Online backup services

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The problem

Last month Alastair Wood posed a topical question on IT Zone's Any Answers: "We are looking at setting up an offsite backup and have over 70GB of data on our server (pre paperless project going live). Does anyone have a cost effective solution/supplier as we have found these excessive for the suppliers we have tried so far? These solutions are being punted in the trade as being cheap, but this appears only to be so for very small volumes of data, with exponential increases for larger amounts."

Online backup provider DataLifeline's website quotes some sobering statistics:

  • a survey by Yankee group and Sunbelt software April 2004 showed that 42% of respondents had experienced a failed tape restore in the previous 12 months
  • There is only a 30% survival...

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By dclark
10th Apr 2006 13:24

Part of a total package
I'm a Depositit fan, but it should only be part of an overall solution. It should never be a chice of only one backup method. Online backups allow you to reduce HDD\Tape backups, but i'd still encourage users to do them, just not so often

The following only really works for samll companies. If you have 2000 desktops then other solutions are required, but as the Phillips curve shows us, most are SME's...any client of ours that uses Depositit or a simialr offline service we also ensure has sufficient removable hard drives (USB are good enough) that cover:

1 - critical applications : copies of the CD's of all the applications required (ie accounting, payroll) to start from scratch. If we ever needed to start again data is worthless if we had no application

2 - server software - a copy of your 2K CD or your 2003 server CD as well as a copy of active directory

3 - critical data. As mentioned here already, you may 'store' 80GB of data, but only wish to 'backup' 15GB, because much of it can be recovered from pc's, suppliers, etc, etc. We make sure the email data, the accounts data, the payroll data, etc is on this USB drive

The net effect is that the client has a set of removable drives that they could take away and re-start the business from another location. Of course we can recover data from Depositit once it is up and running, but you need to be up and running first

Kind Regards

Daniel Clark
Ryba Macaulay Ltd
[email protected]

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By Anonymous
12th Apr 2006 08:24

What about a RESTORE
OK so we have a flavour for the backup scenarios available and your data is safely backed up - or SO YOU THINK

When was the last time anyone RESTORED the backup data?

If you cannot achieve a succesful restore then what is the point of backing in the first place?

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By squay
13th Apr 2006 14:29

Drive Image Reply to Charles East
Charles, to schedule Drive Image to run automatically. This applies to version 7 for windows 2000 & XP. Select advanced view / select "backup job" tab / create back up job. Follow the prompts selecting what to back up and to where and you will arrive at the scheduling screen. Don't select a one off job as this will erase after running. Select daily, weekly or monthly and check the days and time to run. Once the job has been saved the frequency, days and times can be edited but not what you back up. To change this you need to create a new job. Once jobs are scheduled these will run automatically without Drive Image being open. It's pretty self explanatory so have a go. Then do as I do and go home at night leaving the machine on. In the morning check the backups have been saved, swap over your external HDDs ready for the next evening. Hope this helps.

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07th Apr 2006 17:39

Here's my tuppence-worth
Hello all

Simple solutions for smaller organisations...

Consider how long you're willing to be without your systems in the case of a disaster.

Make sure your recovery system is able to get you working again within this time limit.

Do the whole exercise again, now you've calculated the real cost of your first idea!

Dennis, I feel your comment that only the data needs to be backed up may be misinterpreted. You need working copies of all the software you're currently running as well. You only need to back these up as they are changed, but it's critically important to remember to do this. If there's going to be any doubt, back up the lot!

Yes, you can quickly get a copy of your accounts-production software from your supplier, but do they have all your custom formats stored for you as well?

Yes, you can get the latest cut of your practice-management software, but what if yours is a couple of versions old? What about all your reports?

Yes, you can re-load your email server from scratch, but do you remember how long it took to get it right the first time?

So, why not keep a beefy machine (in a Partner's house, perhaps)
Load it up with all your sofware tools
Copy the data onto it as the backups are done

(If you're using tapes, don't forget you'll need an identical tape streamer on the backup machine for restores - some models can't simply be picked up at the local IT superstore in an emergency)

Mark Ryan
[email protected]

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By pmdwise
07th Apr 2006 18:39

DVD backup
Am I the only person using RW-DVD's for backup?
4.7 GB per DVD at a cost of less than £1 per dvd (less than .25p per gig) Cheap, fast reusable, portable. What more do you want? or am I missing something?

Anyone have any comments on tape vs online vs DVD?

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07th Apr 2006 21:40

A couple of points....
1) Remember that your upstream speeds are much lower than your downstream speeds on an ADSL line. You typically get 256Kb upstream and 2Mb+ downstream. Be prepared for sending emails to take much longer while the backup is running... Your restore will therefore be 8x faster than the backup was, and that is good news because while the backup was storing your data a bit a time, the whole lot has to come back after a disaster.

2) Think about what you need to backup. Keep all your data files in as few top level directories as possible. Don't waste time or backup storage allocation backing up your applications. You can always reinstall Office and the operating system if something goes wrong. Remember to take a copy of the install media and activation code numbers so you can do this.

3) Very few (if any) of these products can backup your Outlook mail database while you are using it (for most of us, that is all of the time.) If you do not take special steps to ensure that the software gets a backup of your Outlook database, then you might have to do without all those emails.

4) If you use MS Access or keep lots of Email in Outlook, you really want a program that can do sub-file backup. Without this, add a 1KB email to a 100MB database and you will spend 50 minutes backing it up!

5) For those products that encrypt files prior to sending, don't forget the pass phrase you used as a key! Many of the products store the key on your PC, so you never need to enter the phrase in normal use. Then after a few yeaes, when you need to restore data to a fresh PC after the worst has happened you get a "Enter the pass phrase prompt....."

6) Getting a backup/DR strategy right for your business is tough. If you are backing up data to DVD-R, then ensure that your media is kept well away from your machine. We had a customer once who came into his office to find all his computers stolen, along with all the backup tapes... Never, ever have ALL your data in one place or connected at the same time. Remember that files can be corrupted a long time before you realise they are corrupted, so a backup strategy that keeps many, many versions of each file is always better than one where you only keep a weeks worth...

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08th Apr 2006 06:28

Something I forgot
Mark: Programs can be replaced, data cannot. But that actually misses a fundamental point I didn't address - more through carelessness than anything else.

Why bother spending the time, effort and money doing all this when you could run most of your business online? That's what I do and it is what an increasing nmber of people I come across do as well.

Anything local that's critical - ummm - unedited podcast files - can be backed up. That might take all of 5 minutes per day.

The real difference comes in the case of a disaster. Using online apps, I just get onto the Internet and it's as though nothing happened. No re-implementation, no restore of anything.

That's a big saving, especially when you see that in addition, you could avoid the hassle associated with current recommendations to reformat your Windows PC hard drive at least once a year. Think of all those savings on things like RAID, failover, redundancy and so on that are critical to intranet server based systems.

And with all that money saved, folk could have really sexy cool looking MacPro's (the ones that run Windows as well as Mac OSX) - so now we've improved marketing as well. What client could fail to be impressed by the titanium shell, lid light etc. But I digress.

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08th Apr 2006 12:15

get the backups off-site
Very useful article. Just to emphasise a key point: whatever backup method you use, DON'T keep backups on-site (in case of fire at your premises, etc). Take them home with you each night.

Corruption on backups is not so much of a worry. You can take the backup to your package supplier and they will usually be able to recover the data for you. [A good reason for being on a maintenance contract!].

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By Anonymous
07th Apr 2006 14:52

Online Storage included as standard.
Our products WinWeb AccountsOffice and WinWeb OnlineOffice offer a File Store function as standard, OnlineOffice has 1GB included. For extra file starage per GB we charge £ 25 per year.

There is no upper limit and we will backup all customer data as per our back-up policy to two diffrent secure locations, using RAID-5 technology and encrypt the data as well.

Have a look at and talk to our 24x7 live support or see our Knowledge Base under Support.

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By squay
07th Apr 2006 15:04

External Hard Drive Backups
I agree with Trevor Scott. I am a sole practitioner with just one computer at present. I have just bought a second USB2 external hard drive (LaCie Big Disk 500Gb for under £200). It comes with its own back up software but I am sticking with Powerquest's Drive Image which I have used for years and this clones the hard drive partitions. These are scheduled to run overnight. The next day I swap external HDDs and in the evening I take home the one last used.

Cloning is better than file backups because it will restore the exact drive data image. Great if you install software that screws your system or if you are unlucky enough to receive a virus that slips through the net. In the event of a restore Drive Image will boot from CD and create a shell environment in which USB2 HDDs and networks are accessible.

A few years ago it took me a week to reformat my hard drive and reload all my programs and data after a virus had slipped through and stopped my internet access. At the time Drive Image was around £50 and I have never looked back.

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07th Apr 2006 15:13

There's one point I'd like to pick up. Where are the lines between backup and storage? What needs backing up (stored)? the only thing that matters here is the data.

A good topic for discussion that has deep implications for all sorts of software issues.

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08th Jun 2007 17:37

Diamond Data Back-up, Robertson technologies
Having tried various DIY solutions, but kept forgetting, I now use Diamond Data Back-up from Robertson Technologies. They charge a small monthly sum and my data is automatically backed up every night and stored in heavily encrypted form at two mirror sites. As it includes quite a lot of photos, the first download ran overnight. They supply restore instructions and have a good response record on their support line. I don't have to do anything and the guys are a pleasure to deal with.

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