SMB Online Backup Specifications

Online Backup Service Requirements For Small or Medium Business

Online Backup needs for a small or medium business (SMB) are much different than those of a single user or perhaps a family with a lot of multimedia.

In fact, many small and medium businesses really do not have that much data to protect, at least not in relation to the massive music, movie and photo collections of personal users.

As a consultant to businesses in the SMB space for the last couple of decades I understand what backup needs have been and what they really should be in the era of cloud computing. The economic benefit of using an online backup service, in addition to the protection offered, is becoming quite lopsided as the alternatives like tape backup price themselves out of existence.

Centralized Business Data

If you have a small or medium business your data should be centralized on a server or NAS device of some type – absolutely no data should be stored on a workstation, and for the sake of your business, clients/customers and employees do not EVER store company data on a laptop or other mobile device!

Data directories in software utilized should be set for the file server, probably via a share. MS Small Business Server makes “redirecting” the workstation “My Documents” data to the server quite easy. There are other methods also.

Therefore many online backup services will be immediately ruled out because they are not supported on a server operating system or do not allow backup of network shares (in the case of a NAS device).

For purposes of our discussions here, I do not consider a workstation “acting” as a fileserver – even if dedicated – to be a server. (Usually it’s more of a data accident waiting to happen.)

SMB Online Backup Specifications Detailed

  • Online Backup Software must be supported on the operating system of your primary data server or a secondary server that will be responsible for backups. Microsoft Small Business Server 2003, 2008 or 2011 are perfect examples of this as are any other Microsoft Server product you might be running.
  • Support Mapped Drives. Whether you have multiple servers with one acting as the backup server or use a NAS Device that will not run its own online backup service software – data residing in these situations will be backed up as a mapped drive.
  • Online Backup Software must “run as a service” on a server such as a Microsoft Windows Server. An alternative could be to log in to the server and “lock” the console but that is not only a poor substitute for running as a service but also is vulnerable to user error or a server reboot due to power issues or a Windows update reboot.
  • Security according to any compliance requirements such as HIPAA; reasonably secure for all other needs.
  • There must be no file size or overall size limits that current or projected company data will exceed.
  • There must be no bandwidth restrictions that would prevent a backup job from completing in a timely fashion.
  • Availability and reliability of the service must be exceptional; as best as can be for a “cloud computing” product.
  • Naturally, the service must be reasonably affordable to the business.
  • Tech Support must be reachable promptly (for a fee if necessary) for assistance in time sensitive restores.
  • Easy to understand reporting and, preferably, alerts.

Other “Optional” Online Backup Specifications

Here are some other online backup service features that may be either required for certain businesses or just highly desirable.

  • Ability to expedite a complete data restore via courier and secure portable media.
  • In the case of large amounts of data the ability to transfer an initial backup via courier and portable (secure) media is desirable.
  • Database backup support for high end products like a SQL Server or MS Exchange.
  • Open files support.
  • Continuous monitoring of file changes throughout the work day, only recommended if “versioning” is supported.
  • Data Archive – Storage of data that you no longer store on your server.
  • Version Support – Keeping dated versions of the same file, either to a limit of number of versions or time limit.
  • Individual accounts on a user basis, but aggregated for cost and management purposes.

While there are more than one service that meets these criteria, overall, at least, the one that we have had the best success with among many small business clients is Mozy Pro.