Click to learn more about author Justin Blanchard.
Your business would be nothing without its data. That sounds like a bold claim given how many different types of business there are, but I’m prepared to stand by it. Every US business, from solopreneur manufacturing businesses to midsize eCommerce retailers to multinational corporations, depends on data. That’s why backups are so important, especially with the ever-present risk of ransomware attacks.
Without backups, data loss incidents can disrupt operations and cause downtime. Last year, unexpected downtime cost businesses up to $17,244 per minute.
Business owners understand the importance of backups. As you read this article, you might be thinking that it doesn’t apply to you because your business has backups — its data is safe. But is that really true? Most businesses back up some data, but is it the right data? Or, put another way, is your business backing up all the data it should be?
In my experience, the answer is often no. A business may back up key documents but neglect to back up email. It may back up its customer database but not its personnel records. Maybe it backs up source code but forgets about recent sales data. Business data is often scattered across many different devices, platforms, databases, and applications. It is difficult to keep track of it all, but businesses without comprehensive backup plans are fragile.
What Should Businesses Back Up?
Put simply, businesses should have secure, automated, off-site backups of all data that has any value to the ongoing operations of the business. There are some obvious candidates: customer contact details, a website, sales data. Other types of data tend to be missed or left to chance.
A lot of business communication happens on cloud services like Gmail and Slack. They usually do a good job of keeping your data safe, but a cloud service isn’t the same thing as a backup. Whether you host your own email or use a Cloud email provider, you should have a backup just in case.
Databases are an obvious candidate for backing up, but properly backing up a database is not as straightforward as copying files, and databases tend to be neglected or backed up less frequently than is ideal. I advise companies to choose a backup provider that is capable of handling automatic backups of databases in various formats.
This includes personnel records, financial documents, legal documents, documents related to domain name registration and web hosting, and other documents related to the ownership and administration of the business.
Companies are able to recover from infrastructure failure more quickly if they can retrieve important applications from up-to-date backups. After all, data won’t do you much good without the applications you use to interact with it.
Backing up virtual machine images can significantly reduce time-to-recovery when disaster strikes. Virtual machine images can be quickly launched on failover platforms in the event of infrastructure failure. Bare metal restores of virtual machine images are a lot faster than reinstalling operating systems and applications. You may even be able to run backed up virtual machine images from the infrastructure of your backup provider.
A huge amount of data is locked away on mobile devices — and, as everyone knows, it’s not hard to lose your phone. A premium backup platform will often provide native applications for mobile devices that allow them to be automatically and continuously backed up.
An IT-world cliche says that if data only exists in one place, it barely exists at all. Without backups, the same can be said of your business.