OPINION | Can SMEs afford and manage backup services?

A new generation of services make backups easy and affordable for smaller companies.

Data can really rattle someone’s risk cage. Just bring up ransomware. Far from being a minor concern, ransomware payments exceeded US$1 billion in 2023, excluding other costs such as recovery and stalled operations. MGM Resorts refused to pay a ransomware demand, but the total damage to its business still approached $100 million.

Yet ransomware headlines are misleading. They create the impression that large companies are the primary targets. Small and medium enterprises, by far, experience the brunt of ransomware and many other data attacks.

“They’re eating the smaller guys because smaller companies are rarely as secure as the banks and other big enterprises,” says Rudi Jansen van Vuuren, StorVault South Africa’s general manager. “Your business is actually data. How you commercialise it is no different to any other organisation, whether you’re a plumber, accountant, or lawyer. If you don’t have access to your data, you’ve pretty much lost.”

Cybercrime is one of several data risks. Another is accidental deletion: stolen equipment or losing files because of a disaster. An employee may leave, and several months later, you need a contract sitting in their old inbox. There are many reasons to create data backups.

Risks to email

Email is a good example. Most organisations will run into devastating problems if they lose their email inboxes. Emails are as much an information archive and records system as a communication channel. A sole proprietor might have one or two inboxes, and a small company could have a dozen. What would happen if they lost access to the content of some of those inboxes?

Companies do think about this, which is why many have moved to cloud-hosted email platforms. But while this ensures they don’t lose their current email because their laptop fell into a river, cloud emails are still susceptible to other risks. Some customers assume that they are covered because the cloud providers create data backups, but this isn’t the case.

“The best cloud platforms have excellent security and they make backups. But these are not quite the same as you looking after your data. They can’t necessarily stop you from clicking on a phishing attachment. And the type of backups that public cloud providers create are huge, and designed to restore entire parts of systems if something goes wrong. They can’t easily go back and find a specific file for you and the big providers usually only have a thirty-day retention period,” says Jansen van Vuuren.

Cloud to the rescue?

Even if they use cloud-hosted email, a company’s data is ultimately its responsibility. But that’s not a simple responsibility. Backups require planning and management. Storing and securing them costs money. And if there isn’t a good way to retrieve specific data, recoveries will take very long. The cheapest option is shovelling files onto a cloud storage service, though that doesn’t address any other issues.

Enterprise-class backup services help large companies cover these bases, but that doesn’t help most SMEs, says Jansen van Vuuren:

“Enterprise products are great. But they tend to assume you’ve got a team or you’ve got resources to access people. You’ve got this elaborate schedule. You’ve got governance. But smaller companies don’t always have that luxury. They want plug and play, please make this work solution. And I don’t want to pay you a fortune to get it working. What’s the point of me paying a lot of setup fees just to blow my budget for the year?”

SME-ready Backup?

A similar problem existed with email until Gmail arrived. The first mainstream cloud-hosted email platform, Gmail opened the way for SME-tailored enterprise email hosting such as Outlook 365 and Google Workspace. 

Now, a new generation of cloud-powered backup services offers enterprise services at SME scales and budgets. These services create regular backups of inboxes, utilising automation and self-service features to improve the economics of enterprise tech. 

Though there are many Backup-as-a-Service companies, most don’t appeal to SMEs: unexpected costs from storage changes and transactional fees, short retention periods (especially for deactivated inboxes), and stifling long-term contracts, are common barriers. 

Ease of use is also often neglected. Jansen van Vuuren says that self-service is essential and to “make it easy for anyone to set up the backups and manage them.” His team launched one of the new-generation SME backup services, tackling issues such as cost and retention through automation and intuitive user portals.

The arrival of these services comes at a crucial juncture when SMEs need to look after their data for their business prospects and protection. Nobody wants to face a data disaster or ransomware attack without some cover. Backups have never been more crucial.

“A lot of companies don’t understand the value of the data they have until they’ve lost it,” says Jansen van Vuuren. “We have a customer who stores their point of sale data with us. Without that, they can’t track customers and sales. They can’t send invoices. They ran into an issue but fortunately they could recover the data. Understand where your critical data is and put the systems in place that will address that concern.”

By Rudi Jansen van Vuuren, General Manager at StorVault South Africa

Please follow and like us:
Social Share Buttons and Icons powered by Ultimatelysocial