Investing in a cloud data backup service is one of the best decisions any business owner can make. A natural disaster could hit your town and destroy your systems, an employee could spill a drink on her computer and destroy it or someone could steal your equipment, but backing up data in the cloud makes these unfortunate events much more bearable.
Cloud data backup stores existing data in an off-site server, making it available anytime, anywhere you need it. Data is frequently synced or updated, mirroring your system in real time. Cloud data backup not only disaster-proofs your business, but it also can save you tons of time and money in restoring your operations. Here are 10 things to look for when choosing a cloud data backup service.
How much cloud storage do you need? Cloud data backup providers offer anywhere from 1GB to unlimited space, giving businesses a wide range of choices based on their needs. The amount of space offered is directly related to service costs, so it's best to determine how much space is needed so you can stay within budget. [Read related article: 24 Cloud Storage Solutions for Small Business]
It's not always easy — if not impossible — to determine exactly how much cloud data backup storage a business needs. Numerous factors must be considered, such as the number of employees and computers, the volume of data and the type of business. Find a service that offers scalability and agility so that your backup can grow as your business grows. While you don't necessarily have to shell out for unlimited space, your options include purchasing more space than you need or signing up with a vendor that offers flexible solutions.
The entire purpose of a cloud backup is to make sure your data is available whenever you need it. A vendor's uptime depends on its tier; Tier 1 services offer 99.671 percent availability, and Tier 4 offers 99.995 percent availability. Although the differences in these percentages look insignificant, the technology in place is what really counts — higher tiers offer pre-emptive features like redundancy (for instance, backups of backups) and industry-standard equipment to protect data. To illustrate, Tier 1 services are essentially server rooms that host data backups, whereas Tier 4 offers advanced power capabilities and temperature control (such as heating and HVAC systems) to reduce the chances of downtime and ensure the optimum level of availability.
4. Disaster recovery
Vendors can make all the uptime guarantees they want, but the reality is that unforeseen events, such as cyberattacks and natural disasters, can shut down servers and render your data inaccessible. One example is the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that overwhelmed 26 U.S. banks' websites during the 2012-2013 holiday season. Another is when Amazon's northern Virginia servers went offline due to severe thunderstorms, taking down major services like Netflix, Instagram and Pinterest. If large institutions can get hit, so can small businesses. While downtime is not always preventable, what's important is to make sure the cloud data backup you choose provides an effective and efficient disaster-recovery plan to get you back online ASAP. This can mean anything from multilocation backups to cyberattack mitigation.
5. Backup frequency
You're working on files and updating information all day, so you need the peace of mind that the latest versions are always backed up. Thus, it's important to know the frequency at which your data is backed up to the cloud and how it's done. Vendors' backup practices vary widely, so some are more suitable for your type of business than others. For example, some services back up files as you make changes, so this could mean anything from backing up the entire file again or simply syncing files such that it only backs up changes that you make. Some services also offer hourly, daily, monthly or other fixed backup frequencies, while others let you set your own schedules.
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How safe is your data in the cloud? Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, so ask vendors how your data is protected. Some things to look for include at least 256-bit encryption at rest and during transit (in storage and while being sent to and from the server), Secure Socket Layer (SSL), and local and off-site data storage.
For a small business, your customers' privacy is a top priority. The cloud data backup provider you choose should offer regulatory compliance to ensure the highest level of protection, such as the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standard, to protect financial information. And if you deal with particularly sensitive data, the provider should also be compliant with specific industry regulations, such as the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Most cloud data backup pricing models are fairly straightforward. Typically, pricing is based on the amount of storage and features offered, and is billed on a monthly or yearly basis. As such, pricing varies widely among vendors. For example, Carbonite's cheapest plan costs $799.99 per year and offers 250GB of cloud storage with physical and virtual servers, databases, live applications and other advanced features; Mozy's cloud backup plans, however, start at only $9.99 a month and offer 10GB of cloud storage.
As with any other vendor, make sure you read the fine print to completely understand your terms of service and to avoid any unpleasant surprises down the road. Look for things like service limits, contract terms and whether a vendor lock-in is required. Vendor lock-ins will make it very difficult to move to a different vendor once your business outgrows current services.
By using a cloud data backup service, you are entrusting your business's operational foundation to a third-party provider. You want to know that they have your back when something goes wrong or you need help. While some servers offer excellent support, others may as well be nonexistent. Choose a vendor that can be contacted via multiple channels, such as phone, email, chat and even social media.