A Guide to Cloud-Based Backup Strategies for Small Businesses

Whether you sell products or services, data is one of the most valuable assets your small business can have. From customer information and transaction records to intellectual property, the data you accumulate is integral to your operations and growth. And with the increasing threats of cyberattacks, system failures, and data breaches, protecting that data has never been more important. 

Cloud-based backup strategies offer many benefits for small businesses who want to be proactive about safeguarding their data efficiently and cost-effectively. In this guide, we’ll dive into how your small business can leverage cloud-based backup solutions to ensure it always remains secure and available. 

We’ll cover:

  • What is cloud-based backup? 
  • Risks of not storing data backups 
  • Advantages of cloud-based backups vs. traditional backups 
  • Crafting your cloud backup strategy
  • Overcoming challenges with cloud backup
  • Best practices for implementing cloud-based backups

Let’s dig in! 

Understanding Cloud-Based Backup

Before diving into strategies, it's essential to understand what cloud-based backup is and how it differs from traditional backup methods. Essentially, a backup is a copy of your files and information that can be used should you ever lose the original copy. 

Cloud backup, also known as online backup or remote backup, involves copying data over a network to an off-site server, typically hosted by a third-party service provider. This approach contrasts with traditional backup methods, such as using external hard drives, which often require manual intervention and physical storage space.

The Risks of Not Storing Data Backups

Backups are kind of like a spare tire—you don’t know how important they are until you need them. If you ever had your computer crash in college while writing an essay, you’ll understand just how painful lost data can be! But today, only 24% of organizations have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan in place, and more alarmingly, 51% of small- and medium-sized businesses lack an incident response plan entirely. 

Why is this so risky? Here are just a few reasons. 

Data Loss Can Be Devastating

Whether it’s caused by a cyberattack, hardware failure, or human error, data loss can severely impact small businesses. A report by IBM and the Ponemon Institute cites that the average cost of a data breach for businesses with less than 500 employees is $2.98 million. And while the amount will vary by incident, it’s unlikely you’ll emerge financially unscathed. Having your data backed up can alleviate that expenditure significantly. 

Operational Downtime Is Expensive

Put simply, downtime is the period of time when your computer systems or network is inoperable—and if you lose data without backups available to deploy, downtime can be significant. One ITIC report cites that 98% of organizations face over $100,000 in losses for just one hour of downtime. For small businesses, this can translate to significant revenue loss and damage to customer trust.

Increased Cyber Threat Vulnerability

Without backups, businesses are more susceptible to cyber threats like ransomware. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) highlights a rise in ransomware incidents, with recovery averaging over $1.85 million—meaning cybercriminals are demanding huge ransoms in return for data, and if you don’t have a copy of your data somewhere else, you might just pay up to get your information back. Simply put, regular backups allow you to restore data without yielding to ransom demands.

Costly and Complex Recovery

If your small business were to suddenly lose all of its files, financial data, and customer information, could you recover without a backup? The sad but realistic answer is probably no. Recovering data without backups is often impossible, or at minimum incredibly expensive. 

Advantages of Cloud-Based Backup vs. Traditional Backup 

Cloud-based backup solutions offer a modern alternative to traditional backup methods, providing enhanced flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness. Here’s how the cloud has transformed data protection for businesses like yours. 

  • Scalability — Cloud services can easily scale up or down based on your data storage needs, eliminating the need for upfront investments in storage infrastructure.
  • Cost-effectiveness — With a pay-as-you-go pricing model, small businesses only pay for the storage they use, avoiding the capital expense of purchasing and maintaining hardware.
  • Accessibility — Data backed up in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, provided there is internet connectivity—facilitating flexibility with remote work. 
  • Security — Reputable cloud service providers like Microsoft Azure Backup implement robust security measures, including encryption and multi-factor authentication, to protect data from unauthorised access and cyber threats.
  • Automated backupsManaged backup services providers often offer automated backup options, reducing the risk of data loss due to overlooked manual backups.

Now that you’re clear on the benefits that cloud-based backup can bring to your small business, let’s dive into how you can get started crafting a strategy with your IT Managed Services Provider (MSP). 

Crafting Your Cloud Backup Strategy

A well-thought-out cloud backup strategy is essential for small businesses. The name of the game here is proactivity—because waiting for an incident to occur before you develop a backup strategy defeats the purpose entirely. So, here's how to get started with the help of your internal IT team or MSP:

1. Assess Your Data Backup Needs

Start by identifying what data needs to be backed up, how frequently it changes, and how quickly you need to recover it in the event of loss. This assessment will help determine your storage requirements and the backup schedule.

2. Choose the Right Cloud Backup Provider

Select a provider that offers the storage capacity, security features, and scalability your business requires. Consider factors like compliance with industry regulations, customer support, and the provider's track record. Your MSP likely already has preferred vendors for backup storage, so work with them to understand their recommendations. 

3. Set Up a Backup Schedule

Determine how often your data needs to be backed up. For critical data, consider daily or real-time backups. Less sensitive information might only need weekly or monthly backups. Remember, automation is key to ensuring backups are performed consistently! 

4. Implement Redundant Backups

Do not rely on a single backup solution. Implementing a 3-2-1 backup strategy—keeping at least three copies of your data, with two stored on different media and one located off-site (in the cloud)—can provide additional security.

5. Regularly Test and Monitor Backups

On average, only 57% of backups are successful. This is why regularly testing your backups to ensure data can be effectively restored is crucial. Monitoring backup processes can also help identify and address any issues promptly, ensuring your data remains safe.

Overcoming Challenges with Cloud-Based Backup

While cloud-based backup offers numerous benefits, your small business may encounter several challenges. Here's how to address them:

Managing Costs

Though cost-effective, cloud storage costs can escalate with increased data volumes. Optimise your backup strategy by only backing up essential data and regularly cleaning up obsolete or redundant data.

Ensuring Data Security

Data security in the cloud is a common concern. Work with your MSP to understand the security measures offered by your cloud services provider, and ensure they align with your business's needs. Implement additional security practices (such as encryption) on your end to enhance data protection.

Achieving Compliance

If your business operates in a regulated industry like law, finance, or healthcare, compliance with regulatory requirements is important to consider. Choose a cloud provider that offers compliance solutions tailored to your industry, ensuring your cloud-based backups meet regulatory standards.

Best Practices for Cloud-Based Backup

Adopting best practices can enhance the effectiveness of your cloud backup strategy. Here are some to consider:

  • Regularly review and update your backup strategy — As your business grows and evolves, so too will your backup needs. Regular reviews will ensure your strategy remains aligned with your business objectives.
  • Educate your team — Ensure your employees understand the importance of data backups and know how to access and restore data if needed. Work with your MSP to develop a training and awareness program. 
  • Choose providers with data centres in multiple locations — This can protect your data in the event of a physical disaster that affects one location. With cloud, this shouldn’t be much of an issue if you’re working with a large and reputable provider like Azure Backup. 

Get Advice on Data Backups for Your Small Business 

If learning about data backups feels overwhelming, or is simply something you don’t have time to manage, tell us about your business and we’ll get you set up for success. Our team offers Managed Backup Services that empower you to offload everything mentioned in this article. In the end, you’ll sleep better at night knowing your business information is safe and secure. 

Interested in safeguarding your small business? 

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