Data backup and restore options for small business

Data backup and restore options for small business

Since you’re reading this, then the chances are that you’ve just lost or erased some data. And that’s why I’m writing this article. Hopefully, by the time you finish reading it, you’ll have a better understanding of what options for backup and restoration exist to help ease your pain if disaster strikes again.

The types of data can be classified into four categories: static (or online), dynamic (or active), semi-static (or archived), and non-static. Data is also categorized by how often it changes; personal data, work-related data, project data, archive & log files, etc., all with different characteristics in terms of frequency of change and predictability thereof. When assessing your situation, think about what data you’re looking to back up and how often it changes. Let’s first look at the backup and restore options, and then we’ll cover some general knowledge about where and how things work under the hood.

The first thing to note is that most of us have time for only one copy of anything, so if you need to maintain multiple backups or snapshots of your data, you’ll need more space than your computer alone affords you. This means that over time even a modest setup can fill up quickly if it’s not pruned regularly. The same goes for all backups – unless they are automated, managing them requires effort with salesforce data backup and restore

So here are your options:

Local drives

Having a dedicated drive at your disposal is both easy and cheap, but it does come with some limitations – physical space being the most obvious one. The unspoken truth about local data backup is that not all hard drives are created equal. Some are faster than others, and some have lower power consumption or less noise, so choose wisely. Other factors to consider are the ruggedness of construction and ease-of-use vs. speed of access. When you have a large amount of data involved, time may well be important too. Once plugged in and mounted on your computer, a local device usually inherits specific properties from its host OS regarding file permissions, etc., always worth considering if you’re also using it for storage purposes outside the scope of backups.

Depending on your needs, there are several flavors of local data backup to suit you. RAID arrays (short for Redundant Array of Independent Disks) are hard drive disks managed as if they were one single virtual drive. Some higher-end models allow you to increase performance by interleaving their data among spindles via striping. Still, the basic idea is that another can compensate for any fault or breakdown in one disk, so running out of space will only mean replacing a faulty disk instead of supplementing with another device. 

RAID drives can also be combined into larger units using external storage enclosures. Another option is JBOD, short for Just a Bunch Of Disks, which means hooking up multiple drives to your computer via separate ports, not sharing their data. JBOD can yield better performance but has no redundancy built-in – if one disk dies, the other(s) are still active and accessible.

Cloud storage

The “cloud” is nothing more than someone else’s computers on the other side of the world with unlimited space available for rent. It can be a great deal at first sight if you need that kind of scale since there are no physical limitations to worry about. As always, though, you will have to weigh this against its cost vs. convenience factors. I don’t use Windows much these days, but I know Microsoft offers 5  free gigabytes of storage space with it. Not a bad deal, but the flip side is that your data will be available through Microsoft’s online services only as long as you keep your account active.

Another big player in the business is Amazon. It offers 5GB of free cloud storage for all kinds of files, and people have been known to store anything from backups, docs, and music to virtual hard drive images. That last use case can yield many unique benefits along with a few caveats – it allows accessing old files without going through custom recovery procedures via standard virtualization software such as VMWare or VirtualBox, just like any other computer does. This makes it easier to troubleshoot hardware issues since there’s practically no way the system can mess up with the actual data files.

There is a slight caveat to this convenience, and it’s weirder than you’d think. If something does go wrong, don’t expect the virtual disk image to recover as quickly as a regular partition. Again, the data itself remains intact, but certain things might not function properly, if at all. For example, some hardware drivers require direct access to system files on your hard drive. That leads us to our next section.

Single-purpose backups

This term covers any backup that serves a single purpose or set of purposes only – for instance, backing up documents and pictures only, excluding entire system images. Plenty of software exists for this exact case, with Carbonite being one popular choice among home users. PC users are usually advised to make regular backups of their installed software since many manufacturers don’t offer free support for modifications made by end-users.

System images are one more thing that belongs in the “all or nothing” category. They are full disk images used as master copies – restoring them to a bare installation disc is guaranteed to clean up every single problem you have with your OS, and nothing else will remain intact, so it’s best reserved for extreme cases only. You can create either complete or partial system images with third-party tools or even Windows Backup itself. Still, the latter goes through some rather detailed steps, which I won’t cover here since most people will probably with dedicated software anyway. I’m mentioning it because creating an image is not as simple as selecting some folders to back up – the process might require excluding specific files, for example.

Image creation programs are built around several concepts which are important to understand if you want your data to survive intact through restoration. Sysprep is probably the most popular tool of its kind, and it’s necessary for preparing Windows’ system registry hive file(s) before they can be backed up. System state backup can include only specific components of the OS but not everything, so this too has to be handled manually beforehand.