Which Backup Media Should You Use?

Using external hard drives for data backups

For small businesses, buying and using an external hard drive for data backups is the method I recommend. External hard drives are cheap compared to tape drive systems ; you can get one for several hundred dollars. They’re also easy to use; in many cases, all you have to do is plug the hard drive into your computer’s USB port. And while hard drives do fail, their failure rate is much lower than that of backup media such as CDs.

Using CD-Roms as data backups
Using CD-Roms as data backups is popular. Blank CDs are inexpensive, and copying data onto CDs is easy. However, this is the most unreliable method of all the data backup methods listed here. Who hasn’t had the experience of putting a CD into a drive only to find that the data is unreadable and the disk “doesn’t work”? CDs, like the floppy disks they’ve replaced, have a limited shelf life. I don’t recommend this method of data backup for any small business. If you are writing your data backup files onto CDs, make sure that you make (and keep) multiple copies over time.

Using tapes as data backups
Tape backups are ten thousand times as reliable as CD-Roms, but tape drives and their associated media are much more expensive than CD-Rom writers and CDs. A good tape drive can still cost over $1000, and individual tapes for the drive can cost up to $40 each. If you can afford the equipment, however, tape backup is far and away the best backup method.

Using Online backup services as data backups
There are many companies offering online backup services, but I can’t recommend this method. Besides the potential of bandwidth problems, there are just too many security issues that have yet to be dealt with. Firstly, the method is only as reliable as the company offering the online backup service, and Internet service companies have been coming and going faster than the common cold lately. Secondly, if your business data is sensitive, (and whose isn’t?), why would you want to put it on the ‘Net?