bCentral Home
Your Online Business Center

Is Your Business Backed Up?

Insure against worst-case scenarios

300 feet beneath the surface of Kent, just outside Sandwich, lies the ultimate in data security - The Bunker. It is a 60,000 square feet refuge built for the RAF during the Cold War to protect its occupants against nuclear blasts, terrorist attacks and biological warfare.

Now it has been bought by ALD, a web hosting company, and its twelve-foot thick steel doors protect the digital assets of the corporate world.

You may not need a nuclear bunker to protect your data but leaving it vulnerable to flooding, theft, hacking, vandalism or hardware failure could be a costly mistake.

Consider the Risks

Ask yourself:

How long could your business function if you lost all your accounts information, sales records, personnel data, contracts or email?

If someone stole your main computer tonight, how quickly would you be back in business?

A surprising number of businesses believe that bad things only happen to other people. A Microsoft bCentral poll revealed that a staggering 27% of respondents either don't know what a backup is or never do it. A survey by Dell found that 43% of medium-sized firms had no backup plans at all.

Despite this suicidal optimism, disasters do happen and companies regularly go bust as a result. Even if you have insurance, it can take weeks or months to pay out and it still takes time to get all your systems and data up and running.

Make a Plan

You need a sensible disaster recovery plan incorporating backups that are 1) regular, which means at least weekly, 2) comprehensive, 3) stored off-site and 4) regularly tested to make sure they work and include all the necessary data. So how do you do it?

First get a sense of how much data you need to backup. Review what data is vital to your business and where it is stored. Add up all the data sizes and add a factor for future growth.

Then decide on hardware. The choice largely depends on the amount of data you have. Backing up over the internet is one option, if you have a fast connection. Recordable CDs or DVDs are useful for small volumes (up 700mb and 5.2gb respectively) while DAT (Digital audio tape) and DLT (Digital linear tape) tapes are used for larger amounts.

For simple backups, the software that comes with the drive or Microsoft Backup Utility (which is included in Windows XP) is fine. For more complicated situations, such as backing up over a network from multiple machines, you may need third party software such as Backup Exec or ARCserve.

Action Items

Have a backup policy that ensures regular, comprehensive backups

Make sure you have offsite copies of your data. Either take them home with you or use a specialist firm, like Recall to do it for you

Periodically test the integrity of backups by restoring some or all of the backed up data (but don't overwrite the existing data)

See data backup as part of a wider disaster recovery plan

Identify who will be responsible for backups by name

Get insurance that covers business interruption and reconstituting your data as well as the replacement cost of hardware

Consider getting uninterruptible power supplies for your most important computers. These prevent damage from power spikes and let you shut computers down gracefully if there's a power cut

It's not just data that gets lost. Keep offsite copies of important paper documents like leases and contracts

Where Next

More information about security

Make sure your computer is up-to-date; visit the Windows Update site

Guide to backup and storage devices

Sign into Microsoft Small Business+ for free web-based training and software support.

sign in
Security information

Find a local Microsoft Small Business Specialist to help with your IT needs

Microsoft Small Business SpecialistMore info >

What do you want your PC to help you with?

What do you want your PC to help you with?

Free business newsletters - subscribe now

Our free newsletters are packed full of business advice and ideas - plus all the latest news

Security information

Get the latest bulletins and updates direct from Microsoft