How to Choose the Right Small Business Backup Software
Small business backup software is a fundamental piece of any business continuity solution. It’s the brains behind your backups, controlling every aspect of how your data is protected.
Having data backups has never been more critical. It can literally save a small business from disaster, especially after hardware failure or a ransomware attack. But unfortunately, not all backup software provides the same protection—and in fact the differences between some solutions are vast.
Use this brief guide for a clearer understanding of how to compare your options and what to look for.
Why back up your data at all?
Businesses are more dependent on their data now than ever before. According to a report by Datto, 90% of all data in existence has been created within just the last few years, and a huge portion of that data has been generated by small companies. And yet, incredibly, only 25% of small to medium-sized businesses say they are “extremely” confident in their ability to recover data if it’s compromised.
Without a small business backup in place, companies leave themselves at risk of a major operational disruption.
Even a few lost files or emails can hurt productivity and drain your IT resources. Larger data loss can derail your most critical operations, resulting in downtime that can cost tens of thousands of dollars an hour. The most vulnerable businesses never recover.
Small business backup software vs. business continuity
It doesn’t take a complex piece of software to copy files from one location to another. But just because that process creates a “backup” doesn’t mean it will do you any good in a real disaster.
There aren’t endless software options that provide some version of lightweight backup like this. But rarely do any of them provide the protection you need to quickly recover from data loss.
What businesses need to look for is a complete business continuity and disaster recovery solution (BC/DR). This pairs advanced backup software with dedicated hardware to ensure that your data can be backed up frequently and restored promptly, minimizing downtime.
The limits with cheap backup apps
Many small businesses make the mistake of backing up their critical data to external USB drives. Some will copy the files manually. Others will gain a false sense of security by using lightweight applications or built-in backup software to schedule the backups.
These methods just don’t cut it.
For starters, an external drive won’t save you if the entire office burns down in a fire. Similarly, if your computers are infected with ransomware, any connected drives will likely be infected too.
But also, the actual backup method itself is inadequate. In most cases, the backups are inefficient, not frequent enough and prone to all kinds of issues when you need to do a full restore.
Cloud backup services can be problematic too
Again, simply copying your files—whether it’s to the cloud or a USB drive—is not an adequate backup solution. It’s true that storing data in the cloud can provide an extra layer of protection against on-site disasters. But if you’re using something like a basic file sync-and-share platform (i.e. Google Backup and Sync) to back up your data, you’re not actually coming any closer to business continuity.
Consider the risks:
· Will your cloud backup actually help you restore critical applications that have been infected with ransomware?
· What if your PC-infected files are synced to the cloud, overwriting the clean versions?
· How long would it take your business to get up and running again if you’ve only been syncing a few folders to the cloud?
· Even if you’ve been storing a massive amount of data via some kind of cloud backup, how quickly would you be able to restore everything? How long would the disruption last?
Cloud backup platforms do have their benefits, of course. But when the objective is business continuity, you need a more robust, multilayered solution.
What to look for
So, what kind of small business backup software can actually provide the protection that your organization requires?
Below, we’ll dig into some specific functionality to consider, but let’s start with some of the core features and capabilities you should be looking for:
· Independent backup appliance: It’s not just about the software. Look for solutions that incorporate dedicated hardware for processing and storing the backups. This will free up computing resources from your other machines and allow for faster, more efficient backups. These appliances can range in size from small desktop devices to rackmount chasses with numerous drive bays – so there are options for any size business.
· Hybrid cloud: Even with an independent backup device, you should still be replicating your data off-site to hedge the risks of an on-site disaster. A hybrid cloud solution solves this by storing mirrored backups in two locations: on premise and in the cloud.
· Image-based backups: Image-based backups create a copy of all your data, including application and operating system data, as well as configurations. This is essential for continuity, because it enables you to restore the digital infrastructure that powers your business. Image backups can be booted as virtual machines, usually within seconds, allowing for much faster recoveries. Data can also be restored at the file level.
· High backup frequency: The old days of nightly or weekend backups are long gone. Small businesses today need the ability to perform backups much more frequently. Otherwise, they risk losing a ton of data when disaster strikes. Look for solutions that enable a high backup frequency, allowing you to maintain an aggressive recovery point objective (RPO).
· Fast recovery: How quickly will you be able to recover data from a backup? That is one of the most important questions to ask when you’re comparing small business backup software and hardware. And the question should apply to recoveries of all sizes: from a single missing file to everything in the backup.
· Fully integrated solutions: Achieving all of this functionality shouldn’t require a complicated infrastructure that needs to be meticulously integrated and configured, piece by piece. Look for solutions that are fully integrated and seamless, reducing the load on your IT teams (and on your bottom line).
Better software = better BC/DR
Today’s BC/DR providers are developing solutions that can drastically reduce downtime from data-loss events. New software integrations are innovating the backup process, resulting in more resilient backups with numerous options for recovering lost data.
Here are some advanced features we recommend:
· Instant virtualization: We touched on the benefits of image-based backups above. But it’s worth underscoring the value of being able to virtualize a backup within seconds after a catastrophic data loss. Virtualization makes it possible to continue using your critical applications while a full data recovery is underway. After a major disruption to your operations, this functionality can be a lifesaver. Even better: if the virtualization can also be performed via the cloud, it allows your recovery teams to regain access from anywhere.
· Backup chain independence: Newer backup technologies from providers like Datto have solved some of the most common problems with traditional incremental backups, which are more prone to data corruption and failed recoveries. Datto’s Inverse Chain, for example, removes the dependence on previous backup snapshots: each new recovery point is stored in an independent, fully constructed state. This means older backups can be deleted without resetting the backup chain; plus, new backups can be performed as frequently as every 5 minutes.
· Backup verification: You shouldn’t need to cross your fingers hoping that your backups are viable and performed on schedule. Automated backup verification has been an essential feature for BC/DR systems, because it provides confirmation that each backup has been tested and can be restored without issue. More advanced verification from providers like Datto also allows you to create your own scripts to test the backup according to your unique specifications.
· Ransomware protection: Having a backup system, in itself, provides a layer of protection against ransomware. By restoring a backup, you can remove the infection and get your data back. But still, most companies would prefer to stem the spread of an infection before it wipes out every device on the network. That’s why some BC/DR providers are now offering built-in ransomware detection, which actively monitors for signs of an infection, so that administrators can take action even sooner. This is a feature that every small company should be looking for in a business continuity solution.
· Data search capabilities: When users misplace or accidentally delete files, finding them in a backup can be a time-consuming headache for IT staff. However, newer backup solutions offer more intelligent software that makes it easy to identify missing data in seconds. Datto’s Backup Insights, for example, quickly identifies what has been modified, created, or deleted between any two backups. And restoring the files is as simple as clicking a button.
Finding the right fit
Not every business will have the same backup requirements or continuity objectives. A small medical practice, for example, will have completely different requirements than a mid-size manufacturing company.
However, every small business, regardless of size or industry, should have a dependable backup solution that ensures their data can be quickly recovered when needed. That is the fundamental prerequisite for maintaining business continuity, and it’s what all organizations should strive for when deploying a BC/DR solution.
Get a Free Demo
For more information on small business backup software, request a free demo of hybrid-cloud BC/DR systems from Datto. For more information, call our business continuity experts at (646) 395-1170 or email [email protected].