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.
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:
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!