Data Backup Services vs Business Continuity Services: A Non-Technical Explanation
In a discussion about small business computer support one of the moments in which I’m sure to see people’s eyes glaze over is when we start to talk about backup solutions. Most people get lost when I bring up Recovery Point Objectives and Recovery Time Objectives. It’s probably my fault for not explaining it in a way that makes sense to them.
I’ll do my best here to be clear and concise because backup for small business is important information for people to understand, especially when it comes to protecting their company data and reducing downtime. Are your eyes glazed over yet? I hope not!
Let’s start with understanding the difference between just backing up your data and being able to get your business back up and running quickly in a disaster.
Until a few years ago, the only affordable backup solution for smaller businesses was to backup data only. Data includes files and folders on a server. Things like email, Word documents, Excel sheets and accounting data. Data used to be copied to tapes but now it’s more likely saved to an external hard drive.
What “Data” doesn’t include is the actual operating system and applications that have been customized for your environment with the hundreds of settings that you and your IT service provider have tweaked just for your business.
In the event of a server crash, or other disaster, the operating system and applications need to be reinstalled and customized all over again from the ground up – a process that can take from 2-4 days. Only after that can your data be restored. Restoring data could take another day or so depending on how much you have saved.
Previously, it was just too expensive for a small business to purchase a product that provided a solution to this problem. Enterprise companies were protected, but the small business owner simply couldn’t afford it.
Data Backup Services for small business have come a long way.
New technologies exist that allow us to recover data faster and provide operational fail over in case of disaster. Operational fail over is also known as Disaster Recovery and/or High Availability. There are now dozens of products that not only provide backup of data, but actually take a “snapshot” of the operating system and applications too – including all those customized settings. This doesn’t mean that rebuilding a server happens in a snap, but it does reduce the time significantly.
Along with these new products, online backup services, also known as cloud backup services, are now also available to retain data. The best backup services will provide redundancy. Redundancy is the safest practice when it comes to data backup services. Typically, a copy of your backup should be kept onsite, at your small business, because it’s faster to restore lost or deleted data from a local copy. However, a copy of your data should also be sent to an online data center (cloud backup service) in case a fire, flood or other disaster destroys the copy that is onsite.
Still, snapshots of your server’s operating system and applications are usually not sent to a cloud backup service because those snapshots are too large to send over a typical internet connection. Even with the advent of online backup services only data is often being sent offsite. This no longer needs to be the case!
This brings us to Business Continuity Services.
Technology now exists that can replicate your data, and your server settings, by the hour, both locally and to the cloud. Should your server “crash” (highly technical term) your users can be quickly be redirected to a local device and normal operations can resume, usually within an hour.
And, should you incur a major disaster in which your local equipment is destroyed, your users can run the normal business operations from the cloud copy of your server. You can be back up and running within a few hours.
This is amazing. I never thought it would be possible to offer this type of security to small businesses. Business Continuity Services do cost more than a standard Data Backup Service, so to help determine if Business Continuity might be a good solution for you we’ve provided a Recovery Time Calculator that can help you understand the potential costs, per hour, of your business being down because of a technology crisis.