TECH GUIDE - Online Backup Solutions for Business

TECH GUIDE - Online Backup Solutions for Business

Online backup solutions are now widely available from many providers and for the novice or IT professional alike it isn’t an easy task to decide with whom you should place your trust. With low barriers to entry the online data backup market has new entrants cropping up each month, each apparently offering the same promises as the next. However, all online backup solutions are not equal and there are wide variations in capabilities, capacities, prices and security. So when you embark on a provider search; whether it’s for the first time or you’re considering changing supplier, what things should you look for? It’s not enough to simply look at price and capabilities of the software as it’s essential to ensure your data is being stored in a professionally managed manner.

This article contains guidelines and pointers you should follow when making a decision on a possible online backup provider.

1) Research

Before you embark on anything else make sure you know what it is you need. Understand the key terms revolving around data backup so that when you eventually do communicate with some of your short listed providers you’ll know how to answer their questions on what your requirements are and also know what they are actually talking about! Make a list of the top service providers; however be wary of ‘top 10 lists’ as more often than not, these top places are fixed through sponsorship. Have a look into what people are saying about them and read any independent reviews they may have received which should be readily available on their personal website.

2) Free Trials

Before you buy, ask for a free trial. Decent online backup solution providers will offer a free trial of their services making it the easiest and most accurate way to judge what to eventually expect. Conduct tests to see how long it would take to send and receive data. Take advantage of everything on offer if you can: phone the support team, ask to talk through certain aspects of the system, test out their promises. A good provider will want to give you the full experience so don’t be afraid to take them up on it.

3) Reliability

Some online backup solution providers will promise the world when it comes to selling their product. The real hurdle lies in delivering those promises. Online data backup is too critical to leave to chance so it is imperative that you know how the solution you opt for works. What is the technology behind the solution? Who are their existing satisfied customers? Anything to justify the claims being made will help make your decision that bit easier.

4) Usability

Any opportunity for human intervention is an opportunity for problems; therefore the backup application itself must be easy to use and as fool proof as possible. Again, take advantage of a trial; see how the interface works first hand and make sure the software application is simple to use yet robust enough to satisfy your organisation’s needs.

5) Restore

During your free trial of the data backup software, or in the early days of a provisional contract, test out the software restore capability. It’s all very well having software than can backup data but you’ll also need something that can recover it as easily as it can backup it up. Is a data restore easy to initiate? Is it clear what needs to be done? If you do suffer an unfortunate incident of data loss, you’ll want to know how to get your data back, calmly and efficiently.

6) Support

In the world of IT, solutions are only as good as the people who are behind the service; especially when dealing with critical data. There are many low-cost online backup providers offering large amounts of storage space for next to nothing. But to achieve that ‘next to nothing’ price tag, some rather critical elements have to be left out. More often than not costs are cut in customer service and support. Many poor online backup solution providers opt for service delivered only via email or automated replies, or outsource a help desk to a foreign country to keep costs down. Initially this may seem fair: you reap the benefits of low costs, but what happens when a failure occurs? There is no replacement for an understanding human being talking you through and solve your problem.

7) Versioning

Every business is different. Some businesses have a lot of static data that doesn’t really change, while others might have critical data that changes all the time. In this instance it is important to determine the exact details of your backup requirement. If you have a lot of changing data then it’s important to choose an online backup solution that keeps versions. Versioning helps users restore old files in the state they were, at a specific point in time. Some software might offer monthly snapshots to restore to, while offers can offer up to 96 possible recovery points per day. What’s key to ask is whether versioning is available and if it fulfils your needs.

8) Reporting

When looking at an online backup solution, its important to consider its reporting capabilities. Whilst normally everything should run smoothly sometimes, even with a good solution, things go wrong. There are many factors which can get in the way of creating a successful backup. These range from simple human error to glitches in your internal connections. Backup reporting tools help track failures and determine their causes: - a vital aspect in disaster prevention. Look for reporting which provides a daily list of what’s backed up and lists of file sizes, time of transfer, modification dates, files not backed up or skipped and any error details.

9) Security

Many data backup companies claim to possess the best in data encryption and storage technology. Whatever standards they claim to have, however, there is one key element that must be met: a second data centre. This is required to mirror the primary data centre and is a critical part of any respectable online data backup solution. As a minimum, data needs to be protected in separate locations to guarantee availability of recovery. If there were a disaster outside the realms of technical control i.e. natural disaster or terrorist attack at site one, then there has to be a failover plan to ensure the customer data is safely backed up somewhere else. You might also want to ask about the location of the data centres that will be holding your data. For example, many low end providers use US data centres for cost reasons. However, the U.S. isn’t as regulated as the EU in terms of data protection and confidentiality. This also includes law such as the Patriot Act where government officials can search through your files without permission, if they deem it necessary for cases of national security.

10) Charging for protected, not stored data.

You must check, with whichever online backup service provider you are talking to, whether you will be charged on amount of data stored or amount of data protected on your machines. If the pricing system is based on amount of data stored then versioning can become very expensive. Some companies will charge you on this, whereby if you have ten versions of one file you will be charged for those ten versions and the storage space you use for them. Many companies have been hit with surprise spiralling bills because they haven’t understood the price system properly. A much better option is to use an online backup solution provider that charges you on protected data. This shows you clearly how much you’re going to pay each month – with no surprises. It’s understandably much better that way.

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