How to choose the best small business backup strategy

Learn what’s out there for small business backup options, including disk-based backup, NAS and the cloud.

There are many small business backup options available today, but deciding on the right solution can be a daunting task. In this Q&A, frequent SearchSMBStorage contributor Brien Posey talks with assistant editor John Hilliard about some small business backup options, such as a NAS backup target, and the pros and cons of each approach. Listen to our podcast or read the transcript posted below.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a NAS target for small business backup?

Some of the biggest advantages are that network-attached storage (NAS) targets tend to be high capacity and low cost. Sometimes they can also really high performance, because some NAS devices have built-in RAID arrays. The biggest disadvantage is they're generally not removable, so they're not suitable for unplugging them and shipping them off-site for safe storage.

How do you know if you should choose NAS for backup? Why not just back up to some other kind of disk array or just tape?

Those are both good options. As far as using a regular disk array, a lot of times NAS is going to be cheaper because you don't have all of the typical licensing costs that come with the file server, plus file server hardware tends to be more expensive. Tape is also a good option, but the big problem with tape is it's hard to do very frequent backups, whereas with the NAS device you can do real-time backups.

So a better solution than just using one or the other is generally to do a disk-to-disk-to tape (D2D2T) backup, where you typically backup to your NAS device, and then at the end of the day, you dump that to tape.  

Deduplication makes disk backup much more feasible by reducing the amount of data backed up. Which is more appropriate for small business backup, software-based dedupe or hardware-based dedupe?

It depends on what you have, but as a general rule, hardware-based deduplication tends to be expensive, and deduplication is already built into a lot of the backup applications as a standard feature. So you may already have software-based deduplication, and just need to turn it on.

What about cloud backup? Is it feasible as a backup target, or do you see it more as an archive solution? Why?

It's feasible to a degree [as a backup target]. Some services are better than others. But one of the big problems you'll run into with cloud backup is that a lot of them aren't application-aware. So for example, a cloud backup solution might be great for backing up a typical file server, but if you've got something like Exchange or SharePoint, that requires a database-level backup; unless your cloud backup solution is specifically designed to handle those applications, it might not work so well.

Are there any other small business backup options to consider, such as removable hard drives or optical media such as DVDs?

Those are all good options, but once again, it depends on your situation. Removable hard drives are great because they offer tons of capacity and can be really cheap. The biggest drawback is that they can be really slow, because any time you're dealing with removable disk, you really don’t have the option of setting them up in a RAID situation.

Optical media isn't a great choice for backing up because of low capacity, but there are situations in which it could work. For example, on my own network, I'll usually make a backup to optical media once or twice a year as a permanent record. But it takes a couple hundred DVDs, or 25 or 30 Blu-Rays, depending on what you're using.

Dig Deeper on Data storage backup tools