by Mike Dailey on June 19, 2011

When it comes to protecting the data stored on your home or small business computer, if you are like most of us the cheapest and easiest solution is the one you use.  Unfortunately, data loss occurs much more frequently than most people realize. According to many industry researchers a complete loss of data occurs so often that it costs U.S. businesses $12 billion annually.  The cost is significantly higher if the loss of home computer data is included, but detailed statistics are not comprehensive enough to provide a true impact of the problem.

Whether you have a single PC or laptop at home, or an entire department of computer systems in use at your small business, protecting the data on those systems is critically important to you and your business.  While data loss can occur in any number of ways, hardware failure and accidental deletion are two key factors that contribute heavily to the statistics.  Fortunately, both of these risks are easily mitigated with the use of simple, effective and reliable backup solutions for the home or small business user. 

Internet-Based Online Backup Services

Online backup services are not one-size-fits-all solutions. Each backup company offers different plan types, which are often classified as Home and Business plans.  Home online backup plans, also referred to as Personal plans by some service providers, are geared towards the home user whose primary concern is having a reliable and secure backup of their personal data such as documents, photos, and music. Business online backup plans, on the other hand, are designed to meet the critical advanced storage needs of small to large businesses in which data recovery must occur rapidly in order to sustain the business.

Online backup storage plans can offer from as little as 10GB of storage space to an unlimited amount, depending on the service provider and the needs of the customer.  The costs for such plans vary, with home user plans ranging from $5 – $25 per month and small business plans ranging from $25 to $1,500 per month.  Plans are typically priced based on storage capacity and features.

These types of services are preferable to other options because backups can be better automated, helping to ensure that routine backups are taking place.  However, because data is transferred across the Internet to a remote backup device a high-speed broadband Internet connection is required to use this type of backup solution.

Local Device Backup

One of the most common methods of backing up a home or small business computer is a local device backup.  Most hone desktop and small-business server operating systems provide integrated backup software that allows data to be backed up and recovered from a local device such as a CD/DVD drive or tape backup unit.  Backups can also be stored in large archive files on locally attached high-capacity storage devices such as USB hard drives (although this is not an optimal backup solution).

Local backup strategies offer a lower cost and simpler approach to data protection and recovery, but require a willingness and dedication on the part of the user to ensure that backups are taking place on a routine basis.  Local backup solutions also require more manual operation and a plan for storing and protecting the backup media (CDs, DVDs, tapes, etc.) once backups are complete.

Network-Attached Storage (NAS)

Network-Attached Storage is a newer backup solution that was originally intended for a different role.  With NAS, a small storage device is attached to the home or small business network  and acts as a file storage server.  Users can read and write data to these devices just as they can local storage devices on their computer.  A major benefit of NAS is that a group of users can share not only the storage capacity for backup purposes but can have access to the files collectively as a means of sharing information. 

Smaller NAS units appropriate for the home user can be purchased for $90 – 150.  Larger capacity and more feature-rich units well suited for a small business backup solution can cost anywhere from $350-$1500.  These units can be accessed both from a wired and a wireless network, making this an appealing solution.

When considering a NAS backup solution, however, it is important to remember that the data stored on the NAS device is equally as vulnerable to a hardware failure as it is when stored on your home or business PC.  The NAS solution provides a mechanism for “online” storage–where a copy of the data is stored elsewhere but available for access in real time.  An offline backup of the data using CD, DVD, or tape solution would still be required to ensure the data is adequately protected.

These data backup and recovery solutions are just a few of the methods that can be used to protect your personal and business data.  While other solutions exist, the reliability and effectiveness of those solutions must be considered.   Although the cost of a backup system is often viewed as the most important factor the true cost is often realized only after the data has been lost.

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[...] backups of all important documents and files by copying to CD, thumb drive, or using an online backup service.  Even archiving data using encrypted tar or zip archival formats and emailing those files to your [...]

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