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Your data is vital to your business. Let's have a look at the common types of backup used today in UK businesses.

1. Periodic copies of files to other media.

Perhaps the most common of all basic backups - A copy of the live data written to somewhere else like a USB data stick, another computer or any external hard drive. While this appears to be good practice, it is often flawed by several points of failure.

What are we copying? ...and where are we copying to?
There are generally three techniques that are used in these cases:

i) Copy and replace - This is where the user copies the live data and paste it over the top of the backup data - replacing all files with the newer versions. This results in a messy file system as any files that have since been deleted, renamed, moved or generally tidied up become duplicated in the backup system. If the live system was lost, the backup system would provide a chaotic replacement in the event of a full system restore.

ii) Delete and copy again - This method sees the user delete everything on the backup system and then replace it with a new copy. Clearly, between the 'delete' action and the 'copy' action, there is no backed up data at all. Also, deleting the live data by accident in this method is a very real and common mistake leading to lots of data loss and embarrassment. We are all only human after all.

iii) Archive and copy - The third method is to keep a separate folder for each set of copied data. However, the space available for such a procedure is often restricted and running out of space is a regular occurrence.

Without an automated process, these backup processes often take a back seat and don't actually happen very often. A good backup is done at least daily. However, this type of backup generally only happens every couple of months.

2. Cloud storage

Often, cloud storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive and other similar services provide what appears to be a good solution - particularly those that offer file version recovery. These systems work along the lines of every file in a particular location being uploaded automatically to a secure internet resource. It's definitely a step forward but it still has several points of failure:

i) Speed - While recovering current versions is relatively straight forward, recovering previous versions of files from this form of backup is time consuming as each file must usually be recovered individually. Restoring all files to a specific date is often impossible to do automatically.

ii) Unlimited backups are usually either expensive or unavailable - meaning that you often only have the last 30 days of version history.

3. Tape backups

This is the traditional backup method usually confined to older file servers. It was usually a very expensive optional extra at the time of purchasing the server and many companies still use this method and keep their fingers crossed that a restore would work if it was ever required. In practice, it often doesn't work though. Tape drives usually suffer from a lot of wear and tear which results in head clogging and head alignment issues. Recovering data from such a system has a high failure rate.

4. Windows "System Restore" feature

Actually, this is a myth. Restoring to a previous point in time will only recover the system settings. Most other files remain unchanged (and therefore unprotected) by this feature.

5. Disc imaging

We're getting closer to a decent solution here. This method takes a complete image of the whole hard disk and records it to another location such as an external hard disk. One risk here is that the external hard disk fails and is unable to provide file recovery should the need arise. As with most of the previously mentioned solutions, another issue is physical disaster such as theft, flood & fire. Often both the live data and the backup data is stored in the same building which would risk loss to both sets of data in the event of a disaster.

So, what's the solution?

Well, it comes in many shapes and sizes depending on the way the business operates. However, a common solution is to have a mixture of backup systems in order to minimise the risk of data loss. Many businesses take our advice and combine a cloud-based storage solution alongside a disc imaging system with multiple external hard disks.

Our preferred cloud solution offers unlimited version history while our hard disk imaging system creates multiple images - often spanning back over several months. Rotating the external hard disks and storing one off site further minimises the risk of data loss.

NOTE: It is important to understand that these backup plans apply to sole traders just as much as they do to larger businesses. Large business or small business, your data is critical.

Your Computer Department understands the difference between different company structures. We customise data backup plans to ensure that they are robust but also practical to use. Protect your business from data loss - Just give us a call us on 0115 8240825 for more information.


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Article by: Eddie Palmer
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