Choosing a Data Backup Provider

By Ritchie Fiddes, Sales Director, Backup Technology
January 08, 2010

Increasing volumes of mission critical data with small, medium and large enterprises have raised concerns about data backup, storage and access. Disaster recovery and business continuity enactments and regulations have also made it imperative that data is backed up systematically, regularly and efficiently for ease of access.  In the circumstances, businesses are anxious to select the right backup service provider for their data backup needs.

Data could be backed up in a number of ways, from online to local to NAS. However, the best way to backup your data is by utilizing an online backup service. Therefore, what do you check when choosing an online data backup provider?  This is a question that needs to be answered before any kind of data backup can be attempted.

Remember, that which is not monitored is bound to fail. You need to check out if your online data backup provider has a fully monitored system in place and is willing to take on the responsibility for the success or failure of your backup. In other words, “Does the company provide you with a proactive backup service?”

Many data backup providers leave the actual management of the data to the customer. A below the surface probe on online data backup provider claims will reveal that most of them do not undertake to manage the data for the client. They are, at best willing to provide you with a reactive service. If your backup fails, you must call up the service provider for a solution and they will help you out. Some online backup services may automate the “send” of an email to the client if a backup fails.

Proactive service providers react to backup failures immediately as they monitor their network traffic and keep tabs of backups being performed. Any backup failure will trigger the necessary proactive process and the company representative will call up the customer to set right the problem. Moreover, the customer service representative will be available to you round the clock and accessibility will be a certainty. You will also receive periodic reports from the automated reporting mechanism and your resources can be deployed more productively, while the monitoring system tells you the status of your backup.

Most data backup solutions, including online backups, require the client to install a small client application on the system that needs to be backed up. This application is often simple to install, user friendly and easy to maintain.

The destination of your data is of prime concern to you. Ensure that your online data backup provider has put in place disaster recovery and business continuity plans; has round the clock physical and electronic security for the data and servers; has replication servers in geographically dispersed locations and also has a process of backup of your data on removable media that is made available on demand. Make sure that the data retention policy of the online backup provider matches with your own or at least there are alternate processes in place for your data to be offloaded on to removable media if the retention policy does not match up with your own.

You also need to make sure that the data backup provider has a proven track record. Customer reviews and feedback that can be found in user forums are useful in ascertaining that the data backup provider has a good track record and is rated highly by its customers.

Moving on from global verification parameters to specific data transfer and restoration parameters, you need to dig a little deeper into the way data is transmitted to the server, the speed of transfer, the possibility of next day restore, the speed of restore and the costs involved. Find out details about the encryption technology in use; server authentication and authorization methodologies that have been implemented at the data center; the amount of bandwidth used during data transfer and restore and the impact it has upon speed of the process and so on till you are absolutely sure that you are doing the right thing in choosing the online data backup provider.

There are also a few other miscellaneous factors that you can take into account while choosing an online data backup provider such as: What is the amount of CPU that is engaged during backup? Does the client application throttle backup while the CPU is busy and resume backup when the CPU is idle? How long does it take to transfer or restore, for instance, one MB of an audio file to the server or from the server? Is your data accessible to you 24 x 7, anywhere, anytime or only from the machine on which the client application is installed? Does your service provider give you sufficient professional indemnity? Finally, how much does it cost you to avail of the services? Is this option more economical and reliable than the backup system that has been in vogue in your organization?

If you get positive answers to all the above questions, you have found the right data backup service. Choosing the right online backup or any data backup service provider is not easy, but a rewarding work, that will leave you free to carry on with your business unfazed by backup issues relating to your mission critical data.

About the author: Ritchie Fiddes is Sales Director at Backup Technology, a UK based data backup company specialising in business continuity.

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