Sure it is confusing or expensive or time-consuming. But it also is vital. Just ask Bret Schultz, president of Chicago-area catering firm Food Evolution. A flood wiped out all his data, and then another flood did it again. Schultz used to spend hours each week backing up data onto discs, but he stored those discs on site, alongside the computers. In hindsight: A bad idea. "It just was so stupid," he sighs.
It needn't be this way. Recently we test-drove a data backup system designed specifically for small business. It's quick and cheap and so easy to us it is almost stupid. Also, it stores your data off site via the Internet, safe from fire or flood.
The program self-installs and presents intuitive menus upon downloading the free trial offer. Users simply click on the folders and sub-folders that need to be saved and then hit the backup button. The software defaults to perform a daily backup, but can be set for other intervals and different times of day. We've set ours to do a 1 a.m. backup and to shut down the computer when completed.
You pay by the gigabyte, with the average small business spending about $48 a month to back up a compressed 1.5 gigabytes of data. Restorion's Glorio software will run on any Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, NT, XP or newer version of Windows. The program requires 32 megabytes of RAM to operate and 5 megabytes of disk space for the program, and a minimum 10 megabytes for compression and swapping operations.
Internet access is required. A phone modem will work, though backups will take longer, and careful and limited selection of files may be necessary to prevent extremely long transfer times. A DSL, cable modem or other high-speed connection is preferred. Glorio will work in conjunction with your firewall system, if you have one, utilizing the SOCKS 5 protocol.
In approaching the small-business market, ease of use was at the top of the list for Restorion President T.Q. White. "People don't care about backup, and they don't want to hear the horror stories. You can tell them that losing their data will cost them their business, but people resist that," he said. "What they do want to do is to get their data backed up easily."
With 114 client businesses signed on since the firm opened its doors in February 2003, White seems to be making that pitch effectively. This success comes in part from an emphasis on customer service, which he describes as his single biggest expense. A toll-free number connects users to a live person during business hours, and support is free to subscribers. There's no up-front fee, no fee for adding extra computers.
That's enough to keep Schultz happy. He found Restorion through a Google search and was impressed by the clarity and simplicity of the web site. He called tech support as a test and got an immediate reply. It took him less than an hour to download the software and back up all his important data. "This was about six months ago, and ever since that day I have not even thought about it," he said.
Freelance medical writer Dan Knight reports similar results. He had been backing up onto disc, but was not pleased with the setup. "It seemed to me an imperfect system. You have to remember to do it, and when you get real busy with multiple projects, even though it doesn't take that long, it is easy to forget," he said. Plus, keeping backup discs next to his computer seemed to defeat the purpose.
He signed on as an early test user for Restorion, and says the system has given him a new level of confidence.
"I work for very large companies that have huge staffs of their own, and I would look like a real bush-leaguer if I were to call them up and say: You know, it's the funniest thing. You wouldn't believe what just happened," he said. "It would give them such a lack of confidence in my ability to take care of stuff. I can't live with the idea that I would ever have to make that call."
No one wants to make that call, and while White tries to stay away from horror stories in the sales pitches, he says it is simply a fact of technology that something will go wrong eventually.
"When you fail to backup, sooner or later you will have a problem. You will get a virus that deletes a file, you will have a disc crash, you will corrupt a file accidentally. As a consequence, you will have a business interruption that takes a long while to recover from."
Seriously: Back up your data already.
Adam Stone writes extensively on business and technology issues. He makes his virtual residence at email@example.com and his physical home in Annapolis, Md.
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