Data Storage: Serious Business for SMBs

As businesses grow, many experience an unexpected need for immediate, expanded capacity and excess data storage. This is imperative for businesses to maintain technical momentum through periods of growth and provide a safety net in worst case scenarios such as hardware failure and security breaches. Small businesses should proactively develop a data storage plan – in addition to selecting storage platforms – to protect company data and provide options for accessing data at any time.

Last year, an additional motivation for data storage emerged. New amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which went into effect on December 1, 2006, require any organization with the potential to be involved in litigation to be prepared for electronic delivery requests. Paired with HIPAA regulations and guidelines laid down by other government agencies, the message is clear: data storage and back-up is a must for any business, regardless of size.

Depending on the size of a business and its data, two main options can provide a proper back-up system: tape back-up for a server or an external hard drive:

1. Tape Back-up

For those companies operating on a small-business server, tape back-up provides the flexibility coupled with functionality that address specific small business needs. When using a tape back-up system, it’s important to develop a plan for how often updates will be made, which will depend on the volume of data being developed as well as the type of data to be stored. In addition, back-up tapes require a storage plan either off-site or in a fire-proof box.

Part of developing the plan is determining which data is crucial and which data is secondary. Backing up every single piece of data will not only cause the tapes to fill quickly, but also will make searching through each one more tedious for the user. One example of secondary data is personal data, such as photos, which may take up a lot of space but don’t require back up. By creating folder hierarchies that separate business and personal files, the most pertinent files are easily identified.

A server environment also provides the opportunity for advanced capabilities such as digital fax storage, which stores electronic files of faxed documents, such as signed contracts.

2. External Hard Drive

For a business that lacks a server and instead operates on an individual computer, critical data is saved to a hard drive and an external hard drive can fill back-up needs. Hard drives also can be used to transfer data from one computer to another without defiling the integrity of the information. The benefits of using an external hard drive are numerous and also essential for backing-up and storing data at a reasonable cost. Most models are designed for easy access via plug-and-play set-up or by pushing a button on the front of the drive.

There are many different types of hard drives available with varying levels of capabilities, complexity, capacity and levels of security. Identify which features are most important to a business and allow for the maximum utility of the hard drive. Research the options, ask for advice and find which hard drive is the best fit.

Other options exist as well, including the use of a flash drive for a convenient form of storage in terms of size and interface. Other options are online data storage services to offer remote, secure and simple methods to protect and backup data.

Consider Data Accessibility Needs

When data needs to be accessed from a back-up drive or tape, small businesses can make these instances less cumbersome by maintaining and documenting a detailed back-up plan. Understand how file directories work and keep track of when key documents are created and then stored. Streamline the process by keeping employees informed of the details by providing detailed information of how storage systems work, how to most effectively utilize the system, how certain processes may change in the future and asking them to archive their e-mail. Software such as Symantec Back-Up Exec can assist in the process. When managed properly, data access becomes easier.

By purchasing the hardware and software to support a data storage plan, then sticking to that plan, small businesses put themselves in a position of compliance with data storage laws and also protect the information needed to operate a business.

Be Proactive About Storage and Protection

It’s never too late for a small business to develop a game-plan to prevent attacks on the company’s important data. Many ways exist to proactively prevent damage or loss of information. 

  • Familiarize employees with the consequences that may be incurred if the business is not prepared to protect important data.
  • Employ and maintain current antivirus and spyware protection software to serve as a first defense against outside attacks that attempt to gain access, corrupt, or destroy files.
  • Pair software with a firewall to provide another level of security to keep data safe from intruders. 
  • Make sure to always be cautious of e-mail from unfamiliar sources and to avoid Web sites notorious for attaching spyware and viruses to data systems.

 As recommended for any organization utilizing computers for development and data storage, keep computers’ operating system up-to-date.  As part of the back-up plan, make sure systems have the latest updates, patches and protection software to sustain the integrity of the operating system and storage security. Consider regularly performing test restores from both the tape and hard drive back up-systems according to a predetermined schedule to take a pulse check of the condition of the hardware. A test restore uses remote data backup software to check a date in the past to ensure the data was saved properly. These steps are key to maintaining a high-level of protection for business files.

Keep Employees “In the Know”

Sharing best practices throughout the company will ensure that all employees are aware of the data protection plan.  By informing employees on how to best organize their data, the process of data storage will be easier, more organized and well-maintained.  This also will assist in keeping back-up storage units in proper working order and can extend the life of the hardware. 

Providing a calendar and testing schedule allows employees to prepare for and best adapt to the data storage and protection plan. Employees should be notified when test restores are planned and when new hardware is being implemented. In addition, the entire staff should be informed on when and how to download patches, updates and upgrades for their individual systems.

 These important practices will allow for an effortless program implementation and create a solid foundation for convenient and efficient data storage system for small businesses.

About the Author

Best Buy For Business is designed to meet the technology needs of small businesses, offering business-class technology products and technology solutions consultations to help small business owners design, implement and maintain their technology infrastructure. Customers can engage Best Buy For Business through locations within more than 300 Best Buy stores around the country, via the web at, and over the phone.

More by Bill Bridgeman

About Best Buy For Business

The Best Buy brand is synonymous with great selection, knowledgeable staff and the belief that technology can be fun. With Best Buy For Business, we're carrying that over to the small and medium business market, as well as the government and education markets. By combining the bricks-and-mortars Best Buy stores with our direct reseller channels, Best Buy For Business is poised to capture a large share of a lucrative and underserved market.