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Storage in the sky

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27th Jul 2011
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Struggling for data storage space? Looking for peace of mind with data backup? Jon Wilcox looks to the Cloud to see what options are available for those looking to get all fluffy – but secure - with their data.

After becoming increasingly more mainstream in recent months (Microsoft’s “To the Cloud” advertising campaign must be proof of this) it seems Cloud Computing is almost looking like a panacea for a number of business applications, not least for data storage and backup. 

The recent Any Answers query from AccountingWEB member Gerry Sims brought out a flood of advice and potential solutions, including Dropbox, Lucey, and DocSafe, to name a few. Of course there is a difference between turning to the Cloud for data storage and turning to it for data backup, though for many small businesses secure file-sharing platforms could act as one and the same. 
It’s a topic AccountingWEB has looked at before, including a comprehensive guide to online storage from Nigel Harris back in 2006. Five years on, and with the increased maturity of the Cloud, how things have changed!
This article summarises the different options put forward by members, and raises a few issues that need to be taken into account.
Dropbox
Mentioned by a number of members, Dropbox is a Cloud storage facility offering users 2GB of free space, or up to 100GB for an additional monthly cost. Founded in 2007, the company allows users to ‘drop’ files into a special folder on a PC, and allows them to be accessed by authorised individuals via the Dropbox website, smartphone or iPad. The free account offers a 30-day history of files, allowing even deleted files to be resurrected, while subscribers will be able to access longer file histories.
Based in the United States, it is worth pointing out Dropbox – like a number of others Cloud-based solutions – is not compliant with EU Safe Harbor Principles, though the company has confirmed it is currently working on attaining certification.
What is Safe Harbor?
The EU/US Safe Harbor Framework was approved by Brussels in 2000, and is a series of principles that allows US companies comply with the European Union’s Directive on personal data protection. In order to comply with the Framework, US companies must meet seven principles covering a number of topics including security, data integrity, and data access.
Under US law, organisations that register under Safe Harbor Privacy Principles and then fail to abide by them may be fined by the US Federal Trade Commission up to $12,000 per day for violations.
Box.net
A basic free account is also on offer at Box.net, which gives single-users up to 5GB of space as well mobile access. Subscribers gain additional functionality however, not least integration with Google Apps and Salesforce.net and synchronisation with desktop files, as well as 500GB of web-storage (up to ‘unlimited’ for enterprise-level subscribers). It’s also worth noting Box.net is self-certified compliant with Safe Harbor.
YouSendIt.com
YouSendIt is another potential contender. The US company made its name allowing users to upload files too large to send through email, but has now lifted the lid on its plan rival the likes of Dropbox and Box.net with a Cloud storage and file-sharing solution. Like its more established rivals, YouSendIt offers a free basic package, but gives ‘unlimited’ storage for a fistful of dollars. Plug-ins for a number of business applications, including Microsoft Office, are available too, as well as smartphones apps. Again, as a US-based company, YouSendIt is compliant with a number of data protection certifications, though it does not mention Safe Harbor.
Mamut
Over on this side of the pond, the likes of business software supplier Mamut, together with Cloud storage and backup specialists like Backup Direct, offer a number of solutions for individuals and businesses alike.
Mamut, known for its broad business applications including customer relationship management (CRM) and accounting, also has an online backup platform which can be purchased by itself, or as part of the company’s Mamut One solution. The service features up to 30-days of backup, and a secure connection via Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform. The standard version of Online Backup offers 25GB of space and 7 days of backup, while the ‘Professional’ version gives 50GB of space and a full 30-days of history.
As a Norwegian-based company, Mamut holds its data within the European Economic Area, falling under the EU’s Directive on data protection.
Lucey
Data storage and backup from Lucey is one solution for online collaboration and file-sharing platform recommended by the AccountingWEB community member, Leicsred. The member says his company is currently paying £5 per user, and £4.50 per GB, per month. A further payment of £9 per month is available for potential clients looking to add digital signatures to documents. The company also stresses it tries to store client data within their region.
DocSafe
Like Dropbox and Lucey, Docsafe is another possible contender suggested by AccountingWEB members. Prices for the service start at £50, which member Cloudcounter uses: “Clients can log in to access their documents and it works very well at reasonable cost,” the member explains. “You choose the names of directories, and can restrict access on a directory by directory basis.  For example, you can set up a subdirectory for each director for personal affairs and those directories can be viewed only by the director concerned.”
Backup Direct 
A specialist in online backup and disaster recovery, Backup Direct holds data on servers based in both the UK and the European Union, with telephone-based, remote, and email support available for clients every hour of every day. Packages are available in three flavours: 5GB, 10GB, and 125GB. The company retains ten previous file state versions for up to 90 days, though the most recent is kept “indefinitely”. The service also includes support for a number of accountancy software platforms, including Sage, Quickbooks, and IRIS.
Do you use any of the solutions in our list? What recommendations do you have for Cloud-based storage and backup?
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Replies (7)

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By Phil Craven
28th Jul 2011 11:00

MIS Cloud Backup

MIS Systems Engineering Ltd
Disclosure: I am Business Development Manager for MIS

 One of my accountant clients has asked me to post this information, he suggested that I inform the readers of the solution he uses. Following requests from accountants, over the last 12 months we have been developing a unique backup solution for Accountants. Most accountants assume that the backup process that has been set-up by their IT support company is working, but in reality, when we have tested them, the solution has not worked. Off-site backups are the best solution. We have solutions UK wide, that have been specifically designed for that practice. Our servers are in a Manchester Data Centre with a backup held at our Northwich office. Some accountants have visited the sites, we recommend this, to confirm the location of the critical data.The automatic solution, runs in the background, with the no user interface, also sends an email confirming the validity of the backup, also details of the last personal / business tax and postings on the system.[email protected]

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By RossHolding
28th Jul 2011 11:12

Cloud backup

We use Zymanda which works well

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By boggey79
28th Jul 2011 11:43

Cloud Storage with Quick File

 At Quick File we have developed our own cloud storage system that utilises the Amazon S3 storage API. We send out a pre-paid envelope to our clients and they fill it with their receipts to be then forwarded on to our scanning facility. The digital images actually end up on a server in Ireland and get periodically backed up to a seperate location. One of our bookkeepers will then run through the receipts and extract the pertinent information enabling the receipts to be indexed, searched and archived. As you might expect our clients often like to send us a whole manner of different things, including bank statements, ATM slips, letters, etc. Everything they send gets digitised and organised into an online document manager.

More about Amazon S3

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By Hosted Desktop UK
28th Jul 2011 12:11

Hosted Server for backup

 

We offer cloud storage as part of our hosted desktop service to firms of accountants and other SME’s. See http://www.hosteddesktopuk.co.uk/

-- Steve

 

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By garethgreen
28th Jul 2011 15:30

safe harbour

 The following US government website seems to confirm which companies have certified that they are within the EU Safe Harbour: https://safeharbor.export.gov/list.aspx

 

Lots more backup options described here: www.onlinebackupdeals.com

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By FD4CAST FD4CAST
28th Jul 2011 16:38

What about MOZY?
MOZY gives you affordable UNLIMITED storage - great for backing up every single file & folder on your PC.

Doesn't currently give you the file sharing abilities of DropBox, Yousendit, etc., as it's more for continuous backups. For home users it works out to £3.71 / mth for unlimited space.

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By andrewparker1
29th Jul 2011 10:58

storage etc.

Try Jungle Disk (Workgroup Edition).  Cost seems to be lower than most of the others noted in this article. Speed is not as quick as having your shared files stored locally but ideal for a small office if staff are working from different locations.

It can be used as shared storage or backup. I have not compared it with other products, although I understand that it is similar to Drop Box. It would be interesting to read any comments from members who have compared it with other products.

 

 

 

 

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