February 08, 2011, 1:32 PM — As with buying insurance or taking vitamins, committing to data backup is a hard sell. Everyone knows that storing records safely in more than one place protects the health of a business, but many companies fail to establish backup systems that will keep them running if disaster strikes.
Unfortunately, often it takes a crisis--such as a natural disaster, a theft, or a system failure that wipes out a legacy of data--to motivate action.
Realizing that you need a new storage strategy sometimes comes less dramatically and more gradually. Very small companies are often unprepared for success, relying on backup products that are fine for individual consumers but incapable of adjusting as several months' or years' worth of records pile up.
Less than 20% of small to midsize businesses polled by Gartner research named storage as a top spending priority for 2011.
Thankfully, establishing a reliable and serious storage and recovery system is more affordable and less time-consuming than it was just a few years ago. More small and midsize companies are turning away from tapes or hard-disk consumer systems in favor of appliances that attach to a local network and beyond, or to strictly cloud-based services.
Frustrated by high costs or by technology that's lacking in features or difficult to use, one-fifth of organizations will change the brand they lean on for backup this year, according to Gartner.
Backup systems ideally run in the background without much human effort and let you restore data to specific points in time. Look for backup behind a backup system, such as a disk-to-disk-to-cloud setup, composed essentially of Web-based storage tied to hardware in more than one location. And make sure that a cloud-storage service offers redundant servers in different geographic locations.
Among the many options, easily expandable storage area networks have come down in price, but still cost thousands of dollars. Many small businesses are increasingly finding that network-attached storage boxes, whether off the shelf or customized by an IT pro, fit their budget and are small enough to sit on a desk.
"The main benefits of going to NAS is that it will be much faster," says Rachel Dines, an analyst with Forrester Research. Look for deduplication and server virtualization for lower costs and more flexibility in managing data over the long haul, she says.