Where’s my data?

The nine-person team at Fair, Anderson & Langerman knows the value of protecting its clients’ data from tech failures and other mishaps, but it wasn’t until January 2006 that the Las Vegas consultancy firm realized that it needed an offsite backup system of its own.

The firm’s search began and ended on the Internet, where myriad remote backup services have cropped up to help companies of all sizes transfer, store, and retrieve their critical data offsite.

Garlyn Norris, 26, IT president for the firm, says he wanted a system that could manage Microsoft Exchange Database (where the firm stores its e-mail) and SQL files (for its financial records), and that would allow the company to perform disaster recovery for its own clients.

Norris found the answer in MozyPro, an online provider that automatically backs up one server for about $60 a month for the IT Department of the firm, which had $750,000 in sales last year. “It really fit the bill,” says Norris, who rests easier knowing that a computer crash won’t put his company out of business.

Ease of Use
Key in the words “online backup” into Google and you’ll come up with a plethora of companies willing to whisk your precious data to some far-off place and store it safely until you need to restore your system or simply access files while traveling.

These systems, which range in price from free to $10 or $20 a month and up (depending on the total file size), don’t come without challenges. For starters, there’s always the question of where your data is going, whether it will be retrievable, and how it will be encrypted–a particularly important point for companies that are transferring sensitive information.

Norris, for example, says his firm uses an MS Windows encryption file system combined with PGP (or “pretty good privacy,” a computer program that provides cryptographic privacy and authentication) to secure files that are being transmitted. Each online backup first uses its own level of security encryption and also utilizes a combination of user names and passwords to ensure that access is granted only to the appropriate individuals. All browser-based data transfer operations–including file and folder sharing–on one particular server, for example, use 128-bit SSL encryption by default.

Josh Coates, CEO of Berkeley Data Systems in American Fork, Utah, the maker of MozyPro, points out that the initial backup–which includes a complete backup of the files on a hard drive and/or server–can take up to a week or more. “After that it only backs up files that have changed,” says Coates, “so subsequent backups are much faster.”
What online backup services offer that traditional tapes and external hard drives don’t is ease of use, affordability, and a system that works behind the scenes on a specific schedule. Data can be restored through the Internet to any PC or laptop, even by the road warrior who finds herself stuck out of town and in need of an important file. Using a password and the Internet, the individual can access the backup firm’s Website, log on