Making backups - more to the point, setting up automatic ongoing backups - can be easy and affordable, as I wrote in Choosing the Right Local/Cloud Hybrid Backup For SMBs.

Is your backup up to the full range of scenarios for Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery? Can you win at a game of "backup bingo"?

"Whether you're a big or mid-sized company, or a small one like mine, you need to determine your Recovery Point Objective - RPO and RTO - Recovery Time Objective," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst of the StorageIO Group. "Your RPO is, 'How much data can I afford to lose in order to stay in business or be productive?' And your RTO is, 'How quickly do I need that data available again?' For example, you might only need a few gigabyte or few terabytes, or even significantly less, of your data, but don't want it unavailable for more than fifteen minutes. And there might be a few more gigabytes or terabytes you want back within 24 hours, and the rest could wait weeks."

First, consider the types of data you've got, and of these, what you need to stay available or get back quickly, versus "don't lose it forever, but don't need it immediately":

  • Active, dynamic data. The documents and other files for daily business activity -- contacts, etc., and for current clients and projects.

  • System images and configurations. In a pinch, your employees can probably limp along on a fresh Windows and Office install -- but that's like staying in a hotel room instead of your home.

  • Archivable data. Data that you might read occasionally, but won't change.

    Daniel Dern is an independent technology and business writer, who has written one Internet user guide, and thousands of features, reviews and other articles for various technology and business publications, and was the founding Editor-in-Chief at Internet World magazine, and editor of Byte.com. His blog can be found at Trying Technology and he can be reached at dern@pair.com.
  • Multimedia files. Pictures, images, audio, video and other large read-only files.
A combination of local and online backups prepares most businesses for some types of data loss, like recovering a few unintentionally deleted files or earlier versions of files, or a local restore of a user's mailbox.

But what happens if, say,

  • An employee's notebook hard drive crashes or is damaged, or the machine is lost of stolen

  • Desktops or servers suffer operating system corruption

  • An office catastrophe means doing a full off-site data and system restore, faster than downloads from your online provider deliver.

Even if you don't have servers (I don't) and aren't concerned about transaction-oriented databases like sales (I'm not), you should be thinking about this long enough to have solutions in place that you don't have to think about.

You should -- should! -- be prepared for any and all of these scenarios.

That means a mix of local backup(s) and online backup(s). Local equals speedier restoral for larger datasets, and can be carry-in-your-pocket portable. Online gets data off-site, and provides access even your office is physically/networkly inaccessible.

It wouldn't hurt to also have off-site tapes, DVDs or removable hard drives, refreshed or rotated periodically.

In addition to backup solutions, you should have a Disaster Recover DR kit, advises Schulz. "Your DR kit should have a drive, a bootable CD/DVD, a flash drive, and a piece of paper with access codes, software license numbers and other information, in case you can't open a drive to get to this data."

Do this, and you should be ready for a wider range of data or IT "events" -- as in, ready to continue doing business as usual, or recover well enough, quickly enough, from a more serious event. Bingo!