You’ve invested countless hours and sweat equity getting your business idea online. You’ve established your online presence through the creation of a website (e.g. yourawesomeidea.com), and you’ve established professionalism and credibility attaching your email to that domain (e.g. [email protected]). Things are going great! You’re growing, acquiring customers and brokering relationships. But have you paused to ask yourself, “What have I done to ensure this personal time investment is not in vain?”
This question is often the last thing entrepreneurs ask themselves, but it’s actually one of the most critical questions to consider. After all, if there was one thing you could do to ensure business continuity, wouldn’t you do it?
In my experience, the answer is yes. When I speak to small business owners, the first thing I ask, even before I ask about any other security control is, “Before we get started, do you have a backup?”
Put simply, a backup is your safety net. In many ways, it’s the forgotten pillar of security. It’s what gives you peace of mind that when everything goes wrong (which you must assume always will at the most inopportune time), you know it’s there to save the day.
The importance of backing up your data is critical for both structured and unstructured data, but we’ll focus on your website (the tool that helps you acquire leads) and your email (the tool that helps you stay in touch with current and prospective customers).
The good news is, backing up your data is actually very easy, affordable (free in some instances), and will be your saving grace when you need it most.
What is a backup?
A backup, whether it’s for your website or email, is a copy of data. It’s the literal act of copying files, folders, assets and wide array of other data types. It’s not specific in terms of where you back up. You can back up to your local machine or a remote machine.
Backups are a critical pillar of security and should be a default consideration of every business. This is especially true today, when you think about some of the more common threats startups and small businesses face.
For example, one in five small to medium sized businesses faced a ransomware threat in the last year. Backups protect your business from potential catastrophic events, such as environmental disasters, nefarious attacks like hacks, or critical system failures.
Depending on your backup solution, you will have the ability to be selective with the file types you wish to backup. Emails are a bit different than website backups. Most will replicate all of your incoming emails so that you have copies of everything coming through; websites, on the other hand, will allow you to define specific files, folders and databases you wish to back up.
Key backup considerations
As you think about your backups, there are a few things I’d like you to keep in mind:
- Never store locally: It is important that you never store the backups on the same device. This is not a problem with emails, unless you’re using a manual Personal Storage Table (PST) file and store it locally. If possible, store your data with a service provider that can seamlessly integrate with your email provider. Websites can be backed up for free using local scripts and tools, but I recommend a service that backs your data to a remote location.
- Use cloud-based services: Cloud-based services offer you a level of redundancy and resiliency that every small business should demand. Today’s solutions are so powerful, accessible and affordable it just makes sense to leverage it if it’s available to you.
- Automatic configuration/scheduling: As an entrepreneur, you likely don’t want to become a backup administrator. Thankfully, most of the solutions out there offer automatic configurations and scheduling. Leverage this feature, and let the systems work for you.
- Test repeatedly: In security you trust, but you must also verify. Make it a habit to test your backup providers monthly or quarterly. You want to make sure you understand how your backups work and how to access them when you need to most. Testing ensures that when everything starts failing, you won’t panic because you’ll be prepared. Things always go wrong, so plan accordingly.
Setting up a backup for your website and email is one of the least expensive options that yields the highest return on investment (ROI). I have worked with thousands of customers around the world, and there is nothing more heartbreaking than when a startup loses its data because of a system failure or hack and there is nothing anyone can do.
Top reasons for data backups
Now that you have the top considerations, here are the six main reasons why data backups are important:
- Systems crash: There is no better option available than a backup when all of your systems crash. A backup is the number one investment you can make to ensure you have business continuity when you discover the white screen of death on your webpage, and all your website files are gone, or when you get a connection error on your email and all your emails have vanished.
- Websites get hacked: Small businesses make up 58 percent of malware attack victims. When a website is hacked, the information on your site can become corrupted, defaced or cause it to crash. Over the last few years, the same ransomware phenomena has migrated to websites; the number one thing that has helped every customer is having a website backup.
- Updates go wrong: Backups also serve a huge purpose when you’re making changes to your systems. Assume you make an update that breaks everything, or you’re making configuration changes, but forget what the originals were. Backups help you recover anything you break, and if you’re like me, you might break a lot.
- Human error: Employees may accidentally alter or erase a file, and this risk increases with the more employees you grant access to your data.
- Environmental threats: Earthquakes, floods, fires — they can all damage your hardware and they are happening more often than not these days.
- Peace of mind: Ultimately, backing up your data saves you an unnecessary headache. By completing regular backups, you can rest assured knowing that you can easily recover important files should any of the scenarios above occur.
Insurance against disaster
While some mishaps are avoidable, others like glitches in the matrix and hacks are not. Thankfully, there are certain measures that you can take to ease the stress of the situation. Website and email backups are insurance against disaster. Completing regular backups means that in case you experience one of these events, you’ll have the best chance of recovering your data. Don’t let security be an afterthought. Take the necessary precautions to protect yourself, your business and your customers.