Richard Gordon and I have a lot in common. Our companies are in the information technology industry. We’re both based on the East Coast. We’ve been in business since the early 1990’s. We have approximately the same number of employees. We both implement contact management software (i.e. ACT! and others) to help our clients manage their clients. And we both like Chinese food.
Spare ribs aside, Rich and I share another common nightmare: clients who say they’ve backed up their data but…didn’t. We usually find this out at the very last minute: like when there’s been a problem and we need to restore data. Both Rich and I hate when this happens. It’s like finding out there’s only a meager four shrimp in the shrimp with lobster sauce when our order arrives. It would’ve been nice to know this stuff beforehand people!
But Rich is smarter than me. He’s done something about this problem.
All clients of Rich’s company, Carlstone Consulting LLC, (www.carlstone.com) are required to subscribe to an annual online backup service. He swears by Carbonite (www.carbonite.com). But there are many other good services to choose from as well – like Mozy (www.mozy.com), SOS from Infrascale (www.infrascale.com) and iBackup (www.ibackup.com).
“Every client of ours must do this,” Rich tells me. “We don’t even discuss it with them. We can’t be responsible if a device breaks or software fails and then we’re called in to restore something. Because this WILL happen.”
Oh, and he only now orders the sweet and sour chicken instead of the shrimp. “Way more bang for the buck,” he admits.
My clients and I are still backing up data to external devices and media. Shouldn’t I have learned by now? Shouldn’t I be setting up an online backup service for them too? Shouldn’t I be using one of these services in my own company? Shouldn’t I at least consider an appetizer if I know there won’t be enough shrimp in the shrimp with lobster sauce?
It’s certainly not the price that’s stopping me. Most of these services cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 per year. That’s a full dinner for me and the missus at our local Chinese place. And for that price we get unlimited storage too – and I’m not just talking about the size of my gut. As a business owner, I’m as cheap as the next guy. But, even in these hard times, I’m still OK to shell out an extra four bucks a month for a backup service. That’s like… two eggrolls.
And I can’t complain that today’s online backup services are hard to use. Taking Rich’s advice, I signed up for a trial version of Carbonite and had it working in under a half hour. After a quick installation all I had to do was right click on the folders or files that I wanted backed-up, select the option that was newly added to the right click menu and watched it go. I also had to tell the software how often I wanted a backup to occur (daily at 2AM for me).
I’m not seeing any broadband issues either. Sure, this software is moving a LOT of data over the pipes to their servers. If this were being done over a phone line or even DSL I may have concerns. But we’ve got a fast cable connection at our company and most of our clients have even faster T1 based networks so moving the data isn’t much of a problem.
I’m not sure if I’ve got a security issue. Online backup firms swear up and down that our data is secured. But given the promises made to me by financial institutions, car companies and large credit rating bureaus over the past few years I’ve learned not to believe everything I hear. To really buy into these services I have to buy into the fact that my company’s data is out there and could probably be taken by a nefarious super spy. I’m not sure what a secret agent would do with five hundred job costing spreadsheets showing how we lose money on our projects, but I guess that’ll just be up to him.
Restoring files is pretty easy. As long as you’ve got your username and password you can log in from any computer, right click on the files you’ve previously backed up, and tell the system where to restore them. Be careful – if you’re a MAC user I’m told there are a few challenges with some of these services. And depending on the amount of data you want to restore it could take a long time…hours or days.
I did encounter a few challenges with Carbonite though. The initial backup does take a long time – almost 18 hours for all of my company’s data. But it runs in the background and didn’t absorb too many resources. And Carbonite does not automatically backup data files greater than 4 GB in size. That’s kind of a pain because we, like many of our clients, have databases that are multiple times that size. And each day our database software program creates a backup file, with its own unique name. So because these backup files have a different name and are greater than 4 GB Carbonite doesn’t pick them up. Rich writes a script for his clients which fixes this problem. I had to fiddle with my internal backup software to create a file with the same name each time. Bottom line: most business owners are probably going to need a propeller head to get involved when setting up these services.
Which does bring me to the reality about today’s online backup services. Did you notice something about how I’m using this stuff? And how Rich is using it? It’s being used as a backup… for the backups!
That’s because in 2013 small businesses are pretty wary about online services. It’s still pretty new to us – like ordering sushi at the Chinese restaurant. I mean, aren’t China and Japan two completely different countries?
Rich’s clients, like my clients (and like…my company) are still backing up their files the old fashioned way. They’re still using internal backup software and saving stuff to hard drives, DVDs and even, in some cases, tapes. None of this seems to be going away. It’s just that, for fifty bucks a year, Rich is adding an extra layer of protection to his clients’ backup procedures. Nothing’s foolproof, but at least he’s got a little more comfort that if a client’s internal backup software fails, there’ll be a good offsite backup safely stored in the cloud.
Me? I agree. My internal backup software is still very much in operation. But I forked over the fifty bucks for online backup last week. To absorb the cost, maybe next week I’ll skip that Chinese dinner. I could stand to lose a few pounds anyway.