Man wonders about data backup in front of question marks.

What is a data backup and how does it work?

Disasters happen without warning, and when they do, you could find your business without access to its data.

When the network goes down, you can’t process sales, pull reports, or enter accounting records. It leaves you stranded and paying salaries while no work is happening. If your data isn’t recoverable, the problem might be so insurmountable you’ll be forced to shut down.

Sixty percent of businesses that suffer catastrophic data loss shut down within six months. With those figures in mind, it pays to be prepared with a comprehensive data backup solution.

What is a backup?

A backup is simply a copy of all your data.

It can include everything from customer records and payroll information to transaction history and ongoing projects. A good backup covers all your business data (though not always in real time).

Backups can range from on-site software programs to cloud-based systems that store your data in multiple physical locations.

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How does a backup work?

There are several ways to handle backups. Some small businesses back up their server contents once a day, while others automatically back up information a few times throughout the day. These backups can be stored on a separate server, written to physical discs, or stored off-site in cloud storage.

A progressive backup records the changes from the last time the information was stored. That makes a backup file more compact and easy to load. But it can also create a problem if one of the files in the chain is corrupted. A full backup of the system can take more time but provides a complete picture.

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What are the most common backup methods?

Backup systems come in 4 basic styles: full, incremental, differential, and mirror.

Full backups – This backup includes everything stored on your machines including every file and folder.

Incremental backups – By only recording changes from the first full backup, this type requires less storage space and happens much more quickly.

Differential backups – Like incremental, differential backups only record changes, but instead of recording changes from the last incremental backup, they record all changes from the last full backup. This takes up more storage space and can take a little more time when recording.

Mirror backup – By making a complete copy of everything on the system, you have all the advantages of a full backup without also storing obsolete files. You only copy what is currently on the system, so deleted files don’t carry forward.

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How do you select the right backup solution?

How long you can last without data should dictate what type of backup solution you run with.

For example, incremental backups require a smaller investment to set up and maintain, but they also take the longest to generate a full restore if something goes wrong.

Mirror backups are not as costly as full backups, but you could permanently delete an important file if the new backup overwrites the old before the deletion is noticed.

For best results, most businesses use a combination of strategies that include either differential or incremental and regularly scheduled full or mirror backups. With regular complete copies and updates along the way, you can remain confident in your backup strategy.

If you’d like to keep reading, check out The Definitive Guide: How to keep your business data alive.