Keep on running: Protect your data and stay in business

As data usage explodes, there is a major threat to survival for small and medium-sized enterprises – loss of data and inability to get and up and running quickly if computer systems fail or become unavailable.

Many will have heard the stark warnings about what can happen if a business doesn’t protect its data. Recent headlines may be about data theft, but most company managers will have also seen statistics about the number of firms that fail if they suffer a disaster such as a flood, fire or computer hardware failure and lose access to their data.

Data loss can also come from malicious employees, computer viruses and simple human error. Regardless of the cause, far too many companies are being caught out and suffer data problems of varying degrees, and with the rise in the use of smartphones, remote working and the use of various software applications, the potential for problems is growing.

While it may be hard to replace a company founder, it is easier than you think to put a business continuity or disaster recovery plan in place. This will protect day to day business operations, many of which rely on computer systems and access to data.

It’s alarming that various surveys cited by The Business Continuity Institute show that small companies are much less likely to have a business continuity plan than larger firms – only about a quarter have a strategy in place, and many certainly don’t have sufficient data backup protection.

Objection handling

There are several obstacles in the way of SMEs opting for high quality data backup and recovery. One is simply making the choice. There is such a wide range of different types of protection on offer, and it can be easy to put the decision on the back-burner in favour of seemingly more urgent business.

Further, companies may well have some type of backup system in place but it may not be adequate and is often not tested as part of a recovery plan (even large firms are guilty of a lack of testing).

Another perceived obstacle is cost – but like most things in computing and communications, the price of data backup and recovery has tumbled in the past few years, and systems that were previously only in the reach of large organisations are now available to SMEs.

The passport to having “enterprise style” computing is now in wide use in SMEs with the many cloud applications on the market.

Cloud systems are easy to understand – they can host your data and run your software remotely and securely over broadband lines, and are among the fastest growing sectors of the IT market. Google’s apps are in the cloud, as is Microsoft’s 365 Office suite.

There is particular interest around the world from SMEs in “disaster recovery as a service”. This is where you sign up with a service provider that will commit to backing up and restoring your data or indeed your computer systems quickly so your business won’t miss a beat.

How do they do this? One way is to use technology that makes a complete “image” or copy of your systems and data so that you can quickly restore everything as it was, should your in-house computer server become usable or the data deleted or corrupted.

You can opt to have this service hosted in the cloud or run in-house, or both – and one of the key features some solutions provide is that data backups can be verified as complete, and systems tested as being able to run. That means you’ve already got the core part of a business continuity plan in place.

Read more on data in business:

Managed services

The key is the combination of new technology and service – the last thing you want to be worrying about in the event of data loss is a long and technically difficult restore process.

Of course, a lot of small businesses make do with a cloud backup service such as Dropbox. Some have a collection of disk drives and maybe an archaic tape backup machine in-house. They might consider themselves safe from data loss as a result, but it is unlikely many will have ever tested whether they could recover from a crisis using these tools.

When exploring backup, some SMEs use image-based backups, which are faster to update and restore for a whole system. However, for businesses that only need to backup certain files, file backups are more efficient.

Managed service providers, or MSPs as they are known in the IT world, are companies best positioned to advise and implement services such as disaster recovery cloud systems, and they usually have a portfolio of best in class technology to deploy for clients.

They also have vital local knowledge in their home markets. In a world where you can sign up to use technology provided by companies on another continent, when it comes to your backup, security and continuity, most SMEs want the reassurance of local presence and service.

We have a community of MSP partners in the UK, including Complete IT, our European partner of the year.

The company’s MD, Colin Blumenthal, explains why SMEs are looking for total data protection: “We are now expanding to be more local to our clients and have discovered that businesses are eager to ensure that their data is safe and can be recovered in the event of a disaster, whether it’s manmade or natural.

“Losing important company information can lead to significant financial losses if a business can’t get up and running again quickly. Our customers want flexible options, including what we term back-up ‘in the cloud’ and not just on in-house equipment, and that’s what our partnership with Datto offers.”

A business continuity plan is a must for any company. The good news is that a major plank of a plan – data protection and recovery – is now easy to implement and will allow you to focus instead on your core business operations.

If you want a more detailed overview of IT in the workplace, check out our exclusive guide from IBM’s chief executive, who covers data, mobile, social, cloud and security.

Andrew Stuart is MD of EMEA at cloud services firm Datto.

Image: Shutterstock

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