There are a few common things that evolve as one does the majority of work within the SOHO/small business market. One is certainly printers, the evil nemesis of any office. But, a far more critical one would be “backups”. While most people are aware of the need, undoubtedly having suffered through some manner of data loss over the years, I find the vast majority of users simply do not approach it with a clear strategy. And to be fair, that strategy differs wildly depending on what the individual/company is doing with data.
Essentially, I’ve defined backups to be within two basic approaches, which I’ll deal with separately. The first and most comprehensive approach that’s appeared over the last few years is the “total” backup, meaning that -everything- is backed up and in such a way that a complete, bootable restore is always available. In simpler terms, think about your main laptop’s hard drive dying. As scary of a thought as this can be, with a “total” backup, you simply replace the dead hard drive, and using whatever software you have backed up with, you completely restore the drive from whatever was your last backup. The “image” includes the ability to boot the computer as well. This is also referred to a “ghost” backup (there’s nothing particularly spooky about it…). The other approach is to simply make sure that all your data files, whether it’s accounting data, artwork, your website, whatever you may have that your business relies upon is consistently backed up to some other drive.
The Apple Approach
For Apple users, this is handled by *well* Time Machine, built into OSX for the last few versions. If you are using an Time Capsule, you reconnect to the Time Capsule with your new drive installed and you will be asked to restore the entire image. A handful of hours later, you now have your Macbook restored and ready to run, with all your files and programs intact. You don’t necessarily need the Time Capsule version of the Airport router to be able to fully utilize this, it can be done via an external hard drive, or, my personal favorite method, to a Drobo (more on Drobos…). While Time Machine is excellent at dealing with complete drive images, it’s also quite the lifesaver when it comes to individual files and folders as well
The Windows Approach
For the PC world, there is a variety of products out there, and my favorite has long been the Acronis line of products. Acronis has a long history of making great backup/restore software and I have used this in a few instances now, with great success. Basically, it allows for either the file/folder approach to backing up, or, the safer Image backup. For me, I deeply prefer using the Image backup for customers. While I’m often quite willing to sit there and manually install the OS, reinstall all their application programs and then their actual used data, it’s far more time effective to drop in a new drive and restore the entire, bootable image all in one swing, leaving their system exactly as it was (dependent on when the last backup was run of course…) when the old drive crashed. There’s a few products available that handle the entire partition being backed up, ideally in a bootable state but, recently I have had great results with the Acronis line of products. It even has the ability to “virtualize” a partition for use within VMWare, allowing me in one case to have a customer continue to use their old, cranky, DOS-based accounting package, which showed zero interest in working under Windows 7. By virtualizing this into a Windows XP system, they will undoubtedly be able to continue to use this package for many years to come.
Truth be told, if you buy either of these products via the links below, I do get a small cut, however, the sole reason I have included these two products is simple. I use them daily. I’m extremely happy with how a DroboFS has fit into my own office network. Acronis True Image products have bailed me out of some sticky situations with Windows based customers. Both have been excellent products that I’ll be continuing to use for many years to come and thus, worthy of a big recommendation from me.
Drobo, Unique, Different. Essentially, Drobo devices are much like a RAID device, without some of the hassles of “normal” RAID systems. You can swap in whatever size, manufacturer hard drives you wish, and Drobo sorts it, providing large, redundant drive systems for any size of business, from a small home office to much larger enterprise size networks. These things are tanks and are extremely easy to deal with, regardless of whether or not you are on a Mac, PC, Windows, Linux or OSX.
I talked briefly about Acronis above but, I’ll say it again, this is great software. Installs easily and performs flawless backups that are easy to restore if need be. Plus, it can provide complete image backup as well, making a complete restore a trivial matter. I could go on and on about this package’s power but, needless to say, I highly recommend it.