Home > backups, Small Business IT > Backup Options for the Small Business

Backup Options for the Small Business


We have all heard the stories “my hard drive crashed and I cannot recover the baby pictures”. What if instead of baby pictures or videos it was your all your company records. Imagine losing all of your contacts, emails, financial records, and contracts etc. Your data is one of the most important items in your company, without your files you would not be able to run your business. If your office was destroyed today, how long would it take you to recover and get your business back online? One day, one week, one month, ever?


Backups are not exciting and are sometimes forgotten but, in my opinion, backups should be considered the most important item in your IT infrastructure. I am going to present a few backup options that could work for a small business depending on your needs and budget. No matter which backup option or a combination of options you choose, your backups will be worthless unless they tested and are moved offsite. If your backups cannot be restored your safety net will be lost. I recommend speaking to your IT support to develop a backup plan which would have your company up and running as quickly as possible if the “unthinkable” did happen.


There are several ways in which you can back up your important data files.


External Hard Drive

These tend to be a good backup solution for most small businesses. A hard drive is placed in an enclosure and this enclosure is then connected via an USB port to you system. These units are inexpensive and can be easily moved off site. You can also configure you operating system to backup automatically to the external hard drive. If you decide to use an external hard drive please be aware that these devices can also fail as they are no different than an hard drive in your desktop or laptop. The bearings on hard drives can seize if the unit has not been used for some time. To avoid this plug your external hard drive in regularly. I would not recommend a hard drive as a long term backup plan but it can fit well into your overall backup solution.


USB Flash Drive

These are “sticks” of memory that plug into the USB port on the system. Sizes range from 256 MB to 128 GB

There are several advantages to using these drives for backups. They are inexpensive, data transfer rates are fast and it’s easy to move the data offsite.

USB drives are easily forgotten in a system or lost in a bag if you are not careful. To help me “remember the key” is use brightly coloured USB sticks. It is hard to miss the fluorescent pink USB key in a beige box. When using this solution I use several keys which I would rotate daily or weekly. As with the hard drive solution, I would not recommend USB keys as your only backup option.



This can be another backup option for the small business. The data can be kept for several years; optical media can hold 4.7 GB to 50 GB depending on the type of media chosen. The media itself does not take up a lot of space and it’s an inexpensive solution for long term backups. By using a high end DVD or Blue Ray Disc which is kept safe in a jewel case your data may recoverable for up to 30+ years. This is a nice option for backups, but may require more user intervention as the disks will need to be manually replaced depending on your backup strategy.



Tape has been making resurgence over the past few years. The technology and size of the tape (LT0-5 holds 1.5TB of data) has increased while the cost has decreased. Of all the options this tends to be the most expensive solution. If you have a large amount of data this may be the best option. As with the optical option, the media will have to be manually rotated daily, weekly etc.



Off Site/Cloud

Your data is transferred directly to the solution provider of choice via your internet connection. There are many providers, with a variety of features and various price points. You will need to match the service provider that best meets your needs. There are several advantages to using cloud backups the most important being your data is offsite. Cloud backups usually do not require any user intervention as the backups are scheduled to run during specific times. There is no media to be changed therefore ensuring the current backup will not overwrite a previous one. Your data can and should be encrypted during transfer; this will prevent anyone from “seeing” any date during transport.

Of course as with the other options there are also disadvantages to using the cloud for backups.

As mentioned above backups are done over the internet which can be bandwidth intensive. If you do not have the sufficient bandwidth or are capped you may not be able to use this option without upgrading your current service. You also have no power over who handles or controls your data. Another possibility is the backup provider you choose may cease to exist for one reason or another. Take the time and do the research before selecting a backup solution provider.


Network Backup

This solution is typically a computer system or a NAS (Network Area Storage) on your network which stores your company computer backups. Usually all the systems in the office will be backed up to this one central location over the internal network. Backups can be scheduled to run during off times without user intervention. The collection of office backups will then need be copied to a hard drive, USB or burned and then moved off site.





I have suggested a few ideas for backing up your company data. The options outlined here should fit the small business with approximately 1-10 office employees but as your company grows you backup needs will also grow and you may find you will need to update, expand or replace your current solution with a more sophisticated one.


One question I am always asked is “how often should I back up?” I always recommend a backup rotation that includes a daily backup, a weekly backup, a monthly backup and a yearly backup. You should discuss your backup requirements with your trusted IT support person to determine which method or combination of methods (either suggested above or others) best meets your company needs.


Remember the best backup solution is one that ensures backups are completed, tested and removed from the site.


Categories: backups, Small Business IT
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