We all know we are supposed to perform computer backups regularly.  Just ask any company that experienced a computer failure, or ask any backup company, and you will hear the horrors of data loss. The statistics vary depending on the number and type of companies surveyed, but the issue is the same: regardless of the size of your company, you have to back up systematically or face a possible business failure.

A system backup is any process or technology that automatically makes a secondary copy of data and makes it available for recovery in the event the primary copy of data is lost. Backup solutions need to provide versioning that allows data to be recovered from multiple, previous points in time. Without this key function, companies are at risk.

According to a 2011 Harris Interactive (a Nielsen company) survey conducted online for U.S. users, an astounding 35 percent of computer owners had never backeComputer backupd up their computers. Only 2 percent of those surveyed back up more frequently than once per day, and 51 percent of computer owners perform a backup less than once a year. Those statistics are hard to believe in the face of all the advertising that you read or hear on radio and TV.

Five reasons to back up your computer

  1. To keep your files safe and available at all times.
  2. Power failures can destroy your computer’s hard drive.
  3. Viruses picked up from the Internet can wipe your computers clean in a heartbeat.
  4. Your hard drive AND your external drives can fail.
  5. Your operating system may stop working and corrupt the data on your hard drive.

Back up methodologies

  1. CD or DVD, or thumb drive. This works for personal computers and smaller companies with relatively few documents.
  2. Add a hard drive.This means saving backups to a second internal hard disk installed on your computer, to an external hard disk connected by a USB cable or Bluetooth or (for large companies) to a large backup drive. Hard drives store many more files and transfer the data more quickly than smaller storage devices. Backup storage can be located on the premises or at a remote site. To be safe, use at least two different physical backup media.  For example, you can back up to both a hard drive and a CD or DVD, or back up to a tape storage and a hard drive.
  3. A network location and file syncing. If you have a home network, you can save backups to a shared folder. Even at work, employees can use a file syncing service such as Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive or Box. These solutions have varying degrees of security risk if endpoint devices (desktops, laptops and handhelds) have not been backed up. Researchers found that only 50 percent, 40 percent and 25 percent of desktops, laptops and handhelds, respectively, are backed up.
  4. Cloud-based. Some services such as Carbonite, EMC (Mozy) and Code 42 Software (CrashPlan) help both small businesses and corporate mobile workforces back up to their on-premises, purpose-built endpoint backup solutions.

What to back up

  1. Customer data. You want to have access to continuing transactional relationships, to be sure, but trust is even more important. Your customers need to feel safe in their business interactions with you.
  2. Financial data. This includes sales, revenue, profit, expenses, quarterly reports and tax information.
  3. All internal documents. Contracts, sales data, creative collateral, communications—in short, just about everything!

Not all backups are error-free

Precious TimeA 2014 survey instigated by Kroll Ontrack found that although 65 percent of people had a backup solution in place (ranging from to external hard drives and cloud backup to tape backup) people still lost data because:

  • The external drive was only connected on an occasional basis; the backup was not automated and instead performed on demand
  • The computer was not on during a scheduled backup and not configured to perform at a different time
  • The backup software failed
  • The backup ran out of destination space
  • The backup profile did not cover all of the devices requiring backup
  • A file was lost before a scheduled backup occurred.

How to do it right

  • Invest in a backup solution and stick to your backup schedule
  • Ensure that backups are running correctly in accordance with the determined schedule
  • Check backup reports for errors or failures including data accuracy.

The last word

            When should companies do backups? The answer: “Stuff” happens every second of every day, so the best practice is to back up continuously every hour of every day.