Do you have a data backup plan?

People working on laptop computers

Here are some frightening statistics for you.

58% of small businesses are unprepared for data loss.

60% of small businesses who experience data loss will close within 6 months. (Clutch - Infographic: Is your data secure)

If you drew a Venn diagram of those 2 data sets, it’s going to look a lot like a circle.

Now let me ask you a question: do you have a data backup plan?

Small businesses have become alarmingly susceptible to data loss and are very likely to experience it at some point. The only thing distinguishing a failing company from a recovering company in the face of data loss is whether they’ve taken the time to put a backup plan in place.

How important are data backups?

Lightly put, very. It’s equally important to note that they’re really easy to set up and can be done by anyone regardless of how tech-savvy they are.

I’ll get to how you can back up in a minute. First, let’s talk about why your business needs to make backups a top priority.

Small businesses are experiencing critical data loss on a daily basis. Losses occur as a result of many different failures, including:

  • theft or loss of devices
  • power failures (corrupting hard drives and data)
  • arson and property damage
  • cybercrime and data breaches (which over a quarter of small businesses face every year)
  • virus and malware data corruption

Just considering cybercrime, the most recent tally in 2017 reveals that there were over 500,000 successful cyber-attacks against Australian small businesses (SMBs). These attacks were mostly in the form of email or phishing scams, ransomware scams and hacking attempts, all of which often result in the loss of critical systems and key data assets.

The reason that this data loss is so crippling is because of the kind of data at stake. Whenever data loss is mentioned, it refers to the irrecoverable loss of key assets such as:

  • customer and financial records
  • communication history (for example, emails)
  • private or important documents held on computers and devices
  • contact information of partners, suppliers or customers
  • programs used to record and perform work

These are just a few of the broad strokes that businesses commonly rely on to function. Businesses also tend to have unique systems and data assets that they depend on. When data loss occurs, it’s these key data assets that are at stake, and it’s the loss of these assets that is causing Australian businesses to fail.

If you have experienced this already, you know the difference that could have been made if your data was backed up and secure. If you’ve yet to experience data loss, take action now and protect yourself before it happens.

Thankfully, the base steps required to recover from a security breach or major data loss are straightforward, simple and inexpensive.

How do I backup my data?

All technical jargon and foreboding statistics aside, backing up your data is actually pretty easy.

Most commonly, businesses back up their data in one of two ways: either to a physical device or via storage on the internet (the cloud).

If you perform either of the below one-time setup options, your business will be able to withstand some of the harshest tech catastrophes that can occur.

Read: Manage cybersecurity in your small business

Backing up to a USB or hard drive

Firstly, you’ll need to get yourself a USB or an external hard drive that has more space on it than your computer itself. Think OfficeWorks or JB-Hi-Fi when looking for a storage device.

Every operating system (such as Mac, Windows or Linux) has different backup features available that automatically backs up your entire system – from important documents to pictures and videos – to your USB or external hard drive. We’ve selected a few of the most common operating systems used by small businesses and summarised a quick 5-step process for backing up each!

Please see the following table according to the system you use.

Windows 7Windows 8Mac
1. Click Start & type “backup” in the search box.1. Click start & type “file history settings”.1. Open the menu (in the top left of your screen) and choose System Preferences.
2. Click “Backup and Restore”2. In the results, click “File History Settings”.2. Click on “Time Machine”.
3. Choose “Set up Backup”.3. Click “Select a drive”.3. Click “Select Disk”.
4. When Windows finishes loading, select your USB or hard drive and click Next.4. Choose your USB or hard drive from the list.4. Choose your USB hard drive from the list and select “Use Disk”.
5. Click “Let Windows Choose”, then click Next.5. Click “Turn on”.

Once you’ve taken any one of these three sets of steps, as long as you leave your USB or hard drive plugged into the computer from now on, your operating system will automatically back up all of its contents from here on.

Backing up to the cloud

The more simple option for online backups also happens to be the one that typically doesn’t cost anything: online drive storage.

Things such as OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox are all fantastic services you can sign up with right away and start storing important files.

These cloud storage options typically don’t have much space available and are more suited for people who know exactly what they need to be backed up.

If you have specific folders, files, reports or sets of data that your business is most dependent on, hop on to any of these cloud storage services and go through the setup instructions provided on their site.

Read: Remote Access Scams: How can your business identify and avoid them?

The advantage of the cloud over USBs and hard drives is that you aren’t relying on any physical media to protect your data. Backing up on hardware is good for the amount of storage available, but it doesn’t protect you against natural disasters, arson, property theft or the failure of the backup device itself.

In this sense, cloud storage offers far more comprehensive protection options for your business data.

How do I prevent losing data in the first place?

While we’ve touched on the how and why of backing up data in this article, equally as important is preventing data loss in the first place.

Most businesses don’t have the time and resources to figure out where to get started. We recommend the Cyber Aware STOP policy as a free, easy initiative to immediately protect your business against data loss that occurs as the result of cyber-attacks.

The steps outlined in the STOP policy alongside the data-backup steps outlined in this article are some of the most accessible, time-efficient avenues available to immediately protect your business and avoid critical data loss.

Most businesses struggle to find the time to take the most critical measures in protecting their assets, or are unsure of where to begin. However, it’s the people who put aside an afternoon, or a half-hour from time to time, that are able to recover when inevitable disasters occur quickly, inexpensively and without disruption to what matters most – your business.