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The Data Backup Plan

With so many systems to choose from, storing your data is a no-brainer.

The more your business grows and the longer your company is around, the more data you stockpile. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations, images and other big media files--the gigabytes can really pile up. And with business compliance rules becoming more stringent, a good backup solution is more important than ever.

Housing all that data requires a storage solution with hundreds of gigabytes available. Fortunately, your storage options are like Skittles--they come in a rainbow of flavors. From personal media servers to online backup to portable hard drives, mass storage is cheap and getting cheaper. There's a solution for every situation and budget, but network-attached storage, or NAS, is a good place to start.

This one-time enterprise option has benefited hugely from recent advances in ease-of-setup and operation. NAS devices are now easily added to a network through either a wired or wireless Ethernet connection, giving you room to spare. For example, Iomega's StorCenter Pro NAS 250d 500GB option runs Windows Storage Server R2 and features a built-in 70GB REV backup drive, making it a handy combined storage/backup system for $1,999. The Buffalo Tera-Station Live, on the other hand, brings a hefty 2TB to bear for only $2,369. This NAS solution is also Mac-compatible for Apple users or mixed-OS environments. iTunes support, a printer server and super-fast transfer rates make this a flexible NAS option to consider.

On the higher end, the StoreVault S500 starts at $5,600 for 1TB, but it can be scaled up to 6TB as your business grows. That price tag gets you Fibre Channel support as well as NAS and SAN support. This heavy-duty networked storage solution comes with a user-friendly Windows-style interface that will please your IT person.

The Seagate Mirra Sync and Share Personal Server is a somewhat different beast. It's designed for home offices, but doesn't skimp on useful features like automatic network backup, file synchronization between multiple employees and data sharing over the internet. This file-sharing ability is handy for businesses with remote employees or for entrepreneurs who need to access files both at work and at home. It runs $600 for a 500GB version.

Online storage has become a more viable option for growing businesses and a good complement to NAS. It's more expensive per gigabyte than NAS but, being off-site, it's a good way to protect your NAS backup from loss in a disaster at your office site, and it lets you access your data remotely. EVault offers an online disk-to-disk backup and recovery solution with 24/7 critical support and a variable pricing scale. It's designed to work with your existing infrastructure.

Portable storage solutions have become more massive and affordable for when you need to store, back up or share data on the go, or create archives. The Toshiba USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive is a low-hassle solution that yields 160GB of storage for just $200 and is powered through a USB port.

We've barely scratched the surface of the wide world of storage options. Other major manufacturers that offer a variety of storage solutions for growing businesses include Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

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This article was originally published in the March 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Backup Plan.

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