Simple, Low-Cost Back-up Solutions for Your Business Data

Last Sunday marked the Third Annual World Backup Day. For those of you who are not familiar with this other holiday, World Backup Day got its start on Reddit back in 2011, and has since been embraced and promoted by the tech-lovers the world over.

If you didn’t join this mass data backup movement, then get on it now.

Have you ever read the book, The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People? In it Steven Covey writes that the key to success and effectiveness is taking care of those important, yet not urgent tasks that sit on your to-do list waiting to be done. These tasks may not result in some immediate benefit, but if you keep up with them, they can contribute a lot to your productivity over the long run. Ignore them, and you may just find yourself sitting in some very hot water.

It’s unfortunate that most people learn the importance of data backup the hard way- after they lose their precious data. And, while there is growing realization about the importance of backing up the data that’s stored on a hard drive, people are sometimes all but careless about their online data.

How Your Data Can Be Lost… Let Me Count the Ways

Today, there is no real excuse for not making some effort to backup your digital data. But, in case you’re not convinced, here are several pretty common ways your data can be lost:

Server crashes: Servers are susceptible to errors and damages which are not in your control. You’d expect the company hosting your web page to take some sort of back up, but there is simply no guarantee.

Server hacked: Again, this is a factor that isn’t under your control. Unless you have a dedicated server (which tends to be very expensive), there is a good chance that the server storing your webpage is also home to other websites. Any hacker targeting one of these other websites can take the entire server down.

Human error: This is a polite way of saying, you goofed up. Ever just hit the wrong key? In your zeal to experiment with a new plugin or to make some tweaks to your digital file or website, ever accidentally delete an important file?

Theft and loss: What are you going to do if someone comes along and steals your laptop? What if you drop your cellphone while running to catch the bus or you inadvertently leave it as a tip to the waiter? If you didn’t back up the data stored on these devices, you could easily lose several years worth of work and a ton of contact information.

Damage to a device: Even that Starbucks splash stick can’t prevent you from accidentally dowsing your laptop in your favorite cup of Joe. I know it’s a cliché example, but that’s because it happens. Don’t drink coffee? Then, have you ever dropped and/or stepped on your phone? Ever walked through a door, but the bag that holds your laptop doesn’t quite make it and instead slams into the door frame? These devices really should be coated in rubber, but they’re not.

Natural disasters: What would happen if there was a fire or flooding in your home office or at work? If you have no off-site backup, then you could potentially loose all of data.

Low-Cost Data Backup Solutions

Getting a bit nervous? Here are several simple and cost-effective ways to protect your valuable business data:

Use external hard drives or USB flash memory sticks . The first option is to make a copy of the data and save it on to an external hard drive or flash memory stick. Some people claim that USB sticks aren’t as reliable, but they are the much cheaper option and portable and plenty of people swear by them. If your storage needs are not so high, then they are something to consider.

Whatever you choose, you then just plug it into your operating system’s built-in backup tool (Here’s a how to do this with Windows, and here is what to do if you’re a Mac user). Then you need to stick the backup somewhere safe. The best option is to actually have two physical backups one can be either at home or at work and the other somewhere off-site, like a trusted friend or family member’s house. Here is an article explaining how to restore your data from an external drive after a loss.

Save your data in the cloud.If you don’t have the funds to invest in an external drive or you’d rather avoid another gadget to take care of, you can always back up your data in the cloud. There are plenty of services (almost all of them relatively low-cost or even free) that let you back up all of your data via the internet. Which one is the best depends on your needs. Do you need unlimited storage because you have a huge disk full of large files? Do you need to cover many multiple computers? At the top of the line, you’ll find services like, Carbonite and Backblaze. If you are looking for a more economical service, you can check out iDrive or MiMedia (which offer 5GB and 7GB free accounts respectively).

If you’ve only got a handful of files that you need to keep backed up, you could use free online services, such as Google Docs, SkyDrive, Ubuntu One or DropBox. Just make sure you encrypt your files in truecrypt container to add an additional level of security.

Backing Up a WordPress Site

When talking about backing up a WordPress website, realize that here are two parts to your WordPress website/blog. First, there are all your files. If you want to do a file backup you technically could just log in through your FTP client and copy all your files on your hard disk or external drive. The second part is the database. Many people don’t realize that without the database, your files will mean nothing.

If you are running a self-hosted WordPress site, then you have several backup options: plugins or a dedicated backup service. There are many free plugins, such as this one here, that you can install on WordPress to help you take regular backups of the database, and will save it on your hard disk.

This, however, is a very basic system. For one, you still have to manually save your files, and it’s easy to forget when things get hectic. Restoring this backup in the event your website crashes also involves multiple steps and staring at technical, complicated looking screens.

You can alternatively sign up for dedicated WordPress backup services that give your WordPress data all the care and attention it deserves. Usually, these kinds of services have a pretty low price point- typically between $10 to $20 dollars a month, depending on the features you are looking for. Aside from pricing, here are some things you should look for in WordPress backup services:

Simplicity: You ideally want something that can take the worry off your mind. The backup service should be simple to set up. Restoration is the other important step. You should be able to get your service up and running in as few clicks as possible.

Multiple versions: While the system should be simple, the service should allow some flexibility. Suppose you made a change to your website, and it is that change that caused the crash. The backup service should allow you to restore the website to an earlier date.

Backend support: You may or may not have a background in web programming. The backup service should offer you great backend support to guide you through the process whenever you require assistance.

Like all things that are important but not urgent, you may not see immediate benefits of backing up your data. But, if something does happen, then those benefits will be as clear as day, and you’ll be patting yourself on the back for having made the effort.