Network administrator with notebook computer sitting in data center room and working with networking device on rack cabinet.
Many times, business owners don't realize the need for backing up data until a disaster strikes. Be sure to implement a data backup plan and stay consistent with it. — Getty Images/Antonio_Diaz

With cybersecurity breaches more common than ever, properly backing up your data is a must. Failure to do so can lead to catastrophic loss of files and the threat of ransomware.

A cybersecurity breach occurs, on average, every 39 seconds. Additionally, the United States experiences the most data breaches out of any other country: In 2017 alone, cybercrime cost small- and medium-sized businesses more than $2.2 million.

To help you avoid becoming part of these statistics, here are the basics you need to know about data backup.

[Read more: Best Data Backup Solutions For Your Business]

Business data backup basics

When backing up data, it is important to know the following:

What data to back up

Always back up any and all data you deem important and can’t afford to lose. It is better to back up too much data than not enough; you can always delete data at a later date once you are certain you no longer need it.

How to back up data

Options for backing up data include saving data locally; saving it in an online, cloud-based storage space; using an external hard drive or USB drive; or, even saving printed copies in a locked safe. The Balance noted that a simple way to back up data is to first save it locally on one specific drive on your computer. Then drag important files into that drive, and also drag that entire drive onto a network or cloud-based drive.

How often to run backups

Making a habit out of backing up your data is key. Backing up business data regularly — perhaps daily or weekly — is safest. Be sure to have a routine that you and everyone in your organization follows.

Types of Data Backups

Full Backup

A full backup is the most complete form of backup in which all selected data is copied and stored in another location of your choice. This backup takes longer than others because it involves cloning massive amounts of data at one time. A full backup includes the cloning of hard drives, folders, files and applications on your device or software. A downside of a full backup is it takes up more storage space than other backups. Full backups are usually done intermittently; however, some small data centers may need to run full backups daily, depending on the stored data.

Incremental Backup

An incremental backup is typically done after a full backup. This type of backup involves the gathering and cloning of new data changes since the full backup was performed. Incremental backups take the least amount of time to perform and take up the least amount of storage space. You can utilize backup applications that can track the time a backup was last performed in relation to the new data since the last backup. Organizations keep track of when they last ran an incremental backup by recording a file’s timestamp. Incremental backups give you the flexibility of having all of your data backed up safely and often without having to run a full backup each time.

Differential Backup

A differential backup is comparable to an incremental backup in that it copies changed or new data or files from a previous backup. During differential backups, however, data points and files from the original full data backup are copied each time. In other words, when a differential backup is run, the original full backup is copied into your preferred backup application and then the subsequent changes from that original backup are copied. Therefore, at the end of a differential backup, you’ll have the original full backup as well as any changes on your backup media.

Mirror Backup

A mirror backup is similar to a full backup in that it is essentially a copy or mirror to the original source data. The mirror backup, however, doesn’t have the specific versions of your files recorded. It is easy to find the individual files from a mirror backup and it takes considerably less time than a regular full backup. You shouldn’t rely on a mirror backup to safely store your data, though, as deletions or modifications of the original source data will also be present in the mirror backup.

Your overall best defense in safely storing your data is by performing multiple types of backups.

Cloud backup vs. local backup: Which is better?

Cloud backup is becoming the preferred method because it is cheaper to maintain and it is accessible anywhere, despite its security risks; however, local backup can be a valuable supplement, in case your cloud provider gets hacked or goes down.

There are risks with both methods. One of the most common security risks of cloud backup is that your account could be compromised and your information stolen by hackers. With hard drives and flash drives, the device can be stolen or misplaced; and, with local backup, if the files were saved in a folder that isn’t part of a shared network, they can be lost if the computer itself malfunctions or breaks.

[Read more: Best Cloud Backup Strategies To Protect Your Data]

Always back up any and all data you deem important and can’t afford to lose.

Common Data Backup Concerns and Challenges

Data corruption

Data can become corrupted for a number of reasons, whether the system or backup device is worn down, or the data is mishandled. To remedy this, backup your data on multiple types of backup media.

Incomplete backup

A backup can be incomplete either through an error with the application or by the person performing the backup if they didn’t add certain files to the script. To avoid an incomplete backup, make a plan to back up all of your data, not just selected data points, so you don’t miss any important files.

Insufficient data storage capability

You may run into the problem where your backup media’s storage isn’t capable of holding all the data you plan to backup. Regularly check the amount of data you have stored in accordance with your backup’s storage capacity. Replace your backup or upgrade its storage before you’re in danger of losing any files.

Slow backups

When you’re backing up your data, you may find the backup is running slower than usual, especially during a full backup. This can cause significant delays that may slow down your workday. Make sure your internet connection is strong enough and put off full backups until the weekend or after work hours.

Backup start or completion failure

If your backup fails to start or complete, your data isn’t protected and you could risk losing crucial files. Program your system to automatically schedule backups rather than manually performing them. Additionally, keep track of where the backup is in the process so you can monitor and solve any issues as soon as possible.

What to look for in a data backup solution

When shopping for cloud storage, determine which service is best for your business by asking yourself these three questions:

  1. Am I going to be locked in? You do not want to go with a vendor who will lock you into a contract in the event that you are no longer happy with their service, or are not easily able to transfer your data elsewhere.
  2. How much will this cost? Make sure the service can be scaled as your business grows, and calculate the range of fees for more storage if needed.
  3. How can I make this system secure? Security should be at the forefront of your data backup needs. Determine who at your company will have access to the system, and which levels of access can be attained. Using a cloud storage company that has a proven track record of quality security is key.

For even more information on data backup and cloud storage, check out these three facts you need to know about cloud backup in 2019.

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Published September 08, 2021