Most cybersecurity experts recommend that small companies back up their data regularly—such as weekly, or even daily—but few businesses follow that advice. And that’s a problem: Backing up your data ensures your valuable digital assets, such as your databases and other computer files, don’t disappear or become inaccessible if a system or computer crashes or you suffer a cyberattack.


What is data backup exactly? It’s the process by which secure copies of all your company’s data is made so that if the original files are damaged or lost, you have duplicates you can access.


“Many businesses, if they lose their data, essentially lose their business,” says Yuen-Pin Yeap, CEO of NeuShield, a cybersecurity company based in Fremont, California. “They may completely go under.”


To reduce that risk, it’s essential to understand how to back up your data in a manner that’s both routine and thorough. Here are five best practices for small business data backup:


  1. Have a plan—or better yet, automate.

Business owners should develop a written backup strategy covering what data to back up, how often it will be backed up and where it will be backed up. It’s also important to select and appoint an individual person who will be in charge of seeing that backing up happens as planned.


Even better, you can use software that automatically backups your system at regular intervals so that nobody has to remember to do them manually.


  1. Find the right method.

There are many backup software programs available that make automating the process simple. These include platforms like CloudBerry, Arcserve and IDrive. Most programs today are cloud-based, meaning you can access your data backups via the internet using any computer.


Keep in mind that using a cloud-based file management system such as Google Drive or Dropbox means all of the documents you create and save through those programs are automatically stored on the cloud and don’t need to be backed up.

  1. Back up frequently.

“You want to back up often,” Yeap stresses. Daily is a good standard, and the one most experts recommend. But more often—even continuously—may be indicated for firms reliant on fast-changing data. That’s especially true if they are subject to frequent power outages, operate in a disaster-prone area or have been hit repeatedly by ransomware or other data-damaging cyberattacks.


  1. Keep backups on hardware off-site

Ransomware can damage or destroy backups kept on-site, if those backups are on hardware connected to your network, Yeap warns. So it’s important to keep backups that are kept on a physical storage device in a safe, off-site location. One approach is to copy critical files to an external storage device and carry it home—which can protect against on-site damage from natural disasters.


  1. Test your backup and restore process.

Backups can get damaged, too. Periodically, businesses should test their backups to see that they are complete and functional and ensure their ability to fully restore their system to a previous point in time, if need be. Restoring essentially means you make a full backup of data on, say, your computer, so you can always restore it to that point. “Even if you can only do it once a quarter, load the backup and make sure your system can come back fully,” Yeap advises.


All told, computer data security has improved enormously over the years. While some threats such as ransomware have evolved as well, modern hard drives are much less failure-prone than in decades past. Now perhaps all that remains for small business data to become really secure is for the businesses themselves to realize its value.


“The main thing for the SMB to consider is how important it is for them to back up their data,” Yeap says. “What if they lost their company data? Can their company survive? If the answer is no, they should probably place a lot of emphasis on a strategy to safeguard their data.”

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