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3 ways to protect critical business data

(MoneyWatch) Are you ready for March 31, the second annual World Backup Day? True, it's not one of the most commonly observed occasions -- it's an initiative created by Reddit users to raise awareness about data backup. But if you don't have a reliable backup solution in place for your most critical business data, then World Backup Day was made for you. Use the day as an incentive to do something before disaster strikes.

Reliable backups are important because data loss has a lot of different approach vectors -- it's hard to say how you'll be afflicted. According to hard drive maker Lacie, here are the leading causes of data loss:

44 percent: Hardware malfunction
32 percent: Human error
14 percent: Corrupted software
7 percent: Viruses
3 percent: Natural disasters

It's also important to recognize where your data is stored -- having a backup solution in place is pointless if you don't think through the full scope of devices and locations where you store critical information. Says MiMedia CEO Erik Zamkoff:

Many people may not realize where their data is. Besides computers, photos and videos reside on mobile devices, digital cameras, memory cards, flash drives and more, and all should be backed up.

So what are your options?

A second hard drive. You can install a second internal or external hard drive for each of your PCs, and use software (such as Casper, from Future Systems) to run automated backups of your drive on a regular and scheduled basis. Once it's up and running, this is a painless solution. Beware, though, that this is not the same thing as running identical hard drives in a RAID 1 configuration. If a virus or software corruption affects one drive, it will take down the identical copy as well. You'll also need to repeat this on every PC for which you need a backup.

Networked attached storage. Unlike a second, locally attached drive, a network attached storage device is a hard drive that every PC on the network can back up to. This is a great solution for offices or homes with multiple PCs. You will need to ensure that the drive is large enough to accommodate data from all the networked PCs, though, and you might occasionally need to troubleshoot network glitches to keep everything running smoothly.

Cloud storage. Cloud backup solutions abound, from traditional services like Carbonite to media- and home-user-focused Mimedia. No matter which you choose, these services automatically upload your data to a remote server and keep your files backed up automatically. If disaster strikes, you have the peace of mind that your backup is far offsite and can be downloaded to a new PC.

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