Our Cheat Sheet: Backup and Recovery for Small Businesses

by | Feb 2, 2016 | Business Continuity

Backup and Recovery for Small Businesses doesn’t have to be complicated or break the bank.

Learn more about backup and recovery for small businesses here.


No matter the size of your business, if you store your business or customer data on a computer you need a safe, secure way to backup and store that data. Many experts argue that selecting a data backup system or service should be one of the first things you do as a business owner, right up there with finding an attorney, a bank and an accountant.

As soon as your business starts storing client information, you have a responsibility to protect that information. The chance that your computers or servers are going to fail is 100% guaranteed. It is just a matter of when. And when that happens, the question is, are you going to be prepared?

The most common business disaster is data loss, which can result from a number of causes including human error, hardware failure, power failures, natural disaster and theft. Fortunately, data loss is easy to recover from if you have a backup and recovery solution in place.

Every business should have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. Unfortunately, because the idea of developing one can seem overwhelming, many businesses choose to go without one.  43% of all businesses affected by a disaster or failure without a recovery plan with never re-open, and 80% of those that do re-open will fail within 13 months.


At a minimum, you need to backup all information that you are legally required to keep.  Next, you need to determine what information and systems are critical to running your business. Not sure what that is? We recommend businesses go through an exercise where you ask, “If I walked into my office tomorrow and nothing was there, what are the most critical applications and data I need?”  And from there, determine what information you haven’t touched in years.

Do you need to backup operating systems and software?  We advise clients to determine which systems are critical, and the required speed of recovery for each system (how long can you be without each server).  It’s also recommended to backup any proprietary applications or systems that have been developed for your business.

At a minimum, you should back up your important data on a daily basis. However, most clients implement a multi-day backup routine, so they can restore their data and databases from any point in time. Data you haven’t used in a long time can be backed up less frequently.


Most backup software and service providers generate backup logs and reports. You or someone in your company should check the logs each morning to quickly make sure data was properly backed up the night before.

Most recently developed are virtualization backup & recovery systems will send an email of a screenshot from each completed backup process, that tests the backup integrity and proactively identifies any issues.

The screenshot shows whether or not the backup can be instantly  booted into a virtual machine.  Seeing is believing!

Local Backup & Recovery Systems

Local backup systems are varied, and can include DVDs, tape backup systems, thumb drives, and disk based backup systems.  The disk based systems can either be a dedicated server with a drive array, a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive, or a Storage Area Network (SAN).

For most businesses, we recommend a backup system that is automated, requiring no human intervention. For business owners time can be the most precious commodity in your daily routine. Finding time to do everything can seem impossible, especially on days where business is flowing.

We strongly recommend disk based backup systems over tape, DVDs or thumb drives.  It’s much more reliable, and that is the purpose of backing up your data.


Cloud Backup & Recovery Systems
(also referred to as Off-Site or Online Backup)

Cloud backup & recovery systems automatically backup your selected data and systems to an off-site location.  Most backup transmissions are secure and encrypted, but it is always advisable to ask the vendor and provide this information.  Most backup vendors will house your data in a couple of backup locations, providing an extra layer of redundancy and protection.  Inquire about this with the backup vendor, and ask how your data is protected at their facilities.

It is also advised to have a discussion, or at least be aware, that you may need to “seed” your first backup set.  For large backup sets, most vendors will send you an external hard drive, where your initial backup set will be copied to and couriered over to the backup vendor.  Sending very large volumes of backed up data over the internet will simply take too long. Transferring an initial 2TB backup set across the internet at 1MBps would take upwards of 22 days . . . far too long!

Local Virtualization Backup & Recovery Systems

Virtualization backup & recovery systems are relatively new and incorporate some of the latest virtualization technologies. They dramatically speed up and simplify the backup/recovery process, and are more expensive as a result.

These backup systems take data directly from the server and convert it into virtual machine files that can be booted instantly from a web interface, or by using a common hypervisor (example, VMWare).

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Cloud Virtualization Backup & Recovery Systems

Cloud based virtualization backup & recovery systems offers true redundancy in the event of a disaster. Backups are sent to the cloud and ready to be virtualized at a moment’s notice.

Each backup is a fully bootable virtual machine, there is no need for a conversion to occur before performing a restore. With no complicated rollup or restore processes, data is always available immediately.  Even when virtualized, data can continue to backup to the local appliance and the cloud.

In a disaster recovery scenario, your network and servers can be recreated in the cloud and accessed remotely.


When contemplating which backup method to use, business owners often feel overwhelmed. Should you backup locally or use a cloud based back up service, or both?  Should you use a system that virtualizes your backups so you can instantly restore your systems and data in case of failure or disaster?

We believe every business should employ a fully automated backup system requiring no human intervention.  We have seen too many instances where human intervention has failed.

We highly recommend that most businesses backup their data locally first, and then off-site.  Backing up data locally allows for quicker restoration and retrieving of files.  Restoring a large amount of data from the cloud can take upwards of a week.  During this time your business is down, and your clients are looking elsewhere.  Backing up off-site allows for recovery, in case of disaster or failure. It will happen, it’s just a matter of when.

If your business cannot be without your servers and data for longer than one day, we recommend selecting a backup system that virtualizes your backups.  These systems can have your servers and computers back up in minutes, reduced from days or weeks. For businesses heavily reliant on quick recovery of their servers and data, these recovery systems are a saving grace and the costs are quickly recovered.


If you outsource your backup needs, make sure that you choose a provider that offers: security, monitoring, technical support, database and exchange capabilities, various OS capabilities, data duplication, and bare metal restore capabilities.

Also, request a written Service Level Agreement (SLA) from the provider and cloud hosting site.


Even if you review the logs on a regular basis, review the emailed screenshots, you need to test your backups on a regular basis.  We suggest testing your backups quarterly or bi-annually.

Backup is nothing without recovery. Do a run-through of the recovery process to be sure that you are familiar with the process and confident it works smoothly. If you have selected a provider, they should be happy to walk you through a test recovery procedure.


Every business should have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. Unfortunately, because the idea of developing one can seem time-consuming and overwhelming, many business owners choose to go without one. In this guide, we’ll provide an overview so you can begin to prepare:

  • Get your employees involved in the plan-development phase. Brainstorm scenarios with them.
  • Be sure that you upload critical documents to an off-site location.
  • Decide on an intercompany communications method to be used if you cannot enter your office.
  • Make arrangements for incoming communications (how clients will reach you).
  • Create contact lists so that you aren’t stuck without critical information when you lack access to your servers.
  • Decide who will be responsible for your critical functions.
  • Designate a location where everyone in your office will meet if you need to evacuate.
  • Designate an alternative working location (or locations), whether it be another office, or home.
  • Make sure your plan addresses all of the likely emergencies that might occur to your business.
  • Do a test run of your plan regularly.
  • Review and update your plan regularly.
  • When your plan is complete, distribute it to every employee and upload a copy off-site.

At some point, your business is going to face an emergency situation — it’s just a matter of when, what type, and what magnitude. The best preparation for any situation you may face is to have a well thought-out plan in place and to educate your team on its elements.


Backup and recovery for small businesses is a serious matter. When disaster strikes every second counts. Taking days or weeks to recover information and computer systems translates into money lost.  Discover how you can recreate servers and computers with the click of a mouse.

Tracy Rock is the Director of Marketing at Invenio IT. Tracy is responsible for all media-related initiatives as well as external communications—including, branding, public relations, promotions, advertising and social media. She is one busy lady and we are lucky to have her!