Transitioning to Off-Site Data Backups

Paul Mah

In an earlier blog this week, I picked the brains of Jennifer Walzer on some of the common mistakes made by SMBs when it comes to backup. Walzer is the chief executive officer and founder of Backup My Info!, a company that specializes in the secure, off-site backup of data. Today, I want to focus on the relevance of off-site data backups and how to overcome challenges inherent to it.


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But why is having an off-site data backup important in the first place? Aside from the fact that remote copies of data help protect against data loss in the event of large-scale natural disasters or terrorist attacks, having backups stored outside the office ensures their continued availability should your office be temporarily inaccessible.


Indeed, there is a growing momentum toward implementing off-site backups, and businesses are turning to the services of a host of specialized vendors to help them realize their vision of secure, geographically dispersed archival. As usual, there are some factors that SMBs need to consider even as they ponder the merits of switching to an off-site data backup strategy.


Establishing a Data-Retention Policy


One primary downside to storing data off site is that it entails additional resources, be it in to physically transport the data medium or to use network bandwidth. So to control the amount of data that needs to be archived, businesses first need to establish a data-retention policy.


Indeed, Walzer noted that the biggest challenge her company sees is that many businesses do not have one. Data is growing so quickly, that unless properly managed, companies having a difficult time restoring their data within a reasonable amount of time. Also, the costs associated with managing and archiving data will escalate quickly.


DIY or Full-Service Provider?


There has been a large jump in the number of providers providing online data storage or archival services of late. Many of these services, such as SugarSync, DropBox and Mozy are polished products that are extremely easy to use for individual backup. However, their success with consumer and power users detracts from the fact that they are prebuilt to operate in a relatively rigid fashion, offering little customization for individual SMBs.


So while they work well, small and mid-sized businesses are essentially left to implement a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to protect their data. While Walzer did not address any of the above services (nor did I raise it with her), she did allude to the situation by summing up the differences between a "self-service model" and relying on a full-service provider.


Walzer wrote in an e-mail to me:

There are so many providers in this market today ranging from providers that service the low end almost akin to a self-service model all the way to a provider like Backup My Info! that takes ownership for ensuring you have the right data backup and recovery plan and implementation for your organization.

Noting the importance of customized solutions and individual attention, Walzer also observed that a reputable provider will provide best practices to help ensure that costs stay low, but keep the company protected correctly.


The ultimate decision whether to use off-site data backups is best left to the individual SMBs. Have you transitioned to off-site data backup? If so, I'll love to hear about your experience with it.

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