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As a small to mid-sized business grows, so does the sheer volume of information generated each day: account information and budgets, along with databases of inventory and employee records. The list is endless. A generation ago, it was euphemistically called the paper blizzard. Now, it’s more like a digital Tsunami that only gets bigger and more difficult to manage for the organization without a storage strategy. “Archiving data is less about where to put it and more about how to get it when you need it,” says Andrew Reichman, an analyst from Forrester Research. Indeed, many small to mid-sized businesses make the mistake of growing out their methods for storing data like the business itself: piecemeal and as needed. The end result can be disjointed, irretrievable data that is mission critical to the company, yet scattered across a variety of discs, servers, and individual employee hard drives. The good news: data storage has never been more plentiful or cheaper. The trick is wading through the myriad of options available and deciding which one works best for your organization. In-house versus out The first big decision to be made is whether to keep all or most of the company data in-house or out-of-house. Traditionally, companies of all sizes have kept their information on site. However, using a third party host to store data online is increasingly popular. Out of house options What do Intel, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Seagate Technologies, and EMC all have in common? They are all heavily investing in online backup storage solutions; whether it’s buying startups like IBM snapping up Arsenal Digital, EMC acquiring Mozy, or Seagate absorbing eVault. And then there’s Google launching its own initiative called GDrive service. There are also countless independent companies (that haven’t been bought up yet) offering data backup and storage online and on the cheap. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages for the growing company: Advantages: It’s cheap, fast to deploy, and turnkey requiring no staffing to maintain the data. Plus, vendors have the advantage of using economies of scale to provide better security and store data more cheaply than a smaller organization doing it all on its own. However, the most important advantage is really more basic than that. “The biggest reason to go out of house is to get remote backup capability,” says John Longwell, research director for Irvine, Calif.-based Computer Economics. Simply put, you don’t want to have all your eggs (or data) in one basket (or place). If the building burns down or even just a poorly-timed snow day keeps employees away from the office during a critical time for the business, the results can be devastating. Off-site backup and remote access to information is a core need for most businesses today. Disadvantages: “The server and the application need to be in the same place. Going outside works if you’re talking about using Gmail as the company e-mail client and then archiving it all on Google, or CRM data with Salesforce.com. Businesses need to be careful which parts of the business processes they can give to someone else,” says Reichman. Even Amazon is now offering cheap data storage and retrieval programs like “SimpleDB”, which is in beta as of this writing. However, simple is the optimal word in that brand. It is a very simplistic way of searching and fetching data. It is not the place to store financial information a company may need to aggregate in a variety of sophisticated ways to generate specific reports. In-house options Despite all the hype over third party vendors offering online storage, in-house options make a lot of sense, as well, and may be more practical for many businesses. Advantages: The obvious advantage is retaining control at all times. The other advantage is that the major disadvantages are disappearing fast. In-house solutions are getting cheaper and more effective too. “There’s a big shift among small to mid-sized businesses from on-board discs (data separately stored on each individual computer and server) to what’s called centralized network storage. This can be as simple as throwing a single appliance on the network that houses all the data. By centralizing storage, information can be pulled from multiple sources and aggregated into richer data. It also makes it easier to manage all the company information, control user access and retrieve it when needed. Disadvantages: In-house solutions mean buying gear, getting it installed, and then taking on the expense of maintaining it. “Sometimes it’s a tough pill for small to mid-sized businesses to swallow,” admits Reichman, who encourages executives to look at the long term savings of better data management specific to the business. It’s something an outside vendor can’t provide, as well. Deciding factors Costs: Web-based third party vendors are cheaper, at least up front. It depends on the size of the business, however, whether they make sense. If a company has someone on staff to maintain a centralized storage network, then it might make more sense to invest in the equipment and save on vendor fees typically based on the amount of data stored on a subscription basis. What data and why and when it is needed: How will users interface and retrieve information as they need it? A third party vendor may not be able to offer the sophistication needed to work with certain applications or databases. Then again, it may make sense to house older and less important data off-site and out of the way. Prioritizing storage needs: What’s the primary motive for storing data? Is it backup and security? If so a third party vendor is likely the answer, since it offers off site protection of the data and often smaller businesses don’t have the same level of security as the vendor (like encryption and less network downtime). Sidebar: Data Storage Options Carbonite is designed to backup data on each individual computer or server. It runs constantly in the background backing up data and is handy for the desktop user who loses a file or accidentally deletes something of importance. Lost information can be retrieved immediately. This is not a likely solution however, for growing companies that need to manage data in a centralized way controlling access and aggregating data driven reports. Mozy Similar to Carbonite, it is designed for the individual user who needs his or her information constantly being backed up remotely in case of a virus strike or ill-timed computer crash. Mozy, however, does offer a professional version with a number of features like administrative powers to manage data from multiple sources and encryption. Its new parent company, EMC, may have something to do with the increasingly beefed up services targeting corporate clients. Pricing is based on a combination of price by seat ($3.95 per computer, per month) and 50 cents a GB per month xDrive is primarily targeting the consumer market. But for the small business just starting out, it’s worth consideration. xDrive charges $9.95 for 50 gigabytes of storage. Based in Beverly Hills, Calif., xDrive is actually owned by AOL and markets itself as a preferred solution for backing up pictures, graphics and video for easy web access and collaboration with others. As is, it’s easy to imagine a business quickly outgrowing xDrive. But with AOL as its parent company, it’s also easy to imagine xDrive scaling up it services for growing organizations before that happens. Nirvanix is attracting a lot of attention, as well as high profile investors like Intel. The San Diego, Calif.-based data storage company is especially attractive to the small to midsize business market because it offers scalable storage services for a flat fee of 18 cents a gigabyte. What makes Nirvanix special is its application programming interface (API) that enables companies to easily integrate Nirvanix Web Services into their own company applications. In comparing just these four examples of online data storage vendors, there is at least one common denominator: they are all still growing out their corporate features to accommodate businesses. “The options are still limited today, but it’s getting there,” says Reichman.
There’s no worse feeling for a PC user than realizing something important was just deleted — whether accidentally, from a hard-drive crash, virus, or power surge. Not only can it be a frustrating inconvenience, but the problem is magnified considerably when the data kept on the computer is essential for running a business. This can impact the business, its partners, and its customers. The only protection against losing critical information on your business PCs is to back up important files on a regular basis. Some mid-size businesses are already backing up computer servers regularly. But some of the most critical business information oftentimes resides on individual PCs. Businesses that have many remote workers or businesses that don’t have servers may want to also consider PC backup. Backup at the PC level can be handled in a number of ways, such as using an external hard-drive or server, using a tape-based backup system, or taking a leap of faith and hoping that employees are backing up important files using portable USB memory sticks or CDs or DVDs. For some businesses, however, those options are no longer good enough. Uploading files to an online backup company has become one of the increasingly popular solutions for small and mid-size businesses as costs have come down, the number of vendors increases as traditional offline storage firms such as EMC get into the act, and the risks of not backing up — or trusting employees to do it — are too great to the business. Benefits of online backup One of the biggest reasons to backup online is for disaster prevention. “Local backup solutions are prone to natural disasters such as floods, fires and hurricanes,” explains Vance Checketts, director of business operations at Berkeley Data Systems, a Salt Lake City-based online storage company best known for its Mozy services, which was recently acquired by EMC. “But more importantly, online backup solutions reduce the risk of human error because a professional, third-party organization is hard at work protecting your backed-up data.” For businesses, MozyPro pricing costs $3.95 per PC per month plus $0.50 cents per gigabyte per month. “The key advantage is your data is kept offsite — so your data is protected even if you’re having a problem at your office,” says Richard Shim, research manager for personal computing at IDC, the Framingham, Mass. technology research firm. After all, it was only in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina decimated much of the north-central Gulf Coast, causing more than 1,800 deaths and more than $80 billion dollars in damage. “Offsite storage translates to easy access — anytime and anywhere — so you’ll always have access to it,” adds Shim. Often considered an “insurance policy” for your critical work information, online backup solutions can also be automated so important files or folders are automatically backed up — after the workday ends, say, at 2 a.m. every night — therefore the employee doesn’t have to remember to do so manually. Price and other challenges “The primary challenge with online backup is finding a solution that does backup well at a cost-effective price,” says Checketts. “Too many solutions are focused on online storage, which is quite different from backup, as [the former] is simply a cyber-locker without task-appropriate automation or encryption.” He says that businesses need a backup system that is automatic, secure, and cost effective. The cost for backup and storage is one of the key obstacles to more wide-spread adoption of the technology, says Shim. Many small and mid-size businesses are constantly watching the bottom line and decide to forego the expense for an ongoing backup system. In addition, traditional methods of backup, such as USB drives or CDs are so inexpensive. A 500GB external hard drive can be found for less than $100 these days, which is a one-time fee, compared to an ongoing monthly payment. “Cost can be an issue for a small business since you have to pay for monthly maintenance fees, to secure and manage this data,” explains Shim. Small businesses also have to grapple with the question of whether they want company information, e-mails, and spreadsheets to be in third-party hands — even if those third parties are trusted sources. “Depending on how sensitive that data is, there could be a security issue,” says Shim. “You give up a certain amount of security by making it more accessible online, trusting it in the hands of another company.” Mozy’s backup solutions, however, claim 128-bit SSL encryption to safely secure customer data during transport and 448-bit Blowfish encryption to secure the data on Berkeley Data Systems’ servers. Deciding factors Small and mid-size businesses need to consider a number of factors before taking the plunge into online backup: Do they have the resources for another monthly service fee? Are enough security controls in place at the online backup vendor to ensure that sensitive business data will not fall into the wrong hands? Will employees remember to backup important files each night on USB drives or CDs? What would happen to the business if a disaster struck — a fire, earthquake, hurricane, flood or other event — that destroyed business computers and all the business data stored on their hard-drives? Conclusion While not for every business, online backup solutions need to be considered by data-dependent businesses that could be wiped out in the event of a manmade or natural disaster. Not all small and mid-size businesses have the resources to spring for a disaster recovery backup site. The ease with which critical information and files can be downloaded onto a new computer is also a factor to help in the event of a computer crash or a hard-drive meltdown. The costs of trying to recover files in man hours alone probably would exceed a year of monthly fees for online backup. In addition, a recent Forrester Research survey found that when businesses left it to employees to backup important files, companies often had no way of verifying that backup copies were made. Automating the process of backing up data takes one additional risk out of running a business that is heavily dependent on electronic data. SIDEBAR: Online PC Backup Vendors Here are several vendors that provide online backup services targeted at the small and mid-size business sector: EVault – A wholly-owned subsidiary of Seagate Technology, the disc-drive manufacturer, offersEvault Desktop, an online backup service for protecting laptops and PCs. The company deploys such security protections as data encryption and state-of-the-art data centers. A Web-based management console can let your business monitor workflow and allow for flexibility to schedule times backups or additional runs. Iron Mountain – The records management and data storage company now also offers digital products, including an online PC backup product for small and mid-size businesses. The product allows a business to protect between five and 100 PCs with convenient, consolidated billing. Iron Mountain is a recognized name in data storage and boasts that businesses can “rest assured that their data is protected.” Berkley Data Systems (EMC) – This company’s MozyPro online PC backup has received several publishers’ awards. Now that this company is part of EMC, customers may be more satisfied with a big-name behind the start-up. The product offers automatic or scheduled backup, bandwidth-saving features so it won’t interfere with other business processes, and an interface designed with the “non-tech-savvy” user in mind so that it’s easy to use.
If your business has any hope of surviving a routine systems failure or even a once-in-a-century catastrophe, it’s time to start thinking seriously about backing up your data. Myriad backup options are available for prices ranging from a one-time expenditure of a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, plus monthly maintenance fees. The complexity and cost of a backup system varies widely, depending on the amount of data to be stored, the frequency with which backups are made, the relative ease with which lost data can be restored and whether old data must be kept separate from new. Small business backup considerations According to data back-up specialist Iron Mountain Digital, small- to medium-sized businesses need to keep several key factors in mind. Which data is absolutely critical to continuing as a viable business? Which data is critical to communicating within the business? And which is operationally important, but perhaps not absolutely critical to the company’s survival? How effectively do the various options mitigate those increasingly critical risks? How fast can data be recovered in the event of a disaster? How much down-time would the business face during the restoration process, and would there be non-compliance fines or litigation costs associated with a failure? What other costs might be involved even in a temporary data loss? While there are a variety of backup options these days for small and mid-size businesses, a company also needs to put in place a regular process to ensure success of its backup strategy. “At the core, everyone focuses on the technology, but that’s the least important aspect of a back-up,” says Steve Lewis, CEO of Teneros, which makes an application continuity device for Microsoft Exchange servers. “Instead, you have to map certain things out: Have I hired the right person with the right skills to do this? Do I have a workable process in place? Am I doing regular test restores? Am I sure we’re backing up the data we need most? Does everyone in the loop know where the backups are stored and what to do with them?” Costs of backup Costs of backup options vary widely. Online backup costs between $2 and $7 per gigabyte per month but hard drive backups can cost anywhere from 50 cents to $2 per gigabyte depending on the size of the drives used and the type of software used to synchronize the backups. But the basic backup costs can be assessed using three key measures: RTO, or recovery time objective, measures the length of time that data would be unavailable following a failure. RPO, or recovery point objective, measures the acceptable amount of data loss between the last good backup and the point of failure. And DLE, or data loss event, looks at the type and scope of various failure scenarios. With the radical drops in hard drive costs over the last few years, small- and medium-sized businesses have been able to implement back-up strategies similar to those used by large enterprises over the last few decades. In fact, so-called ATA disk drives this year became the number one storage technology across all enterprises, according to IDC. In addition, small businesses now routinely have broadband access that they can leverage for online backup options. Types of backup options to consider Magnetic tape: This has long been the most commonly used medium for bulk data storage and backup, as well as archiving. Tape traditionally has offered the cheapest price-to-capacity ratio, particularly when compared with hard discs, but as hard drive density has increased that advantage has begun to disappear. Because tape stores data sequentially, it can take awhile to access specific portions of stored data. But most backup and restore systems simply require continuous reading and writing of data; as a result, newer tape drives can perform such processes even faster than many hard drives. Hard drives: Areal density, the measure of how much data can be squeezed into a given unit of hard disc space, has climbed steadily over the last few decades. It peaked in September 2006 at 421 gigabits per square inch in the laboratory, according to Seagate Technology, and 178 gigabits per square inch in production models, according to Toshiba. Industry consultant TrendFocus expects to see 500 gigabits per square inch in production units within the next three to five years, meaning we could see terabyte drives around that time. This means that businesses, particularly those built around less data-intensive systems, can squeeze more backup data onto fewer drives, although tape remains cheaper per gigabyte stored. Online backup: Still relatively new, online backup services take advantage of the ubiquitous broadband Internet connections found in nearly all modern computers. A key advantage to online backup is that the data is stored off-site, protecting it from any local hazards. It also can synchronize new data with old, reducing the amount of information that needs to flow through the online connection. But even high-speed connections back up data more slowly than local storage devices can, causing problems for data-intensive businesses. Optical storage: CD and DVD burners can be used to backup data quite cheaply. But there are a number of disadvantages: The process cannot be easily automated, it is labor-intensive, all data is copied regardless of whether it has changed since it was last backed up and the process of burning backup data to new discs can be very slow. Flash memory: Also called solid-state storage, flash memory devices include portable devices known as “thumb drives” or “USB drives,” as well as memory cards such as the CompactFlash and SD cards found in digital cameras. Expensive on a per-gigabyte basis, flash memory devices do have the advantage of moving easily between computers. Floppy discs: Remember these? For personal computing’s first couple of decades, floppies were the only practical means for backing up data. Now few modern PCs even have a floppy drive capable of handling these limited storage capacity discs.
Kevin Magenis hung up the phone, looked out his office window into his company’s development lab, and thought about what he’d just heard. The callers were from Apple Computer, and they wanted to talk business. Magenis’s start-up, Cornice, had developed tiny hard drives with a one-inch platter for storing music or digital files. And it made them for a third of the price of rivals like IBM. That’s why the Apple execs called that afternoon in late 2002. Would Cornice be interested, they wanted to know, in supplying the drives for the iPod Mini, the new, smaller version of Apple’s MP3 player? Digital music was still new, and no single player had emerged to dominate. But Apple was clearly the most innovative player on the scene and hooking up with the company would definitely be a coup for Cornice. Magenis was tempted. The problem was that Cornice was already working with two other makers of MP3 players, Thomson/RCA and Rio, and the Apple execs were insisting on an exclusive deal. Honoring that request would mean betraying two key clients. Cornice, which is based in Longmont, Colo., had been doing business with those two companies almost from the moment it was founded in 2000. At the time, Thomson and Rio were the leading manufacturers of MP3 players, both of them outselling Apple. Both companies had new products in the prototype stage designed around Cornice’s hard drives, and Cornice expected the two clients to account for as much as 40% of its revenue. Cornice also was negotiating to supply drives, for nonmusic uses, to Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Sony. Indeed, digital music was just a tiny part of Cornice’s business plan. The way Magenis and his team saw it, the real opportunity was in the much larger market for mobile phones–which they believed eventually would function as hand-held computers, storing and sending all manner of data. Still, Magenis knew he’d be a fool not to at least try to forge a relationship with Apple. He contacted some of his board members and told them about the offer. In addition to an exclusive arrangement, Apple also wanted Cornice to make some changes to its technology; specifically, it wanted Cornice to design a new, double-sided drive capable of storing more information. That seemed reasonable. Nonetheless, the board members concluded it would be bad business to abandon Thomson and Rio. Instead, they decided to propose a compromise: Cornice would keep its two current customers, but the iPod would be the only other MP3-device manufacturer it would make drives for. (Apple declined to comment for this story.) Over the next few months, Magenis made several trips to Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., and Apple’s engineers came out to Cornice’s Colorado offices. Magenis could sense how excited everyone at Apple seemed to be about the Mini; the iPod team was in constant contact with CEO Steve Jobs, and Magenis couldn’t help but be thrilled when he got to meet the man in passing. In the back of his mind, Magenis fretted that Apple would fix the problems in the digital music business, and Cornice might miss out on being inside the market leader. “I could see it was going to be a hell of an effort on their part,” he says. But Magenis was also juggling nearly 40 other deals. Apple could consume only so much of his time. By the end of the year, Apple was getting impatient. The executives were friendly but insistent. Apple wanted to work with Cornice, but it absolutely refused to budge on the issue of exclusivity. The Decision After hearing the news, Magenis sent an e-mail to his board members. All of them had the same response: It was time to move on. Magenis was disappointed but convinced it was the right decision. Cornice would forget about the iPod and forge ahead with its original business plan. That meant pushing hard into the cell phone market. The first move was to perfect its technology. Hard drives, after all, were invented for computers, which are far less likely to be dropped than cell phones, especially while in use. Cornice’s engineers have been hard at work shockproofing the company’s products. One innovation, CrashGuard, actually alerts the hard drive that the phone has been dropped, allowing the drive to brace itself for impact. Cornice’s drives can now fall 1.5 meters without disturbance–a market best, according to industry analysts. In July, Magenis became Cornice’s chairman, handing CEO duties to Camillo Martino. Both men believe that Cornice’s engineering will give the company an edge with cell phone makers, which obviously do not want consumers calling to complain that their phone stopped working because the hard drive crashed. “We have a two-year advantage on our competitors,” says Martino. Indeed, the company is working with Samsung, one of the world’s largest cell phone makers, to develop hard drives for its upcoming line of high-end smart phones. The iPod Mini, of course, proved every bit as successful as Magenis sensed it would be. The Mini debuted in January 2004, with hard drives from Hitachi. Seagate also became a supplier and both companies lowered prices and expanded storage capacity–essentially erasing Cornice’s early lead. Still, both Magenis and Martino say they have no regrets about Cornice’s decision. “The original vision was to create the ultimate storage solution for cell phones,” says Martino. “The iPod presented a turning point for the company.” Just look at the numbers, they say. According to market researcher iSuppli, the market for all MP3 players will hit 132 million units in 2009. The number of cell phones sold is expected to hit one billion. While only 10% or so are likely to have hard drives, it’s still an enormous market. Martino predicts that in three years hard drives will ship in more than 100 million cell phones a year. No cell phones with hard drives are currently being sold in the U.S. That should change late this year, when Samsung introduces a smart phone with a version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system and a camera that can shoot up to four hours of high-quality video–thanks to a Cornice hard drive. While Cornice waits for the cell phone market to materialize, the company continues to sell to manufacturers of MP3 players, digital video cameras, global-positioning systems, and personal storage units. It’s eyeing the market for hand-held video game players. And the company recently started talking to Apple again and hopes to be in a position to collaborate on some future version of the iPod. “We still covet an Apple opportunity,” Magenis says. The Experts Weigh In A Smart Move If you look at the numbers, it’s probably the smarter move to pick cell phones over the iPod. It’s pretty clear that as these cell phones become more personalized media devices, the demand for localized storage is probably going to increase. Consumers will want to have more stuff on their phones. Cornice is in a very strong leadership position to be a provider to cell phone makers, and that’s the larger potential market. Tim Bajarin Principal analyst Creative Strategies Campbell, Calif. Numbers Don’t Lie I would’ve made the same call. No one knew Apple could knock this out of the park. Focusing on cell phones is a good choice, given where the market is going. Eventually, every device we carry will have a hard drive in it. If you look realistically at the numbers, iPods sell maybe 25 million a year. But in three years there will be 100 million cell phones with hard drives in them. Sean Ryan CEO Donnerwood Media San Francisco I’m Not Convinced Going with cell phones wasn’t a bad move, since that market will always be larger than the MP3 player market. The question is, how many consumers will want a cell phone with 10 gigabytes of storage, with music, photos, video, GPS? There will be cell phones with hard drives. But will there be hundreds of millions of them? I’m not convinced of that at this point. David Reinsel Director of storage research, IDC Framingham, Mass.
Shop Talk CEOs Search for the Right Technology A good data backup system can preserve not just your company but your sanity As the Y2K panic proved, the most common culprit for lost computer data is not system failure. It’s plain old user error. And the only way to combat that is with an electronic safeguard — a data backup system. Patrick Guthrie, president and chief technology officer of the Pajo Group, a $15-million Internet service provider in Long Beach, Calif., learned that the hard way. In early 1998 a manager’s tinkering rendered the company’s customer database inaccessible. Guthrie wasn’t too worried because he had easily recovered backed-up copies in the past. This time, however, none of his ideas worked. “We were frantic,” he says. Finally, he was forced to do something he hated: call in a consultant. “We paid him his $125 an hour,” Guthrie says ruefully. “It’s amazing how monetary limitations don’t apply when you’re trying to get your data back.” The incident was enough to spur him into looking for a backup system with more capacity and faster access. Like many start-ups, the Pajo Group had built its backup system around the Band-Aid principle — an effective enough method when it had to find lost E-mail for its 20 customers. The company’s first purchase was a Hewlett-Packard Colorado Trakker 350 tape drive that cost about $500. “Back then [in late 1997] we were running pretty lean and mean,” says Guthrie, “so we fixed problems as they happened.” The tape drive stored all Pajo’s data — a customer database, financial files, customers’ files, and the company’s own ISP-related files — on 350MB magnetic tapes that resembled double-thick cassettes. Each tape had cost about $20 or $30. Guthrie himself executed the backup, inserting a tape into the drive each night and removing it the next morning. He completed the procedure by storing the tapes in a fireproof box in the company’s offices in case of disaster. The system worked fine, but Guthrie found that the recovery process averaged 10 minutes per file — an inordinate amount of time — because he had to rewind and search the entire tape for the lost data. True, he had to go through the process only about two times a month, but he knew that the number of requests was going to grow. Plus, because of his expanding client base, 350MB was too little space per tape; on many nights the tapes filled up before backup was complete. Pajo hadn’t yet begun offering 24-hour technical support, so there was no one around in the wee hours to replace the full tapes with empty ones. Then came the last straw: the customer-database fiasco. Determined to have a more robust system, Guthrie purchased an Iomega Jaz drive for $300 at a computer superstore after spending time at Iomega’s booth at a trade show. It was bigger than his tape drive — up to one gigabyte (1,000MB) of data could be stored on a Jaz cartridge. And it was much faster. As he watched the Jaz drive back up the amount of data in 10 minutes that the Colorado drive had handled in two hours, Guthrie became an instant fan. But he realized too late that he’d made his decision too quickly. Business was still booming, and nightly backups were running about 650MB and climbing. He was now using one cartridge a day that cost $80 to $90 for storage. That meant Guthrie was paying more each week to store his data than he had spent on the drive itself. “Up until then I had always relied on our vendors for accurate technical advice,” says Patrick Guthrie. “I couldn’t do that anymore.” By early 1999, Pajo’s menu of services had expanded to include hosting Web sites, colocating Web servers (meaning that his customers’ servers actually resided at Pajo), and handling thousands of E-mail accounts and more than 150 T1-line customers. To support all the traffic, Pajo had a United Nationslike network that featured operating systems ranging from Windows NT to Linux to Unix and even to the Mac OS. If Pajo were ever to move beyond the Band-Aid approach to backup, the time had come. Guthrie started asking around for advice. The consensus, from Pajo vendors like Ingram Micro and Tech Data as well as some consultants, was that a digital audiotape (DAT) drive would be the way to go. A DAT drive can store up to 40GB of data on one tape, at a cost comparable to that of storing data on magnetic tapes — less than 10¢ per megabyte and half that for storing fully compressed data. However, compared with magnetic tapes, a DAT drive is less unwieldy to use for retrieving data. And although it’s not as fast as a Jaz drive, a DAT drive takes only about 40 seconds to locate a file. To run the DAT drive, Guthrie’s vendors suggested that he use Seagate Technology’s Backup Exec 7.2 software (it’s now a product of Veritas) — a far more sophisticated brand of backup software than he had used with the other drives. Guthrie wasn’t quite sold, but then his sanity-check Internet search for “backup software” turned up Seagate’s name repeatedly. So he purchased Seagate’s Backup Exec software in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard’s HP SureStore DAT24 drive, so named because it was capable of holding 24GB of data (again, in a perfectly compressed world). The price: $840 for the software and $1,251 for the drive. Guthrie installed the software as well as the DAT drive on a server running Windows NT. That was a snap, but configuring the software to back up data across a smorgasbord of operating systems wasn’t. To facilitate communication between Linux and the company’s other systems, Guthrie earlier had created shortcuts called “Samba shares.” For three days Guthrie tried to get the Backup Exec software to recognize the Samba shares, convinced that he had to be doing something wrong. Being a computer guy, he figured that if he couldn’t fix things himself, he was as good as doomed. “You’re S.O.L. once you call tech support,” he says. It certainly felt that way as he waded through Seagate’s voice-mail system. When he finally reached a technician on the third call, he explained his problem and was told he’d receive a callback. In the mean- time, he relied on the Jaz drive for backup. After two weeks had passed without a word from Seagate, he tried again. A manager assured him that he’d receive a call the next day. He did — and got some bad news: version 7.2 of Backup Exec didn’t include the right agents (technology used to accommodate different operating systems) to support any Linux shortcuts. But there was also some good news: the next version of the software would have the capability. (According to Stacey Ruscette, a spokesperson for Veritas, which purchased Seagate’s software division in May 1999, versions 7.3 and 8.0, released in June 1999 and February 2000 respectively, include the appropriate agent to support Linux.) Guthrie couldn’t wait, so he returned the software. “I kept the DAT drive,” he says, “but I was back to square one.” The experience showed him how little was commonly known about backup systems. “Up until then I had always relied on our vendors for accurate technical advice. I couldn’t do that anymore.” Guthrie instead turned to one of his young technicians, a recent college graduate with plenty of friends in other Internet companies. The technician made a few calls. He reported back to Guthrie that the highest praise for backup software capable of supporting a variety of operating systems went to Knox’s Arkeia, a product that was popular with Linux users. A few times Guthrie E-mailed Knox some questions that he was “looking for yeses to” — namely, whether the software would work with all Pajo’s operating systems (except the Mac OS), whether he could try the software risk free before buying, and whether he could get technical support 24/7. He also hoped to find a system that would allow him to start the backup from any machine, running any operating system, by means of an easy-to-navigate graphical user interface. He got his yeses. With the guarantee of a 30-day free trial, Guthrie’s young technician downloaded the Arkeia trial software from Knox’s Web site and installed it on Pajo’s Windows NT server that day — no snags, no glitches. “It was pretty sweet,” says Guthrie. Then, when he had to call Knox to clarify some settings, he got a bonus: he found himself on the phone with Sam Siegel, the company president. (As Knox was at that point only a six-person company, Siegel took his share of customer calls.) When he found out that Siegel had had a large hand in designing the software, Guthrie took great pleasure in grilling him about the product. Guthrie also got some free advice. When Siegel heard that Pajo was using a Windows NT server for primary backup, Siegel made a suggestion he’d made many times before to Linux users: why not speed up the process by running the backup from the Linux machine rather than from the Windows NT one? To Guthrie, the idea was a classic example of overlooking the obvious. “We were letting our primary operating system [Windows NT] dictate where we were going to do the backup from,” he says. Guthrie moved the DAT drive from the NT box to the Linux box. “It took longer to move the DAT drive from one computer to the next than it did to install the software. We had everything up and running within 20 minutes.” Not only did the system work perfectly, but Siegel’s claim that the backup would be 10 times faster using the Linux box was substantiated. Guthrie particularly liked the real-time graphic that monitored just how fast the backup was going. “We were all watching it, screaming, ‘Go, go, go!’ We’re men — we like to see meters,” he says. To date, the system has never failed. And it’s no problem to find that E-mail address that’s been lost in the abyss. With the DAT drive, an administrator just selects the file in question from Arkeia’s Explorer-like log, and a dialog box tells him which tape to insert into the drive to retrieve it. The process takes, at most, three minutes. Safety net Matthew Barrer calls his old method for backing up his company’s data “half-assed,” but his system is not as uncommon among small businesses as you might think. Barrer copied key files from one hard drive to another through his local area network before leaving for the night. In 1998, Barrer bought the five-year-old Philadelphia Enterpriser magazine, which is targeted at business owners and entrepreneurs in the metropolitan area. The following year he made his mark on the publication by instituting a few changes: he made the content truly regional in focus, since he knew he couldn’t compete with deep-pocketed national magazines, and he improved the company’s technology. His first upgrade was to implement GoldMine contact-management software. Instead of using Microsoft Access to house the subscriber database and boxes of note cards to keep track of advertisers, the company began operating off three GoldMine databases: one for the Enterpriser‘s 18,000 active subscribers, one for its advertisers, and one for Barrer’s own personal contacts. His second upgrade was to jury-rig that file-copying backup system to minimize the chance of losing files. But not having an official backup system gnawed at him. He didn’t want his company to become a statistic in some backup-system manufacturer’s brochure. “Reader data in the subscriber database is not something we can reconstruct easily,” he says. “Those demographics are what our advertising revenue depends on. I needed it to be secure.” Barrer started his search for a backup system as a relative novice. “I knew about tape drives,” he says, “but I didn’t know what else was out there at all.” To learn about his options, he began asking everyone he ran across about backup systems — both online and off. Barrer knew he wanted something that was not labor-intensive. And from what he was hearing, online systems virtually took care of themselves. No one would have to change the tapes and make sure the data were moved off-site. “I’d much prefer that the data be in some big data warehouse, where I’m the control point,” he says. “I don’t have a full MIS department; no one’s going to be able to do that for me.” Identifying vendors was as easy as launching his browser and searching for “online backup.” “I was looking for something that I could control and access with minimal effort, and that I could trust — it had to be encrypted and safe,” he says. He also wanted a solution that backed up any changes in his data on a daily basis. “I didn’t want to have to go back on more than a day’s activity,” he says. He ended up focusing on three Internet-based backup services that met his criteria: @Backup, Connected, and NovaStor. Using each company’s software, Barrer could connect to the Internet and automatically back up his company’s data. Further, the software allowed incremental backups to automatically launch at the same time every day (he could even choose the time) to ferret out the files that had changed in the past 24 hours. Barrer liked the sound of that — a workable day-to-day backup solution that would require little to no involvement from him. Now he just had to discover which one would best meet the Enterpriser‘s needs. With @Backup, for a $99 annual fee, users could back up as much as 100MB of data by means of a simple Internet connection. The company also offered a deal in which users could pay $300 a year to back up 500MB of data. Although both plans would have worked for Barrer personally, neither was good enough for his business. For the Enterpriser he wanted to make sure that he could restore everything, including applications and his Windows 98 operating system — 6.5GB of data — since he didn’t have an internal technical team to handle such a task. Besides, he didn’t much cotton to the idea of signing a long-term contract. Connected’s Online Backup and NovaStor’s NovaNet-Web (which is hosted by Compaq) both had the monthly, commitment-free pricing he liked — around $20 a month. Plus, they offered enough storage space for a systemwide backup. (In NovaStor’s case, if a company wants the initial backup to be done on-site, it must purchase a $200 NovaNet software package.) Price considerations alone would have made it easy to go with Connected, but Barrer was drawn to NovaStor’s connection with Compaq. Although both companies backed up clients’ data onto digital linear tape (DLT) at secure data facilities, NovaStor used a Compaq-owned data center whereas Connected had its own. (DLT drives start at twice the price of DAT drives, and their smallest capacity is 40GB — which is the largest capacity for DAT drives.) Moreover, Compaq was actually the provider to whom Barrer would be paying his monthly NovaStor bill; it offered backup service with NovaStor’s software through its Web site. “If it was good enough for Compaq,” Barrer says, “it sure as heck was good enough for me.” “If NovaStor backup was good enough for Compaq,” Matthew Barrer says, “it sure as heck was good enough for me.” The decision made, Barrer turned to an expert for the follow-through. InfoQuest, a NovaStor value-added reseller also located in Pennsylvania, installed NovaStor’s NovaNet 7 onto the Enterpriser‘s Windows NT and oversaw the initial backup, which involved 6.5GB worth of applications and operating systems on two tapes. Two copies of the information were made. One was transferred off-site to the Compaq data bank, and the other resides at InfoQuest, where it’s available for easy retrieval in case of a full-blown disaster. The rest of the Enterpriser‘s data — financial files, business correspondence, the GoldMine databases — were backed up by InfoQuest using NovaNet-Web, NovaStor’s online backup software. All Barrer had to do was install his own CD-ROM of software on the Enterpriser‘s server. Although he did call NovaNet’s customer-service reps to guide him, he was able, with virtually no problems, to use the software’s wizard to answer a series of questions that automatically set up the schedule of when he wanted his data backed up. “It passed my software test,” he said. “I was able to install it without looking at a manual.” Now, every night when the clock strikes 12, NovaNet-Web scans Barrer’s computers for changes and performs backups of any changed files. The whole process takes about 10 minutes. NovaNet-Web also backs up Barrer’s laptop nightly. “If I’m online at that late hour, I’ll get a message saying, ‘Do you want to back up now?” says Barrer. “And if I miss it, I can just back up the next time I connect to the Internet.” Barrer couldn’t be more pleased. Not only does he have a backup system that operates without human intervention, but he also has a system that works. In one case Barrer used NovaStor to restore his 45MB database of contacts, which, according to NovaStor, had been corrupted when something malfunctioned. Although the parties don’t agree on how the data were lost or whose fault it was, Barrer doesn’t particularly care. He just made sure he got a restored file, because into the void had gone the one record he’d never dare to delete: his mother’s. Mie-Yun Lee is the editorial director and founder of BuyerZone, an Internet buying service that features expert purchasing advice and tools for small and midsize businesses. You can conduct your own search for an online backup system at www.buyerzone.com/computers/backup-remote/index.html. Sandra Boncek contributed to this article. Please e-mail your comments to email@example.com.
You can purchase backup software, hardware, and media from online resellers, such as NECX Global Electronics Exchange and Outpost.com, as well as brick-and-mortar computer stores and, in some cases, directly from the vendor’s Web site. NECX even offers buying how-to guides that explain the technology and its features and uses. Evaluate Key Features Outlined below are the key features to look for in software for an off-the-shelf data backup solution: Support for all the devices (tape, DVD, CD, etc.) you use. A backup scheduling option that fits your needs. Automatic virus detection while backing up. An option to encrypt data before backing up. Disaster recovery features such as one-button recovery and the ability to rebuild system from scratch using backups. Understand the Issues to Consider in Selecting Off-the-Shelf Data Backup Solution Software Be aware that using data encryption and virus detection options may slow down backup so that it can’t be completed in one night if you have a slow connection speed. Research off-the-shelf data backup solution software costs. NovaStor’s NovaBackup and Backup Exec from Veritas (formerly Seagate’s Backup Exec) offer sophisticated features for a networked office. These products range from $50 to $2,000, depending on the complexity of your network (single desktop or multiple servers with RAID). PG Soft’s Tape-it ($59) offers a simple solution for tape drives only. For a list of Macintosh products, check out Apple’s Macintosh Products Guide. Research off-the-shelf data backup hardware features. Outlined below are the key features to look for in off-the-shelf data hardware. You can buy any of these types of backup hardware for either the PC or the Macintosh. Backup hardware can be internal (built into a computer) or external (portable). Because of the extra case needed to house an external drive, the external versions of CD, DVD, or tape drives generally run $100 more than internal versions. If your computers are on a network, you’ll be able to purchase a drive for the server and use it to back up all the computers on the network. If you want to purchase only one drive and use it to back up two or more computers that aren’t networked together, you’ll want to pay extra to get an external drive. However, not all external drives are easy to move from system to system. If this capability is important to you, look for a drive that’s designed to be easily portable. Understand the issues to consider in selecting off-the-shelf data backup solution hardware. Make sure your computer system meets the minimum requirements for the hardware you choose. Also make sure that the hardware is compatible with older hardware technologies. For example, DVD-RAMs should be able to read CD-ROMs, and a DAT-DDS-3 drive should be able to read and write DDS-1 and DDS-2 tapes. Research off-the-shelf data backup solution hardware costs. CD drives: If you’re going to buy a CD for creating backups and archives, your best is a CD-RW drive. CD-RW drives and media are more expensive than CD-R drives and media, but not by much. A CD-RW costs from $200 to $400, while a CD-R costs from $150 to $400. (The difference in price in each case depends on the speed of the drive and whether it uses the standard IDE-type electronic interface controller or the more expensive and faster SCSI-type electronic interface controller.) And although CD-RW media costs around $2 a disk, while CD-R media cost about $1 a disk, a CD-RW drive can also read and write using the cheaper CD-R media. If you’re planning to use a CD drive to regularly back up data, you’ll want the ability to rewrite new backups over old backups. You’ll save more than enough by not having to constantly purchase new CDs to pay for the rewritable capability. CD-R and CD-RW drive vendors include Hewlett-Packard, Iomega, Memorex, Plextor, Ricoh, and Yamaha Corp. of America. ZDNet’s CD-Rewritable Guide provides installation and troubleshooting help as well as links to vendors, prices, and product reviews. Computer Shopper reviewed CD-RWs in its November 1999 issue. DVD-RAMs cost from $260 to $600, with the higher-priced drives offering faster read/write and SCSI controllers. DVD-RAM media cost from $20 to $40 per disk. Creative Labs, Hi-Val, Panasonic, Pinnacle Micro, and Toshiba all offer DVD-RAMs. ZDNet’s DVD Guide provides installation and troubleshooting help as well as links to vendors, prices, and product reviews. Tape drives. You’ll need to clean your drive, so to save money, look for a drive that includes a cleaning tape or has a built-in, self-activated head cleaner. Tape drive prices vary according to the amount of storage offered, its speed, and whether it uses a SCSI or an IDE controller. Expect high-capacity, fast drives with SCSI controllers to cost the most. Travan drives cost from $200 to $600. DAT drives cost from $500 to $2,000. 8-mm drives cost from $1,000 to $2,500. DLT drives cost from $2,000 to $6,000. Tape prices are based on quality and capacity. Travan tapes cost from $20 to $40. DAT tapes cost from $5 to $50. 8-mm tapes cost from $4 to $60. DLT tapes cost from $30 to $90. Tape drive manufacturers include Exabyte, Hewlett-Packard, Quantum, Seagate Technology, and Sony. Copyright Â© 1995-2000 Pinnacle WebWorkz Inc. All rightsreserved. Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form.