Data Reliability: Backup or Cloud for Small Business?

A variety of events can compromise or lose data you’ve invested time developing; you can’t risk them being corrupted or lost. Tools to protect those files are backup, cloud storage, or cloud computing, most of which can be learned and supported DIY through an online knowledge base. If your files were corrupted or lost, how would it affect your productivity? What will the user experience be like of a tool that protects you from that loss? How much could the tool increase your operating expenses? The right choice is a solution that fits your computing practices and environment that makes your data available and accessible if your computing device changes or fails. The prevalence of cloud storage can turn computing devices into thin clients that create, edit or view data stored in the cloud. In my opinion, thin client computing has advantages over on-prem storage. A [very] abridged version of ITILv3 processes (e.g. IT service management) can guide you smoothly and swiftly through a search and secure process (i.e. assess, strategize, design, implement/test, operate, continuously improve) of the file storage option ‘best for your business.

itil-v3-service-design_342850Assess. Identify your search criteria by asking yourself the questions below; add others relevant to your computing needs. It may seem like TMI, yet you’ll thank yourself for this due diligence if your OS or device fails or if you access those files from different computing devices:

  • How are you computing (desktop, mobile)
  • Which device does most of your file creation
  • What kind of productivity applications create/edit your files
  • How do you view and present data (desk, mobile)
  • How do your store your files (e.g. HD, share drive, cloud)
  • What’s your budget for devices
  • How often do change devices
  • What lost files / productivity worth to you
  • Which files could remain on a HD and which to a storage solution
  • What’s your budget to protect files
  • How scalable does the solution need to be (need more GB or storage)

strategize iconStrategize.  Organize the information gathered from assessment to create your search criteria for a data protection solution, including your budget.

Backup sends files to an alternate hard drive folder (on prem or to the cloud), saving in a compressed file format. You must restore versions (dates) of backups to a folder on your computing device to open a known good version of a file. (Caveat: this takes multiple steps before resuming productivity and is recommended via an Ethernet connection for optimal speed of file transfer.)

Cloud storage. Services like DropBox or Box allow you to park a version of a file in folder within your account; editing requires download to your computing device.

Cloud computing. Note: cloud computing is NOT backing up. OneDrive or Google Drive are live, editable versions of files [stored in the cloud] that are opened with cloud-based or on-board apps as though its on your hard drive. These companies backup the files in your account and provide access controls to enter your account. I recommend redundancy of file storage to ensure your files are accessible, available and editable as you need them. Your device becomes a thin-client and your files are stored in the cloud in the event of a device failure, power outage or disaster to your workspace. Mobile devices with cellular connectivity can access your files in the event of a power failure. If you work mobilely a lot, I recommend saving your files to an instant on cloud service (e.g. OneDrive or GoogleDrive) to avoid carrying your files on your hard drive; access them via on-board software and login from any device you’re carrying.

On-board storage (hard drive). This offers quick storage and file retrieval, yet if your OS fails to boot, you’ll need to use this storage device as alternate to access your file(s). If your mobile device breaks, is lost or stolen, it’ll be difficult to access your files on the device. I recommend saving all files to the cloud via an on-board app, avoiding an unbootable OS, failing HD, or broken/lost/stolen mobile device.

Regarding a PC or laptop HD, users are accustomed to saving their files on the same partition as their software; this causes access problems to your files if your software (OS or apps) fails or is corrupted. I recommend partitioning your hard drive into multiple partitions; keep software on C:> (primary) and files on other partitions you name. If your software fails, just reinstall it; your files are safe, intact and accessible as external HD from another computing device; external HD shells are available in computer stores. (Sidebar: This approach has saved me a few times in the distant past before cloud storage existed.)

External Hard Drive. The biggest negative with these devices is access to files when you’re away from them; that will require setup of VPN or a PC anywhere solution. Storage from cloud computing is a modern choice; providers offer the first 10GB for free, then collect a subscription for more storage in blocks of GB’s; this is more cost-effective than buying an external HD and setting up connectivity.

design iconDesign.  To begin your search, setup information to compare each solution under similar categories; the search criteria will help you identify/eliminate incompatible solutions. Review results, prepare simple cost-benefit analysis on solutions meeting your search criteria

install-techImplement/Test.  Once you’ve selected a few options meeting your search criteria, do a free trial of each; document the results in the file setup for comparative analysis. Test the performance of the user experience (UX) with several files and 1-2 folders for 1-2 weeks. You’re looking for why a solution does or does not perform as expected, and how much it could increase your operating budget. (For example, imagine if you rolled out a choice to all your files that become too cumbersome to work with or failed within a month; your business and productivity cannot afford to work with that UX.) Document the findings of each test in your file of comparisons.

home-wirelessOperate.  After you’ve tested the performance of your final options over 1-2 weeks each, review the findings, select the option that meets your operating needs, scalability needs and budget.

CSI iconContinuously Improve.  COPY vs move your folders and files into the solution in phases, as you get accustomed to the UX; copying gives you a ready restore plan in case files are lost or corrupted in transit. (Sidebar: You may not be aware that mid-large employers operate this way, yet they’ve always kept their staff’s files safe and accessible.)

Thank you for giving this topic your time, attention and consideration; I trust there are takeaways for you to use. If you’re interested in changing your file storage infrastructure, please click Request a Consultation at the base of this page, fill out “File Storage” in the subject line, include the email signature of your office manager in the message body; I reply within 24hours to arrange an exploratory conference call. ###

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