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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Online Backup - How to choose the right supplier - part 8

Continuing our focus on specific backup software features.....

Reliability and Software Client handling
The software client (backup software used to select files etc) is the “control centre” for online backup operations. This client should be easy to use and intuitive. A single click “backup now” button should exist and it should be just as easy to restore / delete files as required.

Fundamental options in the thin client should enable users to trade off the level of file compression against the speed of compression and include options for controlling the maximum size of files allowed to be backed up.

Not all services have clients that are easy to use and some are likely to cause you to want to return to more risky traditional backup methods. Make sure you choose a service with a no obligation/free trial to test out the client.

Also aim for a well supported client if you want the best protection for critical files. For real peace of mind you’ll need to know the client is always being updated, improved and debugged / tested with new operating systems.

Professional online backup

Friday, May 20, 2005

Online Backup - How to choose the right supplier - part 7

Now I'll highlight some more specific features that might not be apparent when choosing an online backup service at the outset but which could have a significant impact on the usefulness of the service.

These features will be part of the backup software and supported at the data centre end too. Account sharing is the first feature we'll discuss.

Can two or more users share the same backup account? This can be extremely useful if some staff are frequently mobile or occasionally work from home. An office server backup account could be used by other staff members giving excellent value.

Not all providers offer multiple account user services. Others charge extra beyond a certain number of users. Here are some questions to help you decide if account sharing might be a useful feature for you:-

* Do you want to backup a desktop PC and a laptop?
* Are there several staff who need to backup to one account?
* Is it better to open up separate accounts for multiple staff or use one account?
* Do you need two servers/laptops on one account for the purpose of disaster recovery?

First decide if you require account sharing and then check your intended provider can offer this feature.

Professional online backup

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Online Backup - How to choose the right supplier - part 6

Moving on now from the financials to the backup software installed on your PC, laptop or server. This small intelligent piece of software can determine whether you continue using the service or not so it's quite important.

Let's specifically look at file selection today.

File selection should be simple and straight forward and is one of the most important aspects of the service. Users should be able to select a whole folder without having to select each individual file. This is very important as some of the cheaper services don’t offer this. When a folder is fully selected, all subsequent files placed in the folder should automatically be included in the backup set. Conversely it is extremely useful to be able to select a whole folder and then de-select certain files.

Imagine the hassle of having to select all new files individually before backing up? This would be far more hassle than using a CD or Tape backup. Due to human error users are more likely to miss files and be mal informed about which files are backed up. Individual file only selection providers are not suitable for backing up servers.

Finally it should be possible to select multiple groups of files (backup sets) and set a different schedule for each of them if need be. For example, group files that don't change much into file set A and those that change each day into set B. Run an automatic daily schedule for group A and a weekly schedule for group B.

Professional online backup

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Online Backup - How to choose the right supplier - part 5

Now let's choose an example with a provider who charges based on storage on your computer system.

Considering the example in part 4 - an 80 GB hard disk but you want to backup 2 GB.

In this case the provider simply charges you for 2 GB. Compression ratio etc doesn't really come into it for the user....although it does matter to the provider. If you backup 2 GB and the data compresses to 660 MB the provider has got a bargain as they only have costs for 660 MB while charging you for uncompressed storage of 2 GB!

Conversely, if the data doesn't compress then the provider has storage costs of 2 GB as well. In most cases, the most commonly backed up critical data consists of database files, office documents and spreadsheets etc. These documents normally compress very well indeed.

It is left to the reader to consider which type of provider to use based on charging model alone having explained the concepts involved. If you are backing up office documents etc as mentioned above that compress well, the provider who charges based on compressed storage - i.e. the provider in the first example - could end up cheaper.

Professional online backup

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Online Backup - How to choose the right supplier - part 4

Following on from part 3, it is important to understand how your potential providers charge you for storage although fundamentally you'll want to know how much it will cost to backup X amount of data.

As this point can be confusing, we'll give another example here.

Supposing your hard disk is 80 GB and you want to back up 2 GB of critical data (no point in just backing up the whole hard disk unless it is all critical information). Using a supplier who charges for compressed storage on their servers you'll want to know how much space 2GB of data will compress down to.

If the 2 GB of data is mainly office files and spreadsheets, etc then you are likely to receive a high compression ratio - say 4 to 1. This means your data will compress down to 500MB - the amount of data this type of provider will charge you. If you want to be more cautious, assume a compression ratio of 3 to 1 which means you 'll be charged for around 660 MB of space.

beginning to get the picture?

Professional online backup

Online Backup - How to choose the right supplier - part 3

So you know you can take a trial without obligation and you have checked the contractual terms and conditions. What next before you take the plunge and sign up?

We'll you need to consider if the product fits your price point and this is where a little care is required. Different providers offer their services in such a way that it can be difficult to compare like with like. Some providers price compressed storage space while others depict prices for uncompressed storage.

Let's consider some examples to convey the difference.

Offer from supplier 1

1 GB of data for X pounds per month uncompressed

Offer from supplier 2

1 GB of data for Y pounds per month compressed.

Now if X=Y which supplier is more expensive?

Supplier 2 is charging you for the amount of data stored on their servers. Supplier 1 is charging you for the amount of data stored on your PC/laptops/etc. So assuming your data can be compressed, supplier 1 is actually more expensive.

More on this in part 4.

Professional online backup

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Online Backup - How to choose the right supplier - part 2

So you re interested in online backup and you know you want to have a trial before committing. What else do you need to consider at the outset?

Let's look at contractual terms. Some providers get you to sign up for a year in advance while others opt for three months in advance. Just imagine if the service starts going wrong or the support is appalling? The scene would be set for maximum frustration and worst still you'd be wasting money.

We therefore advise you opt for a monthly contract at the very maximum. If a provider is that good, they won't need to lure you into a contract longer than one month. It is very easy to collect payment nowadays so a one month subscription isn't a problem from that perspective.

So remember - one month contract at the outset.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Online Backup - how to choose the right supplier - part 1

Online backup is be coming a popular method of backing up important files as business users wake up to the increasing threat of data loss. A recent report by the London Chamber of commerce highlights that many companies have yet to properly protect their computer data or prepare for disaster.

There are many different ways to back up data each with their differing security levels. Online backup offers several benefits such as automatic offsite backup. That's two traditional tasks replaced by automation. As the use of online backup increases and more providers flood the market it is important to educate the market to understand the level of true protection the different providers offer.

Tip number one is make sure you opt for a non obligatory trial for at least 2 weeks. This is a good time to gain confidence with the service and determine if it really will work for you.

Professional online backup

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