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8 Reasons SMBs Fail To Back Up Data

Most SMBs still fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to backup and recovery. Here are the common excuses--debunked.

Kevin Casey

September 29, 2011

5 Min Read

Slideshow: 8 Online Storage Solutions

Slideshow: 8 Online Storage Solutions

Slideshow: 8 Online Storage Solutions (click for larger image and for full slideshow)

There are more backup options than ever before, yet plenty of smaller companies still roll the dice with their data.

You've seen all of the related surveys and stats, like this one conducted by Symantec that found 57% of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) have no disaster recovery plan. There are plenty of others like it, such as a Carbonite poll back in July that found around half of very small businesses have experienced unrecoverable data loss.

So again: With more methods than ever, both physical and Web-based, why take the risk of losing business-critical data with no way to replace it?

"Smaller businesses especially have so much going on, and backup is one of those things like insurance that you don't want to think about," said Mike Evangelist, chief marketing officer at Code 42 Software, in an interview.

Consider these common excuses for failing to back up your data--and the reasons they're off-target.

1. It's too expensive.

Costs are always top of mind for smaller companies that need to extract a bit extra out of every dollar they spend. But if you do experience a crippling IT disaster, the bottom-line pain will be much worse if you can't get back up and running fast. True, if you're dealing with big data, then backup and storage costs can get cumbersome. But for more manageable amounts (think gigabytes, not terabytes and beyond) a tight budget doesn't have to be a burden. Some cloud vendors also offer unlimited data plans for larger needs.

[ As you improve your backup process, consider whether its Time To Combine Backup And Archives? ]

Intense competition among backup and storage providers--particularly among cloud backup platforms such as Code 42's CrashPlan, Dropbox, Box.net, and their competitors--means prices are reasonable.

2. It will never happen to me.

Consider this the article of blind faith: You don't need to operate in the path of hurricanes or other natural disasters for a significant loss to occur. Lost or stolen computers, fires, flooding, or good old-fashioned technology failures can and do happen--and that's by no means a complete list of potential hazards.

3. I just forgot to do it.

SMB owners and professionals are busy, often fulfilling multiple roles to help the company succeed and grow. If your to-do list runneth over--or if you're just forgetful--backing up your data is an easy step to skip. But that doesn't make it a good excuse, particularly with the number of products out there that offer automatic, continuous backup and syncing. If you're stretched too thin, make automation a must-have feature.

4. It slows down my computers.

Evangelist of Code 42 said he hears this one quite a bit from prospective CrashPlan customers, and that the reservation is rooted in a real reason: Some older antivirus and backup software did indeed drag on an end user's system, causing them to grumble or turn the software off. That has created a lasting image problem for backup and related platforms. On a laptop, in particular, a backup process or security scan might kick the fan on--and something that simple can create the impression of inconvenience.

"As a result of that, people disable those tools," Evangelist said. "They want their computers to run as fast as possible."

Good current software shouldn't cause performance problems. If you're concerned about end-user griping, look for a system that operates silently in the background. Power users should look for a platform that allows them to set detailed specifications about how and when system resources are used during the backup or sync process.

5. I don't want my stuff in the cloud.

Some SMBs simply don't yet trust the cloud for backup or other applications--they're more comfortable keeping their data in-house. For others, not so much. That's their prerogative, but not a good excuse. There are plenty of reliable on-premises options. A key thing to remember if you stick with physical, on-premises backup: You need to keep at least one copy of your data in a different location from your primary infrastructure. Otherwise, you're not particularly well-protected.

6. I don't have an IT department.

Most online backup platforms require very little technical know-how, so as long as you don't have a mental block on Web-based applications, a lack of IT resources is not a roadblock. Some physical devices, such as network-attached storage, do get a bit more complex. But even on that front, vendors such as Drobo have made a significant ease-of-use push in hopes of appealing to SMBs.

7. It's on my thumb drive.

Thumb drives are cheap, portable, and easy--but I wouldn't trust one as my primary backup option. It's better than nothing, but even if you're diligent about copying files it's simply too risky to trust as your insurance policy. Evangelist notes perhaps the biggest problem with thumb drives: "They're usually in the same place as the computer," he said. The same principle holds true of other writeable media such as DVDs: If it's at an employee's desk or in their laptop case, it's not much of a backup plan.

8. I'll just use a data recovery service.

There are a number of firms out there that can take, say, a failed hard drive and attempt to recover its data. In a pinch, those services can work. But they're far from failsafe--there's no guarantee they can retrieve your information. And they take time. Not to mention, a data recovery service can't help in the event of theft or other total loss.

"It's much more of a last resort," Evangelist said.

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About the Author(s)

Kevin Casey


Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses.

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