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Backups for Startups – Protecting Your Business

Backups for startups – great file backup and recovery options for startups that need to protect their intellectual property but have limited budgets.

Startup companies usually worry about five things:

  • running out of money,
  • losing the most important franchise customer,
  • missing a drop dead delivery date,
  • losing a key developer or designer,
  • running out of money

OK, that’s just four things, and running out of money is a daily worry.

There’s one more thing that happens from time to time that kills companies – they have a big loss of data, source code, customer account information, financial data, or other operational data.

Losing the data not only costs money for down time and recovery time, but losing data also leads to all the other failure modes: missing delivery dates, losing a franchise customer, running out of money, and finally losing key staff members.

External Disk Drive

External Disk Drive – a Key Part of Backups for Startups

Having and using data backup and data recovery services is one of the most critical concerns for startup and growth companies. So let’s quickly review the types of backups for startups that you can use, explore cloud storage, and talk about recovery of your data. We’ll also look at what backup you need for your developers.

Three Types of Backups for Startups

Regardless of whether you are using desktop backups for each team member or a corporate network-based solutions, there are really only three types of backups – manual file by file backup, mirrored backup, and full backup with incremental backups.  The sections following explain each.

1. Manual Backup – All Files with Overwrite

This is your laptop and a big external drive, like a LaCie, Maxtor, Western Digital or other external drive in the 250GB to 2TB range. You use a utility to copy over all your important files to the external drive every day. You just blindly overwrite all the files on the external drive with identical files or newer files from your laptop. This includes development data, source code, financial files, email backups, graphics files and other creative files, among others.

The external drive always has a copy of the latest content from your laptop, so if you screw up or delete a laptop file, you can copy down yesterday’s version.

Why Use: Quick and easy basic daily backup for each laptop. Files pile up on the backup, so that almost anything can be recovered.

Advantages: Cheap and fast, no thinking required. Lots of handy utilities for Mac and PC users. Can do it manually.

Disadvantages: Recovery brings back all the files you’ve worked with for many months, including deleted email copies and discarded versions of files you no longer need.

2. Mirror – All Files – Changed Files Overwrite and Delete Removed Files

You use a disk utility to mirror selected folders from your laptop drive, or to mirror you entire laptop drive, to an external drive.

Newer files are copied over to the external drive, and files now deleted from your laptop drive are also deleted from the external drive.

On completion, the external drive mirrors your laptop drive.

Personal tools available on the Mac side include Carbon Copy Cloner and Super Duper make bootable disks that will run your Mac laptop when your hard drive fails or operating system is corrupted.

For Windows users, you can make bootable backups using your Windows operating system with some help from your IT person. Handy Backup 3 is available for backups to almost any target.

Why Use: Great way to have a complete, bootable copy of your laptop hard drive. Many good utilities are available for Mac and PC to automatically create or update your mirrored copy every day. If your hard drive dies, you can often boot off the external drive.

Advantages: Recovery is easy. You just copy back individual files you want, or copy over everything to completely restore all your live data or to completely restore your entire laptop disk drive.

Disadvantages: If you accidentally hose or delete a file on your laptop and then run a mirror backup, you’re mirrored backup will not have a file to recover later.

3. Full Backup with Incremental Changes Saved Chronologically

Why Use: Primary backup and moving archive.

Advantages: With a big enough disk, you can restore any file or folder to the way it was up to 2 or 3 years into the past. Backup is automatic and silent. Recovery is easy, just drag or tag the folders and files you want and restore. Does not delete files when you edit or change them, but instead keeps both the old and new version, saved by date.

Disadvantages: You’ll want a 2T or 3T disk, but these are not very expensive any more. Requires a good quality backup tool that may take a little bit of time to configure first time. In your startup company, you’ll want your IT person to set up and check desktop backups first time.

Comparison of Backup Examples

The illustration following shows what data your backups will contain with each of these three types of backups. In the illustration, the laptop user creates a Monthly Report on Monday. On Tuesday, the same laptop user updates the Monthly Report and creates a new Leads Summary document.

In the illustration, there’s a table column that shows what’s on the user laptop at the end of the day. There are also three columns for each of the three methods. In each of those columns, you can see what’s on the backup drive at the end of the day.

The Mirrored Backup should always look like your laptop disk at the end of the day.  The Manual Backup will have a copy of every file that lived on your laptop, but it’s going to be very hard for you to figure out which specific files were on your laptop when your laptop died.  The Full Backup with Incremental Backups will have all your files (all time), and it will also keep sorted out which files were on your laptop every day, including the day your laptop died.

Comparison of Backup Methods

Comparison of Backup Methods – What’s on the Backup Drive at the End of Each Day

Cloud Backups for Startups

Getting your backups to an offsite location is essential. Many startups use services like Box.com, Dropbox.com, drive, Mozy, Carbonite, Jungle Disk, Zetta, Symnatec, Amazon AWS, egnyte, idrive, skydive, and others. In addition, there are great cloud tools to allow synchronizing between cloud tools and offsite storage, such as CloudHQ.

Cloud backup is not something you’d do in lieu of local backups, it’s another essential type of backup that you want to do. Local drives fail, and buildings are subject to flood and fire. Remember that in Office Space only the red Swingline stapler was recovered, and it was in bad shape.

Some of the Cloud solutions operate as workgroup solutions, so that the offsite storage acts as a shared team server, just like a shared folder on a server in your office. Jungledisk is one example.

Workgroup Solutions

Many workgroup and SMB solutions are available as backups for startups, and most combine individual laptop or workstation backup with a company local data store (shared drive) and offsite storage.

Confused? It’s not a big deal. About as easy as taking orders for the lunch.

These solutions usually operate on a dedicated local server that performs daily backups for all laptops or work stations on your local network. The first time a laptop is backed up, ALL the laptop data is gathered. After that, only incremental backups are taken.

On a steady basis, backed up content from the local data store is uploaded through the Internet to hosted backup servers in the providers data center.

So overall, data is uploaded to the company-level data store, and from there to the cloud.

There are some different models, including using shared drives that are hosted off-site with individual backup folders.

Recovery of Your Data

Data backup is worthless if you can’t restore it. So when you are shopping for a backup, focus instead on how you might recover files if

  • one of your files became corrupted
  • many files in several folders were corrupted or deleted, so many that you can’t even identify them all without a side by side comparison

The first case is easy. You know the file that’s bad or deleted. The second case is hard, so you need to find out if the tool has a side by side synchronization tool or has an automated tool that helps identify and restore the missing or damaged files.

Until you have to restore a missing or corrupted Outlook database with thousands of emails and attachments, you won’t appreciate how valuable an automated solution can be.

Here you can cobble together your own solution, such as combining a backup tool with a folder comparison tool.

PC users can use something like Acronis True Image, Nova Backup, NovaStor, Symantec, or True Image to make backups. For recovery, particularly side by side file and folder comparison, tools like Scooter Software’s Beyond Compare are hard to beat.

Mac users can locally use Time Machine for incremental backup and recovery, and separately use tools like Carbon Copy Cloner or ChronoSync to make a bootable backup with daily incremental updates. Time Machine can restore files and folders directly. For more selective recovery, tools like Delta Walker can be used.

Don’t Leave Your Intellectual Property to Developers

If your startup or growth company makes software or web apps, your developers keep all the source code for your products on development servers and repositories.

But what if there was a mistake? What if all the source code for your company’s products was accidentally deleted? For example, what if a backup went wrong and overwrote all your backups with zeros?

The answer here is to use a source code escrow service. You make periodic full backups or complete snapshots of your source code, libraries, and make scripts. You check the backup to ensure that everything is included, and that all the files are “good”.

Then you deliver these physically to a code escrow service. The escrow service retains the physical media and the files in its data center. This provides an offsite backup of all your valuable software that can be recalled during disaster recovery as needed. Well-known vendors like Iron Mountain and Escrow Watch provide code escrow services.

Backups for Startups – Tools and Vendors

Bruce Brownlee

Bruce Brownlee

Bruce Brownlee is AVOXI's Digital Marketing Director. Bruce's background includes lead generation, SEO, web analytics, and web development for AVOXI. Bruce has an engineering, telecommunications, and software development background, working with Lotus Development, Blackstone & Cullen, EMC, Cox Communications, Travel Channel, Brand Fever, and AVOXI.
Bruce Brownlee
Bruce Brownlee

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