Any business, no matter its size, can suffer from data loss at any moment. A paper published in 2022 revealed that 76% of IT leaders surveyed had experienced a loss of critical data, and over 40% of them permanently lost their data. These losses represent years of hard work, client information, and operational insights. The risk of data loss is compounded because data threats are continuously evolving, making outdated backup solutions less effective.
Consequences of Data Loss
The impact of data loss on a small business can be catastrophic. The costs for data recovery can be extremely high, as well as the lost revenue due to the downtime experienced from the loss. Not to mention the damaged reputation that happens when your clients find out you mishandled their private information. And for more extreme cases of data loss, a small business might find themselves embroiled in a legal dispute. For these reasons and more, it is important that small businesses take a proactive approach to data backup and recovery planning.
Sadly, some small businesses think they have their data backed up and they do not. Just yesterday my team member went onsite for the first time with a new client. Their old IT company told them that they had data backed up. What we found on their computer was several error messages. Apparently, the computer was not backing up for a very long time. And they unfortunately did not have redundancies in place. If they continued operating in that way and something happened to their clients’ data, not only would they have lost business because of it, but they would have been subject to regulatory consequences related to their industry (which for anonymity’s sake, I won’t specify).
What should a small business do to ensure they minimize their risk of data loss? Here are five things a small business should consider to prevent data loss at their organization.
Back That Thing Up on the Regular
For most small businesses, daily backups are a minimal standard, ensuring that the most current data is preserved. The frequency should increase with the volume and sensitivity of the data. Implementing a scheduled backup system mitigates risks associated with data loss due to hardware failures, cyberattacks, or human errors.
The more recent your data backups are, the less data you stand to lose should an incident occur. Aligning your backup frequency with your data generation and modification rate is essential. Your IT company can help you come up with a frequency that works best for your business.
Employ the 3-2-1 Backup Rule
The 3-2-1 backup strategy is a reliable framework that small businesses can adopt for effective data protection. This rule suggests keeping three total copies of your data: the original data and two backups. The principle here is redundancy; by having multiple copies, the risk of complete data loss is significantly reduced. Two of these copies should be stored on different media or devices, like an external hard drive and a network-attached storage (NAS) system, to protect against device-specific failures. The third, and perhaps the most critical, is an off-site backup. This could be in the form of cloud storage or a physical drive stored at a different location. Off-site backups are vital for recovering from events like natural disasters, theft, or fire, which could otherwise destroy onsite backups.
Necessitate to Automate
All of our clients have automated backups, and for good reason. Automating your backups reduces how much a person needs to be involved, which is more efficient while decreasing the risk of errors associated with manual backups. By setting up a system where data is automatically backed up at regular intervals, businesses can ensure consistency without the need for constant oversight. This approach not only saves time but also ensures that backups are performed consistently and reliably, freeing up resources to focus on core business activities.
Cloud Backup Solutions
Most of our small business clients are perfect candidates for cloud backup solutions. The cloud offers a flexible and cost-effective approach to data protection. These solutions provide offsite storage without the need for physical space and maintenance of hardware. Cloud backups are scalable, meaning they can grow with your business, and are accessible from anywhere, which is especially beneficial for businesses with remote employees. Cloud providers typically offer robust security measures, providing an added layer of protection against cyber threats. The pay-as-you-go model of many cloud backup services also makes this a financially attractive option for small businesses, allowing them to only pay for the storage they need.
Have a Plan for When Something Goes Pear Shaped
In the event you suffer a data loss incident, you need to have a plan in place to activate at a moment’s notice. Your IT team can help you create a Data Recovery Plan (DRP) that fits the specific needs of your small business. A plan should include clear recovery objectives, both for the acceptable amount of time it will take to restore normal operations, and for the maximum amount of data your organization can tolerate losing. Your data recovery plan must delineate roles and responsibilities within the organization, ensuring that every team member understands their tasks during a recovery operation. A well-structured communication plan is also essential, providing guidelines for internal and external communications during a disruption.
Go Forth and Prosper
Now that you know the essentials for data backup and recovery for your small business, you are prepared to ask yourself the tough question – Am I ready for a data loss incident? If the answer is no, then your first step is to meet with your IT team and start asking them why you are not ready. With intention and awareness, you and your team could have a Data Recovery plan and appropriate backups in place by the end of this quarter. Now that’s quite an achievement and your team can rest easier knowing you are more prepared than you’ve ever been.