3 Affordable Data Solutions for Small Businesses

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September 3, 2012

These days, more and more small businesses are finding their data difficult to manage, to say the least. With new developments in business regulations – such as the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act – businesses are required to keep more data on hand than ever before. Your small business may need to save financial records going years back, presentations, video files, and even all the company emails that come through your system.

That makes for a ton of data, which means that you probably need a proper data storage system. But if you can’t afford to pay a fortune for a custom-tailored solution for your business, you’re in luck. There are plenty of affordable options on the marketplace today.

Figure Out Your Needs First

Before you can choose one of these affordable data solutions, you need to understand exactly what you need. It will probably save your business money in the long run if you take the time to consult with an IT professional before determining which storage solution will work best for you.

Chances are, though, that you’ll need something that is easy to manage, secure, and affordable to set up. Taking the time to decide now what type of storage will work best for you will give you more time to sort through the options than if you wait until the last minute, when more storage is imperative. Here are just three options to check out:

Thumb Drives and External Hard Drives

These two options are similar in that they’re both hard storage for your business files, as opposed to storage through a network or through the cloud. Flash thumb drives are a better option for micro-businesses and one-man operations, and they’re helpful because they’re very portable. If you do opt for this storage option, spend a little more money on a thumb drive that’s encrypted, just in case you lose it. Thumb drives can also make a good addition to other forms of data storage, since they’re cheap and portable.

External hard drives attach to your computer’s disk drive to give you more storage. You’ll need to back up your files somewhere else – possibly on an online data storage location or on another external hard drive. An external hard drive is less portable than a thumb drive, but it’s still not huge and will offer lots of extra storage. It may be a good idea to periodically back up the files on your external hard drive onto another external drive, which you can then store in a fireproof and waterproof safe to protect your business data in case of a flood or fire.

Network-Attached Storage

If you have an IP network environment set up for your business, a NAS solution can be a great option for you. They’re easy to set up, and you can get a lot of storage for a low cost. This is a helpful option if you have employees who also need access to the company files. NAS solutions can also be combined with external hard drives when you need more storage.

One thing to look for in a network-attached storage solution is a Redundant Array of Independent Disks. This basically means that you’ll have two or more drives in one device, so if one disk dies, you’ll still have all your files available on the other.

Online Storage Options

If you deal with employees and clients who need access to data from remote locations, online storage is probably the best option for your small business. Online storage services normally charge an annual or monthly fee, which can be quite affordable, to back up your important files on a secure, remote server. You can also log into your service from pretty much any computer with internet access, which makes working remotely very simple.

One advantage to online storage like this is that you can share large files with clients or employees without having to email them. Just give them a password for your online storage service, and they’ll be able to access the files as needed.

One disadvantage to online storage is that you might have to upgrade your internet to a higher speed. The backup process can be slow if you’re dealing with large files, which can also slow your computer. However, you may be able to set up the backup to run at night after business hours, so it won’t matter as much that your computer is running more slowly than usual.

As you can see, there is a wide range of options when it comes to data solutions for small businesses. As I said earlier, it’s best if you consult with an IT professional to find the solution – or combination of solutions- that will be best for your particular business. But none of these three solutions will require ongoing IT help to run, making them quite affordable for your business.

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