Articles & Guides

Your Guide to Online Backup Services

Cliff Boodoosingh, Editor-in-Chief on December 03, 2010
 
No one readily admits to liking insurance, especially paying for it. However, when something goes wrong everyone is thankful they have it. The same can be said about online backup, which is the process of copying files over the Internet and storing it remotely in another location.

When a computer crashes, a fire or theft occurs or equipment is damaged after a disaster, everyone rejoices that important files were safely backed up and available for use in short order.

You may be thinking that your backup and storage requirements are being met by periodically copying your important files or folders to CD, DVD or alternate hard drives. That’s an important first step. But where do you keep the CDS, DVDs or hard drives? Many keep them right where their computers are or somewhere in the same vicinity. That’s not helpful when a fire or flood hits home.

Others will argue that their IT departments routinely employ tape cartridges or software backups to handle storage requirements. Again, unless copies are sent offsite, that’s not very useful in a disaster recovery scenario. Plus, it takes some serious knowledge and experience to configure, maintain, backup and restore information. Many small businesses do not have this expertise in house.


Consider the main causes for Data Loss:

* 44% Hardware Failure: Most hard drive manufacturers have reduced their warranties from 36 to 12 months

* 30% Human Error: Accidental file overwrites and deletions

* 12% Software Corruption: Programming errors, improper application terminations

* 7% PC Virus: Inferior anti-virus software, updated signature files.

* 7% Theft, fire, flood or other natural disaster


The Online Backup Advantage

A simple solution requiring the least amount of company resources is generally what businesses seek out. By simply downloading software, installing it on your PC or Mac and connecting to the online backup provider’s server, you can administer a secure online backup strategy. What’s more is this can be an automated procedure being conducted at regular intervals while your computer is still on.

What’s simpler than sending your encrypted, password-protected data to another computer over the Internet? If the data is lost or stolen, you contact the online backup provider and retrieve the information.

Even better, for many, is a web-based option in which you can access all your files from anywhere you can use a PC or laptop, providing you have a high speed Internet connection. Granted, this option works best for a few files stored rather than the entire contents of your hard drive.

To reiterate, online backup services allows you to:

• Easily manage your backup strategy without IT personnel

• Eliminate the hassle of copying/storing tapes, CDS, DVDS

• Retrieve files 24/7 from an offsite location regardless of the impending emergency

There are a few minor drawbacks to be sure.

Security: You’re sending your valuable information to another source and you’re concerned about the security measures especially during transfer. One has to ask the service provider for explicit details here; we’ll address this in the questions to ask when ”Choosing an Online Backup Service Provider”.

Speed: Dial up Internet connections will obviously take more time in the transfer and retrieval process. This can be overcome somewhat by scheduling overnight backups. Also, the first backup will take longer to complete depending on the amount of data transferred. It gets faster as you continue to use the service as only new or updated files are uploaded.

The Usual Risks: Internet-based companies are fairly new and sometimes go out of business, but the same is true for all business undertakings. It becomes crucial to choose the right solution provider.

What’s the Next Step?

Basically, you must establish what you need to back up. This is impacted by the number of workstations you have and what you establish as crucial information to your business. Backing up your sales and billing information daily may be a considerable amount of data in some organizations. Even various components of your operating system or application files, if so desired, may fall under the realm of vital in terms of storage.

Once you establish the needs and the amount of information that you need to survive in the event of an emergency, it’s time to go online backup shopping.


Choosing An Online Backup Service Provider


There are hundreds of online backup providers clamoring for your business. To ensure you make the best decision, there are several questions to ask the potential candidates. Besides the traditional ‘tell me about yourself’ to learn how long the company has been in business, their financial status and their stance on the Mac vs. PC issue, you have to dig a bit deeper.

Do you offer a free trial period?
Many online backup providers provide a 15 to 30-day trial period. This is ideal to evaluate the service and conduct a test to see how long it would take to send and especially to recover your data before an emergency situation occurs.

Where is your data center located?
It’s preferable that the data center is located a fair distance away from your own facility to offset a common disaster. A rule of thumb is about 100-miles, but there’s nothing wrong with spreading it out further.

How secure is your service and your storage facility?
Ask about encryption, firewalls, uninterruptible power supply, backup generators, raised flooring, and Category 5 compliance. Who will have access to my data? What is your own company’s backup policy?

How are costs determined?
Basically, the total amount of data being backed up, the number of machines that the backup is coming from and the number of versions of the data files being stored will figure into the cost of the service. But what happens if you exceed capacity? What additional charges will occur if my needs change?

Can you provide customer testimonials and may I speak with a few of them?
Always ask for references, period.

What happens to my data if you go out of business?
It’s a fair question. How quickly will you get my files back, and in what form?

Now it’s time to get some answers. Remember what Henry Ford said: “Don't find a fault. Find a remedy.”

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