Data retention strategies for SMEs

Summary:Backup and archiving may not head the IT agendas of many small businesses, but for reasons of business continuity and regulatory compliance, the prudent SME will be formulating a data retention strategy. We examine the options.

Backup and archiving are activites that many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often either don’t think about, or are ill-equipped to handle. However, legislation regarding the storage of email and digital business records is changing, and this may result in many businesses facing unexpected penalties if they do not have a comprehensive data retention strategy. In companies lacking an IT department, or even an office manager and central servers, workers are often reluctant to organise their data so that it can be easily backed up, and are reluctant to spend any time actually performing backups. This can be due to lack of training and to data backup not being specified as a part of their job. Backup is often regarded as extra work that isn’t essential to everyday job performance.

Current backup solutions for SMEs are add-ons that are relatively difficult to use and difficult to integrate into an office workflow. They consist of backup software, either installed on individual PCs or on a server that must be purchased with a suitable number of licences to cover the number of users, and backup hardware and its associated media. End users might find backup a lot easier if the required software and hardware were sold integrated into business PCs and their operating systems.

It’s particularly ironic that, today, the cheapest, fastest and most convenient way to back up the contents of a hard disk is to use another hard disk.

Backup system design considerations
The design considerations for backup systems are complex and demanding. They include media cost, media capacity, media longevity and durability, compatibility, security, re-usability and disposability, backup and restore speed, ease-of-use and ease of access to legacy data.

Longevity is a major problem with systems used for long-term archiving, not only in terms of media storage life, but perhaps most critically in the turnover time of the software and hardware used to create and read the backups. Having media with a storage life in excess of 100 years is pretty meaningless if, after only five years, the software and hardware required to read it is no longer in use. Clearly, longevity does not pose as big a problem for short-term backup.

Almost all backup systems provide security via passwords and data encryption, although this is usually an option and may not always be implemented by the user.


Topics: Storage, Reviews

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