Data Back-up in Just Ten Minutes

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 08, 2010 in: Tips in 10, Tools & Resources

In this article I’m going to talk about the practice of backing up data and give you some storage options. I am speaking of files that you regularly use, like maybe your QuickBooks file, important templates, Business Plans etc. For more in-depth back up options, such as complete computer back-ups, please check out my colleagues’ website, Ask-Leo, he has a plethora of guides and instructions on this very subject of data maintenance and backups.

Okay, let’s have a show of hands: How many of you have backed up your data in the past week? Backing up your data SHOULD be a constant daily (or, at the very least, weekly) activity. Unfortunately, data back-up is about as exciting as many other preventive measures:

  • Insurance
  • Checking your blind spots
  • Going to the dentist
  • Rotating your car’s tires every 6 months
  • Flipping your mattress every month

These are things we know we SHOULD do because it will protect us and/or prolong the life of our car/teeth/tires/mattress/whatever. But we don’t. Human nature being what it is; we do what needs to be done and often avoid the preventive stuff.

When we don’t do the preventive stuff, it’s like playing Russian roulette. We hope it will turn out okay but we realize we’re risking that some day it won’t.

It’s understandable. In the past, backing up may have been annoying, costly, time-consuming, and full of hassle. I remember back in the day when I burned CD-ROMs with valuable data that I wanted to keep (just in case my hard drive came to a hard stop!). The regular data I kept at home; the really important data I made 2 copies and kept another copy somewhere else. With that amount of work, it’s no wonder that people played Russian roulette with their data; the time + money + hassle cost of backing up was potentially equivalent to the cost of reengineering the lost data.

Thankfully, times have changed and we can back up our data a lot faster and lot more cost effectively today.

Here are a few ways you can consider backing up your data:

1.    Drobo. I use this system from Data Robotics, Inc. This is a massive storage system that is very secure, very scalable, and holds a lot of data. It’s user-friendly and designed for small businesses. Prices start at $399 and go up, which might put it out of reach of some companies but the storage and security is unparalleled and, in my opinion, well worth the cost. To get started, visit http://www.drobo.com and find the right Drobo storage product for you.

2.    JungleDisk. JungleDisk has a couple of storage options (desktop is one but I like their Cloud Storage option). Just download JungleDisk for free and then upload your data to Amazon’s S3 datacenter. It costs an embarrassingly low amount of money to store stuff on Amazon (I pay between eighty cents and one dollar a month for the stuff I store). And you can set it up to work in the background so stuff is always being updated. To get started, visit http://www.jungledisk.com to download their software and to find out the simple steps to take to sign up at Amazon for access to their S3 datacenter.

3.    External Hard drive. External hard drives are small, cheap, and useful if something more robust like Drobo isn’t for you. (I just saw a 1 terabyte drive for sale at Staples for about $100 or so, and I’m sure you can find it cheaper if you shop around). Plug this in to a USB port and drag stuff over to it. It’s so simple!

4.    USB stick. Like an external hard drive (just more portable) a USB stick is a simple way to back up your data. Drag and drop your file onto your stick and within moments you’ve backed it up! Keep your stick plugged in while you’re in the office and take it with you when you go. The amount that a USB stick stores, now, is pretty large and probably adequate for businesses that don’t create large files.

5.    Email (Gmail or Yahoo). Both of these systems offer unlimited (or thereabouts) email storage. While you can’t simply upload stuff, you can do what one colleague does and BCC yourself to a Yahoo or Gmail email every time you send an email. Now, some might argue that this isn’t secure or permanent (although my colleague reports that he’s never had a problem and he doesn’t do any work that requires too high a level of security). To get started, go to Gmail or Yahoo and set up an account. Something like: <yourname>.storage@yahoo.com. The challenge here, of course, is that your content isn’t easily accessible , but if you’re a on a really tight budget, this gets you started and you can always scale up to a better system later. (By the way, make sure that you are accessing the email from time to time so that they don’t shut it down on you because of inactivity!)

6.    Box.net. Box.net is a popular online storage system that has a few other features as well (such as file sharing, Salesforce integration and more). For $15/user/month you get 10 gigabytes of storage (with a filesize limit of 1 gigabyte).

Now, with a combination of some of these systems – which are all extremely easy and relatively affordable – you have no excuse for not backing up your data!

Here’s what I recommend you do: You should store your data in at least 2 additional places (besides your hard drive): I would recommend that you store it in an onsite location (such as Drobo or an external hard drive) and store it in an offsite location (like JungleDisk or Box.net). That way, if you lose your data and you need to get it back ASAP, you can pull it over from your onsite file storage. However, if something really bad happens (theft, fire, flood, hurricane, tornado; all the stuff they make movies about) you can still access your data (once you’ve found a new place to work). If your data is really sensitive, consider adding a third place to back it up; and be sure to stick to a secure system like Drobo.

Both your onsite and your offsite systems can be set up in less than ten minutes to automatically save or sync your data. It’s worth the ten minutes you spend doing it now, especially if you don’t have to think about it again afterwards.

And, we all know what happens: When you don’t back up, you’ll lose your data and wish you had it. When you do back up, nothing bad will ever happen and you’ll wonder why you back up. That may be the case; but wouldn’t you agree that it’s better to be backed up?

Do it right now. Don’t wait until later. Don’t schedule it in. Don’t ask your assistant to do it some time today. You need to do it right now.

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