Security Articles

13 Tips for Small Businesses Willing to Avoid an Online Backup Nightmare

by Keean Persaud
Published on 9 December 2011

As a small business owner and coming from an IT background myself I have learned the importance of storage and backup.

When disaster strikes and you need to roll back or restore your system what do you do? Do you back up often? Are there viable system restore points? What redundancy methods do you use? Do you have off-site storage to recover data if need be ?

Getting caught up and the hype in cloud online storage, naively I took the risk of going with a cloud storage solution for one of our main servers. This turned out to be a big gamble on our part.

So far so good

Here is how we got started. We backed up the data and key content that we created. That was offloaded to our online storage provider. At this point this was our only backup policy.

My computer would not boot and required a fresh install of Windows 7. The time for a restore is upon us.

Our online storage provider requires that we set our restore points for backups as per normal practice.

A date is selected to restore the files as per a request made through our account. Again no problem, this seems reasonable and standard business practice for online recovery.

In our case we had only stored approximately 50 GB of information from this one server. The files generated to restore the 50 GB were 12 files at approximately 4.2Gig each.

Now the download process begins to restoring the lost data due to the reinstall of the OS.

More than 20 days to download our files!

But downloading these 12 large files caused serious headaches. It seems that not only there are bandwidth limitations on our business internet provider account but also we need to share our bandwidth with other customers at this busy time of the day.

This is a common problem for small businesses such as proprietors that use their home internet connection to run their business from.

The approximate time the computer gauges with the internet connection was approximately 2-3days for each file, meaning this would take approximately 24-36 days considering the downloads were completed and uninterrupted. Due to constant Window updates causing automatic reboots, our system interrupted the process several dozen times. These interruptions caused the necessity to restart the download at the beginning. The files were so large that the internet connection would time out during the download, rendering the file useless for restore because it was incomplete. Incidentally, if it was partially completed, once reinitiated it would not pick up where it left off, it would restart the entire file causing further delays.

And the nightmare goes on

All files have downloaded correctly the restore can now take place.

But all the applications have to be redownloaded and reinstalled again. All the nice extensions we installed to customize your web experience have to be found again.

After the restore we had to find an IT expert to rebuild our PST file from Outlook and to restore our contacts before the pre-crash state. Being left without the key content and information you require to run your business, you especially need your contact information. Not having Outlook available was detrimental to our productivity.

Continuing your business is a priority of which cannot be ignored! How can you conduct business without your content and contacts ?

Lessons learned when using an online backup

  1. Know your internet bandwidth limitations
  2. Know your consistent download speed
  3. Know the extensions you installed to customize your web experience
  4. Keep a list of installed applications
  5. Know where and what data you require to operate your daily business
  6. Understand how to replace your email especially if you use Outlook - namely the PST file
  7. Have a redundancy plan for data backup - Recommend a hard disk back up as well
  8. Partition your drives if possible to separate the OS and Applications and data (create a disk image which would allow you to restore without having to reinstall everything from scratch)
  9. Have all your installed software with the license key in a convenient place
  10. Make sure files once they are extracted are in a usable form, usually it is zipped hopefully with rar or pk unzip or 7zip
  11. Understand how to overwrite an existing folder structure not individual files within folders
  12. Know your directory structure to rebuild your apps properly
  13. Make sure to have created backup system restore points and OS boot disks

We still value the benefits of online backup

Because of all its cost benefits, we will continue to back up online through the cloud. In fact our biggest hurdle was internet speed. But we also had side issues. Once the files downloaded the extracts did not work properly, there were security issues, archive issue and file compatibility issues. We have since then purchased software to create disk images and automatic backups to external drives while also keeping the cloud option intact. This should solve the issue of restoring quickly if need be.

These are some of the lessons learned from an online restoration process. We hope this helps other small businesses to know how to avoid a painful system restore experience.

Don't be afraid of cloud backup, but know the limitations of your system, the network and the backup system in case you have to restore your OS and Apps.

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