Data Protection for the Self-Employed and Small Businesses

Tech users can be divided into two categories: Those that have lost their data in the past, and those who will lose data in the future. This also applies to businesses. However, for small businesses and those that are self-employed, data loss can quickly become much more than an inconvenience, spelling financial ruin for those that are caught completely off-guard.

Data protection and backup strategies are important aspects for any business to get a handle on, however, they're often overlooked. The good news is that securing files has never been easier or more user-friendly, with regular data backups no longer the hurdle they once were.

In this article, we'll introduce you to a few different methods for securing your data, helping to protect you and your business from any issues.

How is Data Lost in the First Place?

Data loss has a lot of different faces. On the basest level, look no further than yourself. We've all deleted or overwritten files by accident. Most of the time, these kinds of issues can be swiftly rectified, however, they remain an annoyance. Especially for the self-employed and small business owners, the amount of time lost spent recovering files that were misplaced or inadvertently deleted can and does sap company resources.

Human error is only one danger, though. In other cases, computer hardware is the culprit, since, despite being more reliable than human memory, damage, either physical or virtual, can be just as destructive as a concussion. Unfortunately, digital threats must also be factored in, with viruses, malware, ransomware, and cyberattacks often resulting in complete data loss. Finally, we can't forget about good old theft or oversight, such as leaving your laptop on an overhead storage bin, or the seat next to you on the subway. In sum there's more than enough reason to regularly secure critical data.

Backup Basics: The 3-2-1 Principle

The goal of any backup strategy is to minimize the risk of data loss to the greatest extent possible. The 3-2-1 principle serves as the basis for numerous data protection methods. The numbers refer to:

  • 3 copies of your data (on)
  • 2 different storage devices or locations (including)
  • 1 off-site copy

The more copies of data you have, the lower the risk of losing it. For that reason, every business should have at least two backups of its file (in addition to the originals). These backups should be spread across at least two different mediums, one of which should be an off-site copy or located somewhere else. Since small businesses in particular often don't have multiple branches or locations, integrating cloud backups into this approach can prove useful.

Data Protection Strategies for Businesses

Keeping the 3-2-1 principle in mind can help you develop a data security plan of action for your business. In general, backups can be discerned based on the type of medium they use.

1.

Traditional Solutions

The traditional approach to creating backups uses local storage devices. In principle, all three conditions of the 3-2-1 principle can be fulfilled in this manner. Among the most important types of storage devices are:

  • USB hard drives
    The most popular tool for securing data are external hard drives. Whereas this strategy is not really suitable or feasible for large companies, smaller ones can definitely make use of it. USB hard drives are cheap, portable, and meet the 3-2-1 principle's requirements. One of the major disadvantages of this approach is that they have shorter lifespans than magnet tapes, and can quickly (and easily) be damaged.
  • Magnet tapes
    You probably think that magnet tapes are a relic from the 80s or even earlier, however, even well into the 21st century, they remain a popular and reliable choice for securing data. Magnet types are only temporarily connected with your system, and therefore also effective in protecting against malware. One drawback of these tapes is that they aren't made for files that frequently change and regularly need to be backed up.
  • NAS systems
    USB hard drives are often enough for small businesses, however, for larger enterprises, more backup power will be necessary. Here, network attached storage (NAS) systems come into play. They are more convenient than external hard drives, operating as a shared server for an entire computer network. Among the most well-known NAS producers are Synology and Western Digital. Since NAS systems are physically located in your office, they are as prone to physical damage as other storage devices on the same network. For that reason, you shouldn't forget about the protection afforded by application of the 3-2-1 principle.

It is possible to save your data without any hardware whatsoever, should you opt for a cloud storage provider.

2.

Data Protection Without Hardware: Cloud Backup

The advent of the 'cloud' has revolutionized data protection for small businesses. Changes no longer need to be saved individually but occur automatically. Basic cloud storage services like Dropbox are adequate for securing important data.

However, specially designed software solutions are the most practical. In our comprehensive comparison of cloud backup solutions, you can find a number of services and subscriptions, sorting them based on your needs to find the optimal solution for you or your business.

Compared to more traditional approaches to data protection, cloud solutions offer a number of advantages:

Make defects, theft, or loss non-issues

Can be accessed anywhere at anytime, provided you have an Internet connection

Offer custom made solution for small businesses

As always, greater convenience does come at a cost, and cloud providers do have a few vulnerabilities.

Data can be abused

Some are vulnerable to hackers

Have complicated and unclear privacy policies, particularly among non-European providers

Data Protection vs. Archiving

Frequently, the terms backup and data protection are used when what is actually meant is archiving. These denote completely different processes that share only one thing: Both require the usage of supplementary mediums for storing data.

Archiving refers to the long-term conservation of data, which can't be changed or overwritten. In contrast, data protection is the short- or mid-term saving of copies of existing files, which can be subsequently modified as they change.

Conclusion: Backups Are a Must

A workable backup strategy is essential for every business, regardless of its size. Traditional methods can be used, or you can opt for more convenient cloud providers. Whatever the case, by keeping the 3-2-1 principle in mind, you can make sure that you're prepared for any eventuality.

Regardless of whether you're one of the lucky people who still hasn't had to deal with data loss, or you've had a few near traumatic experiences with it in the past, there's no better time to develop a data protection strategy than right now!

Author (German Version): Martin Gschwentner
Martin Gschwentner majored in American Studies and Media Studies in Germany, the USA and France and works as a freelance editor in Paris. He is a doctoral student at the Institute for English and American Studies at the University of Paris Diderot, where he is researching the influence of money on US politics. On EXPERTE.com he writes about IT security, data protection and software for the self-employed and small businesses.
English Translator & Editor: D Bare
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