Data drives progress. Until a new breakthrough in the way we store, analyze, and spread information changes, it’s hard to reach peak business performance without a strong data backbone.

Can your team process information without much of a challenge–at least compared to the competition? Do you have ways to store information about clients, customers, products, services, employees, and investors? Can you make sense of that data with databases, analysis, and reports?

Answering those questions is a work in progress for everyone. Even if you can say yes by today’s standards, there is always a next step.

But there’s also a step back. If your data is corrupted, too slow to access, locked down by hackers, or overwritten by accident, what can you do about it? If you’re lucky, there is an undo button or a tech out there who can repair the issue.

For many businesses, vital data can be lost in an instant and the march to progress starts over from weeks, months, or even years ago. A versatile backup plan can make the fall from grace less painful, but what does versatile mean?

Here are a few details to help you understand how backups work, how you can save vital information, and which IT partners can help you make the right choice.

External USB Drives, Jump Drives, and Other Portable Options

For small businesses, independent contractors, and personal use, the world of portable storage is full of options. While most of the options fit into a few categories, there are some marketing gimmicks that can change the cost.

When it comes to saving information, you’re concerned with a few simple details:

• Capacity
• Read/Write speed
• Power requirements
• Durability and reputation

Your drive needs to hold enough information to be useful to you, saving and accessing information needs to be fast enough, you need to be aware of whether a power cable is needed, and the drive shouldn’t have a reputation for failing.

The first three shopping points are fairly easy to look up. If you’re not tech savvy, here are a few details about those bullet points:

• Capacity – Current drives are measured in terabytes, which are 1000 gigabytes. If you only need to save text documents and pictures, a basic 1TB drive is around $50 USD in most areas.

People who need more include digital artists, musicians, video editors, or anyone who downloads high-resolution videos or games.

• Read/Write speed – You need to be able to copy information from your drive to another device in a decent amount of time. As of 2019, USB drives should have the USB 3.0 standard, which transfers data at 5Gbps (Gigabits per second). USB 3.2 is the current fastest consumer-available speed, clocking in at 20Gbps.

While faster is better, getting at least 3.0 isn't a terrible loss and 3.1 drives are the norm until 3.2 devices hit the market in greater numbers throughout 2019.

• Power requirements – Do you want to carry around a power supply for your USB drive? A cord and cable defeats the purpose for many people, but some external drives with extra features built into the case may require external power.

If you don’t want to deal with power cables, inspect the drive first.

• Durability and reputation – There are always good and bad products on the market. Be sure to look up product reviews, complaints, and competitors for any drive you consider.

Internal Drive Storage for Work Centers and Data Centers

Does your business need to store hundreds of terabytes, or even petabytes of data? If you can’t deal with dozens of terabyte drives sitting around the business or if you already have a wall of data devices, you need a wall of backups.

You could technically buy the same drives as your production (current, working) drives, but that isn’t always cost-effective. Some businesses use older drives that may be slower, but provide bigger storage for lower cost points.

This is a valid option because backups shouldn’t be restored on a daily basis. You should be verifying data on a regular basis–either monthly, quarterly, or at least bi-annually–but you shouldn’t need to load up your big data stores so often that your business needs to wait on slow drives multiple times per month.

How old and slow is good enough for your business? You may need to test out those expectations with your clients, employees/team members, and an IT consultant who knows how different drives perform.

If you don’t mind investing in faster drives, you may still want to speak with an IT consultant. Not all new, bigger, and faster products are better, and a skilled technician will be able to test whether the same drive, a newer drive, or a specifically better drive can be matched to your backup or data center needs.

Managed IT Services with Backup Support

Why buy drives, server racks, or storage systems when you can upload everything to the internet?

Cloud-based backups and production storage can make your business more agile without filling your office with bulks, heat-generating equipment.