Best cloud backup solutions for small business: What should you be looking out for?

Are you trying to figure out what the best small business cloud backup solutions are? If so, this is probably because:

a.) You’re a small business (!)

b.) You know data backup is critical to getting that business back up on its feet again if ransomware or cyberattack strikes, or if someone internally either accidentally or maliciously deletes data.

c.) You’ve realised it makes a lot of sense to have data backup in the cloud, where you can easily and securely use it over the internet, rather than backing up data to an onsite tape or USB disk that’s rarely removed from the office or tested, and is as vulnerable as your office itself is to fire, flood, sundry other destruction, and power outage.

If you can say ‘yes’ to all of the above, you’re in good shape to continue. If you couldn’t before but can now, you’re still in good shape to continue.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at what you need to be on the lookout for to ensure your cloud data backup delivers what your business needs – and doesn’t leave you hanging when you need it most.

On-premise, remote, cloud: can your backup handle the mix?

The likelihood these days is that whilst your business may have some on-premise servers running some of your business applications, many of the applications you use will themselves be cloud-based (in fact, in 2021, 98% of UK businesses are reported to be using cloud applications in some way).

It’s imperative, therefore, that the data backup you choose can freely back up data from all these environments – cloud and non-cloud – and quickly restore the backed-up data back into them.

This will typically mean dealing with data from file servers, mail servers, and data servers, (some or all of which could be cloud services like, for example, Microsoft 365, G Suite, Salesforce, etc.) – and, of course, the desktops, laptops and devices that are themselves just another way of generating, using, storing, and (if you get it wrong, losing!) data.

Whether your specific business has more or fewer of any of these data sources isn’t important. What is important is that all your ‘endpoints’, (as IT folk call them), need to be backed up in your cloud backup solution.

So, that solution has to be capable of both accessing the data from all these environments, handling the many different file formats for backup, and – beware! – backing up not just the file and folder data but all the associated system settings and user privileges too.

Being able to restore hundreds of thousands of files back into your systems may look good on paper, but then having to manually rebuild each file’s associated properties from scratch will do little for your business recovery efforts!

Time is money – so how long does a restore take?

Likewise, speed of recovery and restore (that is, how quickly you can get to the backed-up data and bring it back into your systems) is critical in cloud backup for small business.

Plus, according to a study carried out by global market intelligence firm IDC, some 40 – 50% of small business backups are not fully recoverable in any case – so it really is important to get this point right.

Choose a backup solution that enables you both to easily search for and find specific versions of data (so you don’t have to recover everything), but also to rapidly recover them back into your system with no download waits (so you can get back to the small matter of rescuing your business).

How long is the data retained? (Hint: it had better be longer than Microsoft 365!)

If your business operates in any kind of regulated sector, the likelihood is that there will be very strict rules around how long you must retain certain types of data – and you can be fined (or worse!) if you don’t.

The financial sector, of course, is one such industry, as we explored in our recent post, but there are many others – in fact, the National Audit Office (NAO) lists 90 different regulators in the UK in A Short Guide to Regulationand it’s worth checking if any of them could conceivably apply to you.

Even if you’re not in one of these sectors, however, you need to be aware that cloud data storage solutions like Microsoft 365 and G Suite offer very limited data retention and, for this reason and others, are not proper backup.

To put it bluntly, the difference between a true cloud backup solution and relying on apps like Microsoft 365 and G Suite to do a job they were never meant to could be the difference between satisfying the regulators and being hauled up before them.

Or it could just be the difference between being able to retrieve that absolutely critical file that Kevin in Accounts mistakenly deleted a few months back, or not…

Cloud backup for small business: see the big picture!

‘Buy cheap, buy twice’, goes the old adage, and it’s as true of cloud data backup as it is of any other product or service.

Sure, you’re on a small business budget, but there’s a reason why those predominantly US-based cloud backup services you’ve been googling are free – and none of it’s good.

Firstly, take a look at their data centres. They’re outside the EU, and therefore not compliant with EU GDPR legislation and its UK equivalent.

What about their tech support? If they’ve got any (and they don’t just ask you to download a do-it-yourself PDF guide instead!) it’s in a US or even Philippines time zone, setting you up for some really fun late-night conversations.

And what’s their security like? Do they meet accepted UK data security standards like ISO 27001? And even if they do, how do you feel about the fact that the backup data they hold is subject to US Patriot Act snooping? How would that go down with your clients if it went public?

Small business or not, sometimes you’ve just got to see the bigger picture. Choose UK data centres, choose in-country tech support, and choose a provider that offers affordable, manageable monthly billing in return for a reliable service that you can manage from any browser, and that grows with you.

After all, if a company offered to insure your house and possessions for £2.50 a year when the going rate was £250, would you trust them to deliver? No.

So why, then, would you not apply the same logic to insuring the critical data that keeps your business afloat?