When did our daily lives get so tied in with electronic data? It seems that just a few short years, maybe a couple of decades, ago, we went through our daily routine without so much as a thought about our electronic data.

The same is true for many small to medium businesses. Not that long ago, many smaller businesses still kept their records the old fashion way, paper and pen.

Now even the smallest family run business is likely to use computers to store their most valuable data. While this provides much more efficiency, it also presents the real danger of data loss. Imagine tax information, account records, client contacts, employee records, payroll, and other vital records gone in an instant. The results could be devastating to any business.

Data backup is a top priority for any business. Yet despite knowing how important this data is, many companies are still operating without a safety net. The reasons for this risky oversight can vary. Some companies believe that they can recover lost data in the case of a crash. Hard drive recovery options are very expensive and not guaranteed. Other companies may simply be unaware of the risks and options. Often it comes down to simple procrastination.

So, it has been established that it’s time, or perhaps past time, for a comprehensive data storage backup plan. Let’s look at the options.

On-site data Backup
On-site backup provides an easily accessible way to backup data. Many people use an external Hard Drives, NAS (Network-attached storage) Drives, or even USB Flash Drives. On-site backups are great for storing large amounts of data very quickly.

Relying solely on on-site storage has its risks. In cases of unfortunate disasters like fires, floods, tornados, etc., the backup data is often lost along with the original data. Another risk to consider is having highly sensitive data on a physical medium like an external hard drive or USB Flash Drive. This practice potentially exposes the data to theft and loss. And sometimes those devices simply fail.

Off-Site Data Backup
Many business owners and IT professional are now backing their important and sensitive data to off-site storage via a 3rd party. While most have heard about “The Cloud”, the thought of putting sensitive data in the hands of 3rd party may be daunting. In reality, a reputable company can provide an excellent way to store important data.

A major advantage to off-site storage is that vital data is safe from local disasters, like the ones mentioned earlier. Many companies offer storage in multiple locations, just in case one of their servers is affected for any reason.  Another advantage that the data can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. No more worries about lost Flash Drives or scratched CDs. Many off-site storage companies encrypt their data, offering another layer of security.

Like most things online, there is usually a fee, often determined by the size of the data. Make no mistake, the fee is small compared to the cost of lost business and recovery.

So what is the right backup solution?
Simply put, the best answer to the on-site vs online backup question is to use a combination of methods.  Using on-site storage for large amounts of data can keep the overall costs down. However, it is recommended that vital and sensitive data is regularly stored on a reliable off-site server. Getting in the habit of daily monitoring and verifying that the process was successful is key to ensuring that the data is secure. It even may be beneficial to keep paper records of extremely important data, just in case.

Chances are, we will not be returning to the days of leather bound records and walls lined with file cabinets anytime soon. Businesses have gained a lot by the introduction of affordable computing technology, taking the right steps nearly assures that they won’t have a lot to lose.