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Small businesses are notorious for not managing data well. Information critical to the company resides on distributed desktop PCs and laptops, and backing it up is all too often left to individual employees.
With no information technology department to ride herd, many small businesses are data disasters waiting to happen. If a hard disk crashes, vital information can be gone forever or can take days or weeks to rebuild while the company grinds to a halt.
Big enterprises have long since turned to two sure-fire data storage/backup technologies Network Attached Storage (NAS) and RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks).
NAS lets you attach a relatively inexpensive mass storage subsystem to a network even a peer-to-peer network of the kind many small businesses use. NAS allows all users on a LAN to store files and/or back up their hard drives to it.
RAID ensures data security on a storage subsystem by providing redundancy. It uses techniques for storing bits of each file on multiple hard drives. If one drive fails, a RAID system can relatively quickly rebuild files from the bits on the other drives.
NAS and RAID Enter Small Business Arena
Now companies like Iomega are bringing powerful NAS and RAID solutions into the small business realm.
We recently tested Iomega's NAS A305m, a $1,600, 240GB storage server that comes with an easy-to-use Windows/Web interface and Iomega's Automatic Backup software. Iomega also sells the A205m, a $1,000, 160GB solution. These units come without a monitor, keyboard, or mouse and don't need them.
With the Iomega Automatic Backup software loaded on each workstation on your LAN, it is possible to set up the Iomega NAS unit to automatically back up every critical file on every PC as it's created or modified.
For small businesses that lack an IT department, this may be the holy grail of backup. Nobody has to remember to do it. If data is lost from a workstation, it can be instantly recovered over the LAN. And even if one disk in the backup system fails, data is still not lost.
And Iomega claims its NAS systems require about four hours maintenance per year. Based on our experience (albeit limited) with the product, this sounds plausible.
Adding an Iomega NAS system to your LAN and configuring it is surprisingly easy, but going with an industrial-strength storage solution like this may still require a learning curve for smaller companies, and could mean making some physical changes in the computing environment.