Post about "Business Services"

Remote Backup Service Providers – What’s the Difference?

Remote or online backup services (RBS) offer a process to transfer electronic files to an alternate location for storage so they are available to you should you experience a business halting event that results in the loss of some or all of your in-house data.There are many benefits to this type of service. However, the individual benefit or degree of its application is dictated by the service itself. Not all remote backup services are the same. They may all seem like it from an initial perspective but when you get right down to it you will find significant differences between them. Please use this as a guide to establish what is important to you, your organization; and make sure you select a service that fits you, the consumer. I hope you will never need to fall back on your investment but if that’s the case, you will be happy you took a little time to investigate. The last thing you need when dealing with a business halting event is to learn that what you thought was taken care of doesn’t meet the needs of your recovery plan. By then it’s too late and the costs to your business add up quickly.Benefits and DifferencesGenerally, an accepted global benefit to RBS is the reduction in operating expenses required to manage and operate more traditional backup solutions. It’s more cost effective. This is of course if your company only relies on RBS to protect its data. Although I feel RBS is more advantageous and reliable from a continuity perspective than other solutions nothing is 100% effective. There are flaws in every process. My recommendation to all my clients is that they use RBS as a second level of protection for their organization. Optical or tape backup is useless when they are consumed in the same fire that destroys your physical presence and let’s face it, few “properly” transport their backups offsite on a regular basis. You’re probably asking yourself; why not just adopt manual transport offsite instead of investing in RBS? Good question. Let’s stick with saying that brings up a whole new set of risks that are out of the scope of this article. I’ll write that one next, I promise. If you can’t wait for it then give me a call and we can talk about it.So, let’s get into the differences you should know about so you can investigate and find an RBS solution that’s right for you.EncryptionThis is a biggie and can be quite confusing. Some RBS providers have it, most don’t. You need encryption if you are going to store protected or critical information on somebody else’s server. Remember, no matter what they say the supplier can see your files on the other side. If they are not encrypted you could be exposed to HIPAA or PIPEDA violations which can result in lawsuits, fines, bad press, loss of customers or even the loss of your business.Some RBS providers state that files are encrypted when in fact your files are sitting on their server in a readable format. What they mean is that your files are only encrypted during transfer between yourself and them. It’s exactly the same as you submitting information via a form through a secure website. You know, the web pages with the little lock in the bottom of the browser? Your online bank would have it. This type of encryption does not protect your files from being viewed by them so be careful.There are also many different kinds of encryption. The strongest algorithm that is publicly available to my knowledge and at the time of writing this is 448bit Blowfish. That’s almost twice the encryption banks use today. Online providers will use all sorts of different encryption technologies. The lower the bit rate the easier it is to crack. Be wary of providers that don’t tell you what they use as they may be using their own proprietary format. If I build my own encryption algorithm it wouldn’t be hard for me to build something in it to universally decrypt files using it. Really think about encryption as the lack of it can expose your company to tremendous risk. Especially if you don’t know the service provider you are dealing with. If you knew them you could at least get them to sign a confidentiality statement to limit your liability.LocationWhere is your data being stored? Is it in a secure data centre or is it in someone’s basement? Is it in Canada or somewhere else? Be careful when dealing with a foreign company that advertises a physical Canadian presence. Most of their offices are focused on marketing and sales while their data centre is elsewhere. You may think your data is on Canadian soil when in fact it’s being backed up to a data centre in New York. There is also rumor of proposed legislation that will limit Canadian data to Canadian storage facilities. The last thing you need to do is switch providers when you’ve already invested time and money in backing up significant amounts of data to a foreign provider.That brings me to another point on location, how will you get your data back should you need it? When dealing with small amounts of data this doesn’t pose too much of a problem however, large amounts of data can present significant concerns. If you lose your data your likely dealing with other associated issues such as alternate locations, hardware, and software. What good is all that without the data to fuel the business? Depending on the amount of data, it could take a significant amount of time, even weeks to download depending on your connectivity and other variables. Ensure that your RBS provider has some alternate means to get your data to you based on your Recovery Time Objective (RTO). Better yet, choose a local RBS provider that can manually retrieve your data, deliver it to you and manage the data restoration process while your focus is elsewhere. Every second of not being operational can be detrimental to your business.Managed ServicesHow much does the RBS provider help you with? If you’re technically inclined you may have the capability to properly setup your RBS backup processes so a service that presents a downloadable piece of software and a help file may be all you need. However, just because you are successful with getting data to backup doesn’t mean you’re backing up all the right data you will need to recover. In most circumstances you will require more than “working files”. I recommend at least involving your trusted IT Specialist and key personnel just to make sure you’ve got everything covered.On the flipside there are some RBS providers who provide complete managed services. This usually includes some form of risk assessment and needs analysis used to identify all requirements. To top things off they typically setup the service and ensure things are running smoothly. These are usually local services that physically meet with clients although; it’s not unheard of for this to be performed remotely. The key point of all of this is if you don’t know what you’re doing then find a professional that does. If you miss one critical component you may compromise your recovery and fall victim to what you were trying to avoid in the first place.Choose a service that meets your needs and habits. Some RBS services are automated whereas others require manual intervention to start. I usually recommend an automated process as we all forget things or adjust our priorities should things pop up. Additionally, with some services you are required to verify or monitor your own backups. Did it work? Are the files there? It’s all up to you to find out. On the other hand, some RBS providers monitor scheduled backups for you to make sure they are successful. You may receive daily email notices to keep you informed. These types of providers will intervene immediately if something goes wrong to make sure you are protected. It’s all up to you with how much involvement or lack thereof you want with these processes. Ensure that you choose a supplier that fits your needs as the service is less effective if it doesn’t. Of course, with most business services, the less involvement you have the costlier the service. That is why there is such a price range in the market. Although not true in all circumstances, the cheaper it is the less it does for you. There are many variations available so find one that fits you. Many even offer trials so you can test them out before you hang up your hat.SupportFew consider support services until they are needed which can lead to frustrating experiences, especially when your business is at risk. Make sure you are aware of all the means you have to communicate with your provider and test them before committing to their service. We can plan as much as we want but that Murphy guy will always stick his part into the equation. You have to be ready to deal with anything and having support available is critical. Be concerned about providers that only provide e-mail support with no listed means to call them directly. If they do list numbers then try them to see if you can actually get to their support. Some outsource to foreign countries. Protect yourself and ensure you have partnered with an organization that will be there when you need them. Consider time zone differences if support isn’t provided 24/7. Even if it is what are the regular hours of operation and how easy is it to get through in the off hours? How many staff will be available? These are all variables that could mean the difference between your business overcoming and being consumed by a business halting scenario.