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    Tuesday, December 29, 2009

    Online Backups as a Service

    This post is related to a question that people often ask me and therefore I've spent a lot of time thinking about.

    What makes online backup service x better than y?

    To get the answer to this question, people often Google "Online Backup Reviews" or "Online Backups" and read articles that compare the 5 or so most popular online backup offerings. These reviews compare features like encryption, speed, ease of use, features like Continuous Data Protection, ability to backup network drives etc. Close to the end somewhere is a little blurb about support and if one support desk is better than another or something like that.

    I think most reviews mislead the reader and sometimes miss the mark completely. Yes features such as speed and ease of use are important, and for a service to be considered seriously, it should meet certain criteria in these categories. But as a business person, think about the problem you want to solve with backups: You are protecting your most critical asset against loss. That's what it all comes down to. The rest is semantics.

    When considering different solutions is the difference between 5 and 7 clicks to set up a backup your biggest concern or do you want to know that when you are in your time of greatest need; like when a disaster strikes, that the service you are purchasing is there to help you through it?

    Online Backups are a SERVICE not just a piece of software.

    If you read a few of those reviews and scroll down to the bottom to the paragraph where the reviewing contacted big box provider X, the rating is generally meets expectations down to non-existent. Often you will have to navigate past the front-line support person who is reading to a script to the next level to get any meaningful response. Is this what you want in time of disaster? Was it worth the extra pretty interface or the few dollars less a month to be left out in the cold when disaster strikes?

    When shopping for an online backup service, remember that word: service

    If you are in the market for someone to perform your IT management or even just manage your printers, the first item on the checklist is service. Why is it that online backups have been relegated to a set of features and upload/download speed? Backups are as much or more about service than any other part of your IT environment.

    Here is a checklist that I use when shopping for an online backup service:
    • Will the company help me design a backup solution that is the best for my particular business like a backup solution that ensure all critical data is backed up, and optimize use of bandwidth; taking into consideration usage patterns and current bandwidth usage?

    • Will the company notify me if my backups fail and help me figure out why (as opposed to just sending automated email messages)?

    • Will the company not only provide me with the option of receiving my data on hard drive or DVD in the event of disaster, but also work with me until I'm back in business?

    • Where is my data stored and how long does it take to get it back?

    • When I call support, am I talking to 1-800-INDIA or do I immediately connect to someone who is knowledgeable about the product and isn't reading off of a script?
    By considering these items, you can begin to understand the value of spending a few dollars more on a provider that provides these services than on a provider that may be more well-known but only delivers the most basic services.

    Remember that you are protecting the most critical asset that your business has. Do you really want to base that decision on the lowest price and prettiest bells and whistles?