Do you back up your business data? When I started my business nine years ago, purchasing a computer backup plan was one of the first things I did. I can’t tell you how many times my backups have saved my bacon since that day. However, lots of small businesses owners are putting their bacon — er, their backup — at risk. Almost half (49 percent) of internet users still don't do any type of data backup, reports a survey by CloudBerry Lab.

Overall, the survey of both business and personal Internet users gave businesses a grade of “C” when it comes to backup. Yes, 11 percent more business users than personal users have implemented automated backup systems, and 20 percent more business than personal users perform daily backups.

Although business owners are doing better than individuals at backing up their data, they still have a long way to go.

For instance, 51 percent of business owners only have one copy of their backup. (You should have at least two copies, in different locations.) Almost one-third (32 percent) of business owners have lost data at least once, compared to 26 percent of personal data users. The study reports on average, each of us has a 33 percent chance of losing our data at some point.

External hard drives remain the most popular way to perform data backup, both for individuals and business owners. However, the use of cloud-based backup systems is increasing—up 13 percent from last year’s survey. It’s a good idea to back up your data both ways—on an external hard drive and to a cloud-based storage system.

Have I convinced you yet that you need a backup solution?

According to CloudBerry Lab, a good backup plan includes these 5 features:

  1. Frequent: For a small business, setting up ongoing backup is a smart move that ensures you always have the latest copy of your files available.
     
  2. Easy: Years ago, backing up was a cumbersome process requiring copying data to tapes or discs and running your computer it.  Today, however, it’s as easy as adjusting a setting on your computer, so there’s really no excuse for not backing up anymore.
     
  3. Off-site: At least one of your backup copies should be stored off-site. This is where cloud-based backup comes in so handy. Instead of toting an external hard drive home every night (although that is still an option), your data backs up to remote servers across town, across the country or even across the world, depending on the service you choose. Choosing a location that’s geographically distant can actually benefit your business—for instance, if a natural disaster strikes your region, retrieving your data from a faraway, unaffected server might be faster than getting it from a server in a location affected by the same disaster.
     
  4. Secure: Cloud-based backup services offer greater security than backing up data onto your own servers. However, that doesn’t mean they are foolproof. You should never use a consumer backup service for your business. Choose a business-class solution for greater security. Before choosing any backup service, ask how they secure your data, including how often they back up your backups, where they store the backups, and who has access to your data. If your business needs to meet specific industry security standards for storing data, such as HIPAA regulations, make sure the service provider offers that level of security.
     
  5. Fast retrieval: Last, but don't least, find out how quickly you can access your backups in the event you need them. Some services allow you to get them immediately, while others may require 24-hour turnaround. Even that can be too long for a business that relies on data (and don’t we all these days)?

If you need help deciding the best way to back up your computers, or how to protect your business data in general, your SCORE mentor can help.