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5 ways to disaster-proof your data backups

Paul Mah | Oct. 2, 2013
Protect the lifeblood of your business with at least one—and ideally, two—of these proven techniques.

The anniversary of Hurricane Sandy reminds us that businesses can fall victim to the forces of nature. Whether it's a blaze that burns through your office, or a flash flood that sends water coursing through your server room, disasters can hit at any time, and the most likely casualty is your data.

According the U.S. Small Business Administration, 25 percent of businesses never reopen after being hit by a disaster. But you can beat the odds by designing a backup plan that protects against worst-case scenarios. On the data storage front, having a single backup is not sufficient when the survival of your business hangs in the balance, so consider implementing at least two backup strategies.

Cloud services
Storing your data backups at an off-site location is the best way to ensure that a copy of your most critical data will remain sheltered from any cataclysmic event that may befall your business. And what better way to achieve geographical separation than by storing your data at various centers located across the globe?

Choosing a mature cloud storage provider that has a good track record for reliability will help ensure that your data is available when you need it. Some cloud services use innovative storage techniques to yield lower storage and operational costs. While there's nothing inherently wrong with such efforts, it makes more business sense to go with tried-and-tested methods of data backup. In addition you should always scramble data with robust encryption prior to entrusting it to an external organization for safekeeping.

In some situations, cloud storage may be impractical. If you regularly deal with large files, confirm that you have sufficient Internet bandwidth to back up your data online. And make sure that your cloud-storage provider is willing to ship your data backups via physical media, if a complete download takes too long.

Users who have trouble trusting the cloud should consider using storage tape or external hard disk drives (HDDs). Their portability means that they are easy to move to an off-site location where you don't need to be concerned about prying eyes. A sneakernet system can be ad hoc (such as bringing a tape cartridge home every evening) or more formal (such as arranging to have the backup media couriered to a safe-deposit box every few days).

The sneakernet strategy also works with traditional data backup software. Tape drives tend to be direct-attached storage (DAS) devices, so businesses that operate more than one server may need to install additional software and configure their network correctly to back up data from multiple machines.


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