, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A company may start with a two-bay NAS solution that can host two HDDs or can expand to a rack-mounted enterprise-grade box with two-dozen drive bays, or anywhere in between.
Another option for SMBs is direct attached storage, or DAS. As the name suggests, DAS is connected directly to a computer. This allows for extra storage for backing up data but lacks the network-wide applications and collaborative potential of NAS. Direct-attached storage can feature HDDs for massive capacity or solid-state drives for high-performance.
One method many SMBs choose to utilize is RAID (redundant array of independent disks) to help provide adequate levels of data redundancy and protection.
RAID can be used on NAS, DAS, or on its own with a single computer. RAID allows multiple drives to appear as a single volume.
There are multiple levels of RAID and each level offers different benefits but can also add complexity. RAID-enabled NAS or DAS systems either come preconfigured for a particular RAID set or allow for configuring certain RAID levels.
Choosing the right RAID level for your SMB will be determined by your particular needs and priorities including performance, capacity and cost. Instead of breaking down every RAID level, here is a quick overview of only the levels that are best suited for SMBs.
This is the lowest cost option and allows multiple disks to appear as a single drive. Performance is great at this level with high write and read speeds. However, since this level utilizes data striping to distribute data over multiple drives without extra copies, if a drive fails, the data is lost. As such, this level should not be considered without extra levels of data redundancy.
This configuration is often called disk mirror and copies the same data over multiple drives or multiple volumes within the same drive. This gives great data redundancy, because if one drive in the array fails, the same information is already saved on another disk so it’s not lost. This is a great option for data security, but certainly demands higher capacity since the amount of data is essentially doubled in the mirroring process.
RAID 10 is really RAID 1+0 and is a combination of the two. Like RAID 0, data is striped and written across multiple disks. Like RAID 1, that data is mirrored across multiple volumes or drives. This allows for the benefits of performance with high read/writes and the data redundancy in case a drive fails. However, it requires at least four drives and capacity is cut in half so it can also be more costly.
This is likely the most popular RAID configuration for SMBs. Data is striped and divided across three or more disks. Raw recovery information, called parity, is also included. If the system detects that a disk is failing, the data can be rebuilt without the array failing. It also allows for a drive to be “hot swappable” which means it can be replaced without shutting down the system first. This RAID level allows for data redundancy thanks to parity, but requires extra storage space. Performance for live write-intensive applications can take a hit since data is striped across multiple data blocks.
Pairing RAID and NAS
RAID can run separately from a NAS. Likewise, your NAS doesn’t have to be configured for RAID. However, after weighing the options, many SMBs ultimately determine that their data backup strategy is best suited to a RAID array within a NAS.
Whatever option is best for your small business, remember to also follow the 3-2-1 Backup Rule and keep current back-up copies in multiple places – physically and digitally.
Editorial comment – Get Tech Help
If all of this seems a bit “geeky” to you definitely reach out to your local technology consultant who can easily help put together a backup strategy and backup solutions specific to YOUR business nee needs.
Ramon Ray is a small business expert, motivational keynote speaker and founder of SmartHustle.com. He’s a global speaker, best-selling author and works with tech brands to help them better reach small business owners.