Best Practices for Using Microsoft Outlook from a Sales Perspective

Arrow-Tips #60 Why Use an Online Backup Service & How to Choose One

I often mention both here on Arrow-Tips and in my live seminars that one of the reasons I became an Outlook evangelist is my hatred of paper files.  A frequent retort is something along the lines of “what if your computer crashes – where is your back up?”  To which I confidently reply that my Outlook files are backed up on the MailStreet Exchange Server (I use Mailstreet owned by Apptix for hosted Exchange services) and my other computer files are backed up using an online backup service.  I can’t begin to describe the huge risk you are taking if you do not have some type of back up procedure for your computers.  But after my interview with Cathy Connolly, President of PackRat Solutions I can tell you some of the great benefits of using an online backup service and what to look for when choosing a service provider.  Read on to see what Cathy had to say.

Question: Are there any benefits to using an online backup service besides the obvious ones like computer crashes, etc.

Cathy’s Answer: Absolutely.  First, catastrophic events such as fires or hurricanes may separate you from your computer.  Following Hurricane Ike, several PackRat customers were separated from their computers when landlords denied access to their offices due to building safety issues.  PackRat employees hand delivered data to their clients in this situation that they were able to load on home computers to do things like issue pay checks and pay bills.  A second scenario is the case where files are accidentally deleted off of a computer.  Since PackRat’s service is a true back up service instead of just a “mirror” service, old files remain in their archives until they are deleted by the client which means that these files can be recovered if accidentally deleted from the original computer.  Finally, the age or stability of your computer is not the only issue to take into consideration.  Malware is a huge problem right now that has been the cause of many computer crashes resulting in permanent loss of local data.

Question:  What are some of the benefits to online back up as opposed to tape drive or disks?

Cathy’s Answer: There are several – see bullets below.

  • Tape drives stored at the client site are of little use if the user cannot get into their office as described in the Hurricane Ike scenario above.
  • Restoring data from a tape drive is complicated and in many cases, no one ever checks to see if the backup procedure is even working correctly. Before coming to PackRat, several customers described nightmare scenarios where they tried to restore data from tape drives only to find out that the backups they were running never actually recorded data on the tape.
  • Restoring specific data from a tape can be very difficult especially if you require more than one tape. With a good online backup service, you can often navigate directly to the specific file you want to restore easily.
  • Tape drives are not always reliable and they do not last forever. On average, 1 in 3 tapes are unrecoverable.
  • If you are backing up locally to the same location, you are creating a mirror of your hard drive as opposed to a true archive where deleted files can be recovered or revised files can be compared to new ones.
  • Often there is no process in place to check for problems with tape drives or other forms of local backup, so the user gets no feedback if there is a problem. With a good online backup service, the user should be notified after each backup if any errors occurred during the backup process.

Question:  What kind of facilities are used to house online backup data and what makes them more secure than on-site backup?

Cathy’s Answer: Data centers are rated by level of security and guaranteed uptime as Tiers (Tier 1-4 with Tier 4 being the best and the one that PackRat uses). The following are characteristics of a Tier Four facility:

  • 100% Service Level Agreement (SLA) which means they never go down.
  • A badge is required to enter Tier Four facilities and visitors are required to swipe their badge at several stages of entry in order to section off different types of data. Fingerprint scans are also required at some check points and data is housed in unmarked cabinets requiring a key for entry. Data on the servers inside these cabinets are also encrypted for an additional level of security.
  • Contract with multiple internet carriers to ensure continued service should any of the carriers experience issues.
  • Constructed with lead lined windowless external walls and bullet resistant glass on the internal walls. They are stand alone buildings with no other tenants within.
  • These buildings are basically built as a bunkers with: closed loop water systems with water supplies that can last up to 2 weeks if water service is shut down, power generators that can continue to provide electricity for 2 weeks without being refueled, and are rated to withstand Level 4 hurricanes (160 mile winds)
  • Priority contracts for diesel refueling in the event of an emergency and are located on high ground near major roads to assure good access during flooding

Question: How difficult is it to restore backup data from an online data service if you need to?

Cathy’s Answer:  A good online backup service should provide an application downloadable to any computer that will allow you to restore specific data from your backedup computer with a couple of clicks.  In general, users are much more likely to lose one or two files as opposed to their entire hard drive so a good backup service should mimic your hard drive directory so that it is easy to locate and restore or download files.  Make sure when choosing and online backup service to confirm whether they are archiving your data (and if so for how long) or just mirroring your data.  Many services only maintain archive data for 30 days.

Question:  In summary, what are the most important things to look for in an on-line back up service?

Cathy’s Answer:  3 main things.  First a true archive service that maintains backed up data over a period of time, not just a mirror where data may be refreshed within less than 30 days.  Second know where the data is housed i.e. a home office or a tier four data center? And third, how long will it take to recover your data?  Will you be dependent on the speed of your internet or in a pinch will your provider hand deliver data to you?

Hosted Exchange users should keep in mind that even though the data in your Outlook mailbox is backed up on the Exchange Server, your archive folders are usually stored locally and therefore are not backed up on Exchange.  When selecting files to backup, make sure you capture those archive files as well since they are not stored within your My Documents folder. 

I’ve been a PackRat customer for a couple of years now and have been very happy with their service so if you are in the market, I highly recommend them.  Look for another post later this week in my using SharePoint to communicate KPI dashboards series and in the mean time, happy hunting!

This post was written by MistyKhan and published on June 14, 2010 in the following categories: Archiving, Arrow Tips, Guest Posts, Product Reviews. You can leave trackbacks on this post at this address. To follow the comments on this post subscribe to the RSS feed.


Great article. These are some important answers and Cathy answer them quite well. I would say that, where the servers are hosting is very important.


Thanks for your comment, Brian! Misty


Good post.This is splendid.I think the online backup i use has got all the main services i want and it is safecopy online backup.So with this online backup,am more secure than with a hard drive.

Thank you for your comment, Dora. Misty

  • Dora
  • 04:36
  • June 17, 2010
  • 2.

Excellent advice and spot on in my opinion.

Thank you for sharing.


  • James
  • 07:42
  • June 18, 2010
  • 3.

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