Secure Backup for the Small Office

By Lauren Simonds | Posted July 13, 2005

Businesses come in all shapes and sizes and so do their data backup needs. Products and services aimed at large enterprises abound, but for a small business run by a sole proprietor or one with only a handful of employees, finding a solution that's tailored to your needs and budget can feel like trying to buy two pork chops at Costco.

DataFort — a company with offices in the U.K. and in New York that provides highly secure, online data back up for large enterprises — now offers PCFort, a hosted, Web-based service designed to provide the little guys with the same level of secure backup at an affordable price.

Marcie Terman, DataFort's chief operating officer, said the company created PCFort specifically for small businesses that need to back up desktop and notebook PCs and not for server environments. "We designed PCFort with the smallest of small-business owners in mind. These people are incredibly stretched as they take care of their companies, their families and maybe even try to pursue other interests," she said. "Data backup tends to fall by the wayside."

Terman emphasized ease-of-use as a key factor, calling the service "dead simple" to use. "After PCFort completes the first, full data backup [of directories you determine], it subsequently backs up only new and changed data," she said. "By default, it saves everything stored in the My Documents folder every evening at 10 p.m. local time, but you can specify the directories you want saved and configure the backup to take place at your convenience."

Security
For the past five years, DataFort has developed its own high-end data backup service for large companies across the United Kingdom. Terman said PCFort customers benefit from that development expertise, especially in the area of security. PCFort offers the same level of security — 256-bit AES encryption — that DataFort offers its big-business clients. It's also the same encryption that the federal government uses internally, while online banking and credit card transactions use 128-bit encryption.

"Since we already had a product for big business, it didn't cost us anything extra to provide that level of security to SOHO customers," Terman said. "We also store PCFort customer data in the same high-end storage facility as our enterprise customers."

Security measures at the storage facility include: redundant smoke detection and fire retardation systems, multiple onsite generators to maintain consistent power levels, bombproof glass, closed-circuit television cameras and keycard access.

Support
Terman said that tech support for SMBs is crucial and claims that PCFort 24/7 e-mail support with a two-hour response guarantee is one of the best support policies available. She added that most problems arise when people first open an account and need help with, for example, resolving individual firewall issues.

She also said the service can efficiently support "enormous numbers of customers" because the software maintains information about the customer's PC. "We don't keep any personal information," she said. "We keep track of things like your PC's connectivity history, how strong the Web connection is or how much hard disk space your PC has left."

Terman likened the situation to having your computer's "medical" history. It's designed to let the tech support people find trouble areas faster. "Instead of pulling the information from the customer, it's already there, and we can serve them faster," she said.

System Requirements
In order to set up an account, you'll need:

  • Windows 98 or later
  • One gigabyte free disk space This is essential if you are backing up large files
  • Internet Explorer Version 4 or greater
  • 68MB RAM

Pricing
The PCFort service starts at $11.88 per year for 250MB of data backup. Terman said this level is typically sufficient for backing up Word documents and spreadsheets that, for example, a single accountant might produce in a year's time.

For $35.88 per year, you can buy 1GB of backup space, which the company said is good for anyone who needs to back up Web site content, business files and the odd graphic image.

Terman estimates that the service's space limit maxes out at approximately 20GB transferred over a DSL line, citing the customer's Internet connection as a factor. "We don't recommend going over 20GB of data," she said. "That's the point where you need to consider a different backup solution. I want people to have a good experience using PCFort. I don't want people feeling tense, I want them to feel comfortable."

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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