Backing up your business data is like buckling your seatbelt. You hope you’ll never have to cope with a catastrophe—a natural disaster, fire, service outage, cyberattack or major human error—but you need to be prepared. In fact, half of all small businesses say they couldn’t stay profitable for more than a month if they lost critical data, according to a recent report from the Better Business Bureau.

“Some small business owners are so involved with running their business that they don’t think about business continuity, meaning how will your business continue to run if a disaster were to hit?” says Peter Vescovo, COO and partner at Island Tech Services, an IT services company in Ronkonkoma, New York. “Backing up is really the lifeline for a business, large or small.” Here are six essential backup practices every business owner should know.

1. Back up in real time.

If your hard drive fails at 4 p.m. but your next backup isn’t scheduled until the evening, all of your hard work that day will be lost. Choose backup technology that offers continuous data protection, a feature that automatically saves a copy of every change made to your data in real time. “Affordable services like IDrive, Mozy and Carbonite offer these real-time backups,” says Trave Harmon, CEO of Triton Technologies, a managed IT provider headquartered in Worcester, Massachusetts.


2. Test your backups monthly.

“Do a full restore of your data onto a machine that isn’t associated with your data—it can even be even a tablet or a phone,” says Harmon. “Be sure to open a few files to make sure you can actually read the data.”


3. Use both cloud and local storage.

“You can never have enough backup, and we recommend a hybrid approach,” Harmon says. In addition to backing up locally on your computer and an external hard drive, businesses should use cloud backup protection (such as that offered by Spectrum Business Internet), which allows you to save your files online and access them from any location


4. Choose business-focused solutions.

If you’ve been purchasing backup software, hardware and online services intended for home users, you could be making a serious mistake. Consumer versions are not meant to house the large amount of data a business maintains and could require an unacceptably long time for data restoration. “You might pay a little more money for the business version, but it will be more robust,” says Vescovo. “And as you grow the business, you can upgrade your plan.”


5. Take security seriously.

Ransomware, a type of malicious software that locks the data on your computer until a ransom amount is paid, can strike businesses of any size. “I know of a woman who owned a small pet grooming business by herself and was hit with ransomware,” says Vescovo. “She only had one laptop, but she had years of customer information on it, and the ransomware almost put her out of business.” Having your files backed up to a cloud-based system can protect you from having to pay up to get your information back.


“As your business grows, your data becomes more valuable.”

6. Back up for business growth.

In order for your business to grow, you need to retain a lot of the important data you’ve collected through the years, such as customer records, payroll information and sales reports. Backing up can help preserve your data, which only increases in volume as time goes on. “As your business grows, your data becomes more valuable,” says Vescovo. “If you don’t back up and your data get lost, that’s it—you’re starting over.”


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