Small business owners juggle a lot of responsibilities, but one task that you never want on the backburner is server backup. With so much of today’s critical business information in electronic form, servers are our modern day file cabinets, holding everything from client information to intellectual property, financial documents to e-mail records.

Given the valuable data that they hold, server backup should be a regular part of your company’s routine business operations. If a server goes down due to software failure or a disaster, you could lose everything. But despite this danger, only a fraction of small businesses have a regular backup process in place.

Fortunately, we now have several easy options to help us protect our data. We will list a few methods here, but because the technology is constantly evolving, it is important to do further research before you put a new system in place or update an old one.

Manual Backup

The old method of backing up data to a magnetic tape daily or weekly still works. However, tape systems can be complicated and time consuming. First, an employee needs to remember to regularly put in a new tape, back up the data, and then label and store the tape properly and securely. Though it seems simple, tape systems (like any other manual backup method) carry the risk of potential human error. There are stories of servers being stolen with their backup tapes still inside them, which obviously results in everything being lost.

Remote Backup

The solution to this dilemma is to automate, and here you’ve got a few options. The first and most popular backup method among small and mid-size businesses is to increase your bandwidth and backup to a remote location over the Internet. There are a number of companies that provide remote backup services, and a key advantage is that your copied data is in a completely separate physical location. This is particularly important if your business is located in an area that is prone to natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.

A secure, remote backup site is particularly important for businesses that need to comply with government regulations, like the health care and accounting industries, but all businesses can benefit from such a backup process. Remote backup ensures that your data can be rebuilt if your main business location is compromised by theft or disaster.

Automated Backup Systems

If you elect to keep the backup process in house, there are still ways to automate the process and minimize human error. If you back up to an in-house server or external hard drive, for example, there’s software to schedule regular backups and keep track of changes so that you save only new data.

There are also a number of companies that offer automated and unattended disk-backup systems. The disks can be programmed to back up your data every 15 minutes and can verify that the data has been successfully copied. Your provider will often provide the initial installation and offer ongoing tech support. This option is a good choice for companies with a lot of data that require very quick data-recovery times.

Mirrored Hard Drives

Another solution, according to Luigi Baccari, president of Boston-based IT firm E-Data Corp, is mirrored hard drives. “Mirrored drives protect against the failure of a single drive and allow the computer to keep working until the failed drive is replaced,” he explains. This solution is particularly fitting for companies that can’t afford a single lost moment of business continuity.

Most small businesses go with affordable, remote backup services because they take the worry out of managing data. Such services usually offer online, incremental backups and redundant storage, which provides an extra layer of security.

Before you decide which method is right for your business, make a list of what data you need to protect and how often it must be backed up, then estimate your budget. Although it may seem like just another expense, remember that losing one day’s worth of data can cost you thousands of dollars.