Computers have become an integral part of businesses today, even for home business entrepreneurs like us. Your business relies on data, including financial records, customer lists, sales information, photos, videos, website files, emails and many others. A daycare business owner may keep the list of their students, contact information and other information pertaining to the children on the computer. A blogger will keep all the articles and blog posts on the computer. A freelance photographer will keep digital copies of the photos on the computer.
With the increasing reliance on data, what will happen to your business if disaster strikes and all your data was erased? I know I will freak out, and that’s putting it mildly. How long will it take you to recreate the work? If your website goes down today, how will you recreate your site? If your website is injected with malware, do you have a clean copy of your files to replace the hacked files?
Loss of data is a big risk for small and home-based businesses today. Your computer may be hit by a virus, or a flood may destroy your computer. Your laptop with all your data may get lost or stolen. Even a simple process such as upgrading a plugin in your WordPress website can break your entire site and necessitate reuploading your files and databases. These are very real occurrences that could significantly affect your business. In some cases, these types of scenarios could even kill your business.
Why Have a File Backup System
If disaster strikes your home, chances are it will also wipe out your home-based business. It is heartbreaking to see months or years of hard work go down the drain simply because you never factored in your planning process the loss of data due to computer crash, disasters, thefts, accidental keystroke, computer virus or malware.
When you run a business, you need to have several layers of protection for the data and files that you have. Protecting your data is a critical part of operating your business. You should perform regular backups of your system and keep multiple backups of important, irreplaceable files. You need to have a plan in place on how you will protect and back up the data – with the ability to quickly retrieve the data in the event that you need it.
There are two ways to back up your data: local (physical) backups and online backup. It’s not a question of which one of the two is better: for me, the more backups I have, the better I can sleep at night knowing that there’s not just one way that I can retrieve all my data.
There are a wide variety of equipment and services that you can use to back up your data. For physical backups, you can choose zip drives, external hard drives, portable USB drives or even network storage drives if you have truly massive data in your business. Or you can simply regularly burn your files in a CD disc.
And this is an important point – make sure that you have a set of your backup kept in a different location. You may have an external hard drive that routinely backs up your computer, but if your house burns down, both your computer and your backup system could burn up in flames! If someone stole both your laptop and your external drive, for example, you could still recover all your backed up files from on online backup system.
Benefits of a Cloud Backup System
No matter how diligent you are, it’s cumbersome and time consuming to back up your files in one zip drive to be kept in your home, and then create a second backup in another zip drive – and then bring that zip drive to another location (e.g. bank safe, your mother’s house). It’s definitely not how I envision spending my weekends!
Cloud backup systems offer a reliable, off-site storage option. Online services make it easy to create an offsite backup of your files without spending a lot of time creating and transporting the backup systems. You can set it up to back up your system regularly – and enjoy the convenience of setting and forgetting about the whole process.
When choosing an online backup system, there are a number of factors that you need to consider:
- Long-term reliability – you’d want a service that will give you the confidence that your files will be available for you a year or 5 years from now. Look for a service that has been around a few years. If it’s a new company, check its history: the business may be new, but if it is owned by a brand that has been around for a few years, then the service may be worth considering.
- Storage size – you need to consider what files you want to be backed up or the size of your data. Some services may be cheaper, even free, but they tend to offer smaller storage size.
- Number of computers to be backed up – some services allow you to back up only one computer while other services allow you to back up several devices.
- Level of security – it is important to check the level of security and encryption the service provides before the upload to the cloud and when the files are in the cloud.
- File location – some services require that your files be located in a special folder in your hard drive before it is uploaded to the cloud. This means you will have multiple copies of those files in your hard drive, reducing the available space in your computer.
- Ease and flexibility – look for a service that offer easy upload and setting up of backup jobs, along with a simple restore procedure.
- Synchronization of documents – the service you select should allow for automatic upload to the cloud of files that have been changed or created.
- Cost – the cost of the service should factor in the above features, as well as the needs of your business. If you have thousands of photos and videos, you may want a service that allow for unlimited files to be uploaded to the cloud.
There are a number of free online backup systems as well as paid services. While I am not averse to using free services, online backup is one thing that I will not skimp on just to save a few dollars. Free services usually offer very limited storage capacity, typically around 2 GB in data (roughly only about 250 pictures). Many of these services also do not have proven track records in terms of the ability to quickly get data and some do not have pre-file transfer encryption for your important documents.
Experience with Carbonite
I was recently offered to try Carbonite online backup services. Carbonite is one of the leading online backup services today, with a strong focus on small businesses and a solid reputation for reliability and security. When choosing an online backup system, you’d want to use a tried-and-tested system that is dependable, particularly in restoring files. You don’t want to use a cloud backup system where you can’t restore your files when you need them most!
Carbonite offers a number of features that benefit home-based entrepreneurs:
- Carbonite’s pricing is on par with the rest of the players in the industry. It offers a free 15-day trial – without requiring credit card information. You can see if you’re comfortable with the service, and test its features without the commitment of a monthly or yearly paid subscription plan. A few of its competitors offer free trial as well, but Carbonite does not have a data limit cap for its free trial unlike its competitors.
- Unlimited storage data for 1 computer – if you’re a solo entrepreneur working on one computer, Carbonite offers unlimited storage. There are no caps as to the amount of data that you can back up from that computer for the starting price of $59 per year. So you can upload all the documents, photos, videos and multimedia files that you want without worrying about the data cap. You can also add or remove files in your backup anytime. If you want to back up more than one computer, you need to add another account (at a 5% discount) or sign up for one of their Business Plans, which start at $229 per year.
- Easy set up. All you need to sign up is your email address. Once the Carbonite software is downloaded to your computer, an easy-to-follow dialog box will appear offering you the option to automatically select files for backup, or to manually select the files that you want to back up. Unlike other services, there is no need to create a special folder in your computer for Carbonite. Be prepared, however, to wait for days to complete the first backup of your computer, if your PC is as full as mine.
- Offers the highest level of security. Security is very important – especially since you will be uploading all your files (business and personal) to the “cloud”. The last thing you want is to find that other people have accessed your files. To this end, Carbonite encrypts your data before it leaves your computer and on their servers. You are also given a security key to access the files to give you the assurance that only you (not even their employees) can access the files that you’ve uploaded .
- Restoring your files is easy. You have the option to search or browse the files that you’ve backed up. You can restore all your files at once or select specific files that you want restored.
- Access your data anywhere. A feature of Carbonite that is very useful for people on the go is that you can access your backed up files remotely with a mobile app or through their website Carbonite.com. If you’re outside of your home office and using your iPad or smartphone, you can still get to your data anytime.
I was impressed with the ease in using Carbonite, and will definitely add the option of cloud backup services in my data backup plan. However, it is important to understand that many of these cloud backup services such as Carbonite only provide online backups, not online storage. They only keep the most recent version of the files you have uploaded.
Also, the autosync feature where backups are routinely created every time you change a file can cause a slowdown in your computer. My computer gives off an annoying sound every time a backup is being done. Carbonite automatically slows down when you are using your computer, but you can also choose to pause Carbonite from doing an online backup until you are done with your work, and unpause it to back everything up.
Feel free to test out the backup service for yourself. To start your free trial of Carbonite use the offer code SUNNY13. No credit card required and you will receive two months free if you decide to buy!
Having a backup of all your data is a crucial part of any operating and recovery plan of your business. Use a variety of strategies, both local and online backup, to make sure that your business will not be adversely affected by any loss of data, and that you can quickly recover the files that have been lost.