We’ve all been there… it’s 3 o’clock in the morning and the phone rings. The timid voice on the other line tells us that a process accidentally deleted half of our customer data or an update failed and broke our website. Still foggy from the early interruption and lack of coffee, our brains spin into overdrive trying to solve a problem that we shouldn’t have ever had to even think about. Suddenly, a single impeding thought interrupts our frenzy.
Do we have any backups?
The answer to this simple question has both directly relieved and directly inflicted enormous amounts of fear, anxiety, and panic among business owners. The irony of it is that backups are something we, as leaders and directors, shouldn’t even have to dedicate our valuable time or energy to as it should already be tightly integrated and fully automated with all of our IT processes.
TLDR; You should have backups of everything that makes your business run
Backups are an integral part of any tech environment whether it be a single computer that holds your accounting information or a complex network of mainframes that requires on-site technicians and a dedicated data center. Education about backups is one of the most important technical lessons you will learn as a business owner. As a company that deals heavily with technology, we hear phrases like ‘I think [Insert Web Host] takes care of those for us‘ or ‘We wanted to start doing backups, but it was just too expensive‘ all too often. In reality, these statements both show an apathetic approach that can be dangerous in our world that is practically ran by technology and the data we store about our customers. As these are the most common arguments, they need to be tackled individually.
You should know beyond a shadow of a doubt whether or not your web host is taking care of your backups for you. If you don’t, a simple email or phone call can check this box off your list. Along with simply having backups, there are some other factors that play into how successfully you can recover lost data or undo an unintended change. These factors together create a plan called a backup strategy that contains details like how often your backups are taken and how long they are kept for. You should make sure that your web host (or whoever is providing you with a backup service) is following these basic principles:
- Backups for business-critical data should be taken at a minimum of once per day and be retained for a minimum of 30 days
- Backups for non-business-critical data should be taken at a minimum of once per week and be retained for a minimum of 28 days
- The time to recover business-critical data should be less than 1 day regardless of if it is a business day or not
- The time to recover non-business-critical data should be less than 3 business days
- Backups should be stored in an off-site location that is far enough away that if a disaster was to occur, it would not affect both your business location AND the backup location
Backups are not too expensive and should be viewed like fire insurance. Depending on what your budget is and what kind of data you need to store, there are several options that can fit your backup needs as a business. A small eCommerce business can benefit from their web host’s backup plans that can cost around $100 a month down to nothing at all (included with your web hosting). A more complex business may need to employ a more detailed means of obtaining and storing backups. If your business has several servers or lots of data, it will likely cost a bit more, but can still be very reasonable. Small startup businesses that
Backups are like insurance
can’t even afford a smaller plan or don’t have a website to take advantage of web hosting backup plans still have options. There are several cloud ‘drive’ solutions that allow data to be backed up to an offsite location so that it can be retrieved manually if need be. Although this is a cost-efficient option that allows you to take on the responsibility yourself, it is not without its flaws. Doing your own backups means you are still responsible at the end of the day and you are responsible for setting up your own backup strategy and will probably end up doing a lot of this manually. The one option you SHOULD NOT do is to back up your files to an external hard drive and just assumed everything is good. Hard drives fail, data gets corrupted, and bad things happen and any one of these things would destroy your backup data and it would be like you don’t even have it.
The bottom line is that education about bad situations help us to prepare for them when they happen. Technology is a volatile creature and is prone to issues of all shapes and sizes. Not only ensuring you have backups, but ensuring you have a robust backup strategy that minimizes data loss and downtime is imperative to running a successful business. Hopefully, this article has given you a good understanding of the importance of backups and the general concept of why. Here’s to sleep-full nights!