Backup for Small Business


from Building Out Your Small Business (see full story below)

PC Magazine

Decision Points
1
Should we back up or archive?
2 Use tapes or discs?
3 What about network-attached storage?

Storage is the cheapest it's ever been. The software is easier than ever. And there are several quality hosted options if you don't want to keep it on-site. There's simply no excuse for a business not to have a data backup plan. Heck, backup even may be mandated by the federal government, depending on the industry you're in—health care and finance are good examples. So a good backup system may not only keep you out of trouble, it might keep you out of jail.

When you back up your data, it's usually for short-term reasons, and you'll overwrite this data with updates very soon. There are three types of backup:

1. Full: Backs up everything regardless of whether it's changed.

2. Differential: Backs up only what has been changed since the last full backup.

3. Incremental: Backs up individual files that have been modified since the last backup.

Archives, on the other hand, contain static data, such as tax returns and old e-mails, which won't be overwritten.

Traditionally, IT managers archived data using tape systems, but recently businesses have been using discs for both archiving and backup. It takes much less time to recover data from a disc than from a tape. Software such as Symantec Backup Exec ($500 street, www.symantec.com/backupexec), which walks you through both archiving and recovery, is worth the money. For burning backup discs, we like the Sony DRU-710A (sony.storagesupport.com); it's only $110 (street) and will burn dual-layer discs.

Another popular backup option is network-attached storage, or NAS. NAS devices attach easily to your existing network. We like the Buffalo TeraStation Pro II ($850 street) for its ease of use and its terabyte of disc space.

Above all, no matter what system you chose, you must have some form of off-site backup, even if it involves mailing a complete backup disc once a month to your mother in Idaho.

 

 

Building Out Your Small Business

PC Magazine

Just as on the Internet no one knows you're a dog, no one needs to know that you're not a mega-corporation. Technology really can level the playing field between your small business and Mega-Global Co. But which technologies? There are so many choices and so many pitfalls that you might be inclined to just throw up your hands in despair.

The process doesn't have to be that complicated. There are several key decisions you can make that will catapult your business toward success, without your having to spend a lot of money.

To help illustrate those options, we approached this from the perspective of a business that, let's say, recently received several large contracts and now needs to expand its operation to meet that demand. Before hitting CDW for a shopping spree, though, the first step should be developing an overall purchasing strategy. Without that, you may end up hurting yourself in the long run. Once that strategy is in place, then you can identify the few key purchases that could largely determine whether you increase productivity or actually take a step back. — next: What You Need

What You Need

PCs
Dell OptiPlex 745
www.dell.com

Lenovo ThinkPad X60
www.lenovo.com

Apple iMac
www.apple.com

Software
Microsoft Office
www.microsoftoffice.com

Google Apps
www.google.com/a

Adobe Acrobat Connect
www.adobe.com

Citrix Online GoToMeeting
www.citrix.com

www.salesforce.com

Intuit QuickBooks
www.quickbooks.com

Phones
Motorola Q
www.motorola.com

Cingular 8525
www.cingular.com

BlackBerry 8800
www.rim.com

Palm Treo 700p
www.palm.com

Printers
Brother MFC-8860DNs
www.brother.com

Networking
Belkin 24 Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch
www.belkin.com

Backup
Buffalo TeraStation Pro
www.buffalotech.com

Sony DRU-710A
www.sony.storagesupport.com

Symantec Backup Exec
www.symantec.com/backupexec

Desktops, CPUs, and Servers

Decision Points
1
Who should we buy from?
2 How many systems do we need?
3 Should we buy laptops?

These systems are the core of your business. If you have a good IT staff, you can pick and choose individual systems and servers that you like from a variety of vendors. I myself am a huge fan of DIY computing and the fine-tuning and customizing that comes with it. But a DIY office-computing setup could quickly become a nightmare to support. You also run into major problems with warranties and finding an individual to contact in the event of a failure. If you go with a large vendor such as IBM Small Biz Solutions, you will be allowed to finance the systems and can be assured of tech support if anything goes wrong. At the same time, you may be locked into whatever systems that these vendors provide. Regardless of which options you choose, there are several basic things to consider.

Naturally, the first thing an SMB needs to ask itself is: "How many systems do we need?" This may seem like a simple question, but there are several factors that contribute to this number. Do we really need to completely rid ourselves of all of our older systems, or can any be saved? Last year's PC may be perfectly adequate for a junior employee who doesn't need much besides Internet access and word processing.

A solid business system such as the Dell OptiPlex 745 is perfect for a small business. It's powerful, with an Intel Core 2 Duo chip, but, at $1,502, it won't break the bank. Now I know there are those who will say that a dual-core chipset may be a bit much for a corporate desktop, but that is shortsighted logic. These systems will have to run Windows Vista and the updated software that is created for that powerhungry OS. A chipset like this one will allow you to run large Excel spreadsheets while simultaneously running QuickBooks consolidations.

Another popular option is to do away with desktops altogether and purchase a fleet of laptops for your business. A few years ago this would have meant buying large, clunky desktop replacement units, but not anymore. Notebooks such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X60 are ultraportable and built for business. You can get a dual-core processor and up to 2GB of RAM on this Vista Business–ready machine.

A server is a very different animal. Servers are too specialized to go into in a basic overview like this one, but we can give you an important tip: Reliability is much more important than speed! A server that has a guaranteed uptime of three years is far more valuable than one that operates at high speeds but may leave you in the lurch.

Most offices are not homogeneous. Employees involved with creative applications tend to prefer Apple systems. For other office workers, going with Apple or not could be a matter of personal preference. The Apple iMac is a solid SMB system. The Mac mini is fine if you're going to recycle old monitors, and the iMac is a good middle-of-the-road system. Note that Apple tech support is specialized and may be harder to hire. Windows-based IT staff may not want to touch Macs, and vice versa. Also, Apple isn't actively pursuing the SMB market, so OS builds will be more of a hands-on affair for your IT staff. At least Apple supports all recent hardware in OS X 10.4 and 10.5; this means that a disk image from a PowerBook G4 should work on the latest iMac with Intel.

Software

Decision Points
1
Does our business really need enterprise-level software?
2 Can we get by without Microsoft Office?

The biggest trap small businesses can fall into is choosing software that's designed for larger companies. Enterprise products often suffer from feature bloat and come at prices that better fit the budgets of large corporations—or small countries! Small businesses should buy only as much "feature" as they need. Look for the simplest applications that can work, and investigate using services when possible. Software as a service (SaaS) means no installation, no expensive maintenance, and fewer things to go wrong at your company.

That said, for productivity applications, you should probably start out by purchasing Microsoft Office. If you're a real maverick, you might want to investigate OpenOffice.org, but your employees will be more comfortable using Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. And don't discount the training costs of moving away from these de facto standards. On the other hand, just because you use Office doesn't mean you can't explore Google Apps. For a yearly cost of $50 per user, you can get the Premier Edition with 10GB per account (a 2GB version is free!). Google Apps is a great option for document and spreadsheet collaboration, and the package also includes traditional collaboration tools such as calendaring, instant messaging via Google Talk, and e-mail (Gmail, that is) using your own domain name.

If you have customers or employees who aren't on the same block, you can reach out to them with cost-effective Web conferencing. Products such as Adobe Acrobat Connect or Citrix Online GoToMeeting (each $39 per user per month) provide simple meeting setup at an affordable price. I highly recommend testing these products; they'll increase the effectiveness of your sales efforts and internal meetings with remote employees. To track customers in your sales pipeline, salesforce.com provides a $695-per-year solution for up to five users. Although companies such as Sage and Goldmine have software with many of the features you'll want, you may prefer the simplicity of the salesforce.com service.

No doubt you'll also need some financial software, such as Intuit QuickBooks. More than likely, there exists specialized software for your industry that can fulfill some of your unique business requirements. — next: Build Out A Small Office On A Budget

Build Out A Small Office On A Budget
Financials constraints can determine what you actually invest in.

Here, our picks for three possible scenarios.

Smartphones

Decision Points
1
Are we up to administering the system, or should we go with a hosted solution?
2 If we maintain our own server, should it be Microsoft Exchange, Motorola's Good Mobile Messaging, or RIM's BlackBerry?

Smartphones greatly speed workflow by pushing e-mail directly to a mobile device and keeping your staff connected. But which option you should choose depends on how much time and manpower you can devote to administering the system. Do you think you can manage your own server? For those who answer yes, all three of the options that follow have their good points, and ultimately choosing could come down to personal preference.

If you're familiar with Microsoft Exchange and running an Exchange 2003 or Exchange 2007 server, you might think about using Windows Mobile devices such as the Motorola Q, Cingular 8525, or T-Mobile MDA. That way you don't have to pay for a second server to get your push e-mail. If you're getting a hosted service (a service that takes care of the back-end server stuff for you), hosted Exchange is also usually cheaper than hosted BlackBerry or Good. But RIM's BlackBerry devices have excellent centralized management and control, they're very easy to use, and they're available on all wireless carriers. We prefer the BlackBerry 8800 or 8703e. The advantage of Motorola's Good Mobile Messaging is that it puts BlackBerry-like functions on a much wider range of handhelds, including the very popular Palm Treo 700p and the Windows Mobile devices mentioned above. With Good, you aren't tied to RIM's range of handhelds.

If you're using your mobile carrier's BlackBerry Internet Service system for your business, and also happen to have a hosted e-mail system in place, be aware that your BlackBerry device can integrate nearly anything. POP3, Hotmail/Windows Live Mail, Yahoo!—it all gets pushed to your BlackBerry device. (Gmail is actually POP mail.)

All smartphones can handle POP mail without a problem, though more often than not, it's a "pull" rather than a "push" experience—in other words, you have to click to check your mail. On Palm OS phones, you can get "push" functionality with your POP mail by using a third-party client called ChatterEmail. Windows Mobile phones work especially well with Windows Live Mail, using a new free client from Microsoft that also gives a "push" mail experience. And Yahoo! has a glossy client called Yahoo! Go that works on Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and Symbian phones.

Office Printers

Decision Points
1
How many pages do we print?
2 Do we need an AIO or a regular printer?

The trick to buying printers? Figuring out how much you actually print, rather than basing your decision on how many people you have on your staff. For instance, an insurance firm or law office will print significantly more pages daily than a much larger office group. If you are printing out e-mails, contracts, and the occasional memo, you may be better off with an office AIO (all-in-one printer, for scanning, faxing, copying, and printing) instead of a heavy-duty workhorse that can handle thousands of pages a month.

If you choose an AIO for a small office, there are two key features you need to make sure the printer has. Look for a network connection for sharing it around the office and an automatic document feeder for the scanning and copying functions. Also keep in mind that the scanners you usually find in AIO printers are suited more to documents, so don't expect to make high-quality scans of your vacation pictures.

For a good-size small biz, go with two Brother MFC-8860DNs ($480 each). These monochrome AIOs are great for a small office workgroup, and a pair of them will prevent a backlog of print jobs from bogging down your network. The Brother is extremely fast and has a long list of features. Unlike other AIOs, the MFC-8860DN seamlessly integrates into a small-business environment once it's behind your firewall, and it becomes the hub of all your document needs—printing, e-mailing, and copying.

Networking

Decision Point
1
Does a small business need Gigabit Ethernet?

Small companies can get big networking for little money these days. Wired, wireless, and Internet connection speeds come faster and cheaper than ever.

It makes good sense for you to pay a little extra to purchase Gigabit Ethernet rather than Fast Ethernet switches. Smaller companies will find Web-managed switches from companies such as Belkin, D-Link, Linksys, and Netgear for around $10 per port. Even small companies are moving around bigger and bigger files (video, graphics, and more), and Gigabit will really help also when you are performing over-the-network backups.

For wireless, 802.11g is the standard, but the time has come to consider draft 802.11n products, which offer five to ten times the performance and better coverage in a building. You'll find the routers and access points available for $100 to $150 from the same companies, and many new laptops have the option of including a draft 802.11n ExpressCard or PC Card. Make sure you run a secure wireless network by choosing WPA2 rather than the less-secure WEP option.

Using DSL or a cable modem typically provides enough bandwidth for most small businesses. Today's prices are impressively modest, but you might want to explore replacing the standard modem that comes with your service with product that supports VPNs for remote access. Ask your carrier about upgrade options.

Finally, although Wi-Fi can be found in many airports and cafés, mobile broadband provides connectivity almost anywhere you are. For $100 to $150 for the card and about $60 per month with preexisting voice service from AT&T or Verizon, you won't have to hunt around for a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Backup

Decision Points
1
Should we back up or archive?
2 Use tapes or discs?
3 What about network-attached storage?

Storage is the cheapest it's ever been. The software is easier than ever. And there are several quality hosted options if you don't want to keep it on-site. There's simply no excuse for a business not to have a data backup plan. Heck, backup even may be mandated by the federal government, depending on the industry you're in—health care and finance are good examples. So a good backup system may not only keep you out of trouble, it might keep you out of jail.

When you back up your data, it's usually for short-term reasons, and you'll overwrite this data with updates very soon. There are three types of backup:

1. Full: Backs up everything regardless of whether it's changed.

2. Differential: Backs up only what has been changed since the last full backup.

3. Incremental: Backs up individual files that have been modified since the last backup.

Archives, on the other hand, contain static data, such as tax returns and old e-mails, which won't be overwritten.

Traditionally, IT managers archived data using tape systems, but recently businesses have been using discs for both archiving and backup. It takes much less time to recover data from a disc than from a tape. Software such as Symantec Backup Exec ($500 street, www.symantec.com/backupexec), which walks you through both archiving and recovery, is worth the money. For burning backup discs, we like the Sony DRU-710A (sony.storagesupport.com); it's only $110 (street) and will burn dual-layer discs.

Another popular backup option is network-attached storage, or NAS. NAS devices attach easily to your existing network. We like the Buffalo TeraStation Pro II ($850 street) for its ease of use and its terabyte of disc space.

Above all, no matter what system you chose, you must have some form of off-site backup, even if it involves mailing a complete backup disc once a month to your mother in Idaho.

Copyright (c) 2007 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.