4 questions to ask when choosing the best cloud backup service provider

Play it safe by implementing smart data backup procedures right from the start of your business

by Rieva Lesonsky

No matter what kind of small business you’re starting, protecting your computers and data from theft, viruses, or disaster is critical. You’ll have customers’ financial information, personal information and your own business information, such as bank accounts, to protect. That’s why planning and implementing a business backup system should be part of every startup plan today.

There are two aspects to business data backup: backing up and storing your data, and then being able to retrieve and restore it if needed. The most basic form of business backup is plugging an external hard drive into your computer. While this certainly is a good first step, it also has limitations—a lot of them. You’ll have to configure the drive, set up the backup, and regularly check to make sure it’s working. Hard drives can fail, which leaves you without a backup. And the biggest limitation, of course, is that if a fire, flood, or other disaster destroys your business, it will also destroy that hard drive—and all the data stored on it. Having a local backup is only half of the equation.

More and more small businesses are turning to cloud backup services, which offer convenience, simplicity, and reliability. Cloud backup means your data is backed up into the cloud—that is, online—rather than onto a physical server or drive on your premises. Although there are many offerings in this space, some focused purely on backup services include CrashPlan, BackBlaze, and AT&T Tech Support 360 Backup and Go.

Not all cloud backup solutions, however, are created equal—and while it’s simple to sign up with a backup service, switching to a new one if you’re dissatisfied can be quite a hassle. To avoid this, do your homework before you choose a cloud backup provider. Here are some questions to ask.

Where do you store the data?

Some companies store data offshore, which can be riskier because there is less regulation overseas. For best results, use a provider that stores your data in the U.S.

How is the data backed up?

Good cloud backup providers will have redundant systems so there is backup of your backup in case something happens on the cloud company’s premises. Ask what kind of disaster recovery plan the company has in place. Does the service support file revisions? This allows you to go back to an earlier version of a file, which can be extremely helpful.

How much will it cost?

Do they charge per GB (gigabyte) or is it a flat rate for unlimited storage? Is there any fine print for “unlimited” backup? And do they back up all types of files? Some providers will skip larger file types such as videos or digital software downloads, which means you don’t have a complete set of your data backed up. Some providers might charge you to download your data, which could become expensive.

How quickly can my data be restored?

Just because your data is backed up doesn’t necessarily mean you can instantly get it back. Find out how long it will take to restore lost data, whether that’s immediately, a matter of hours, or a matter of days. Time is money; being without critical information for days or weeks can hamstring your business. Some cloud backup providers have an option to courier your data on a hard drive so you’ll have it all back within one or two days.

If your industry requires you to meet certain security standards for your data, make sure the provider you choose can help you meet your compliance requirements

Once you’ve selected a cloud backup provider, the rest is simple—all you have to do is sign up for the service, then select the data you want backed up and how often. A popular option is backing up and syncing continuously. This means you always have the most recent data stored, which is great if you frequently update files.

Choosing the right backup solution that allows you to “set it and forget it” takes one startup hassle off your hands.