Checketts advises choosing a service that allows for at least 10GB of storage, while Carbonite's Friend stressed the need for unlimited storage due to the possibility of users having to contend with a convoluted purchasing process at the moment they need to add capacity.
"Users will get a confusing message — they won't know what to do with it," he said. "You shouldn't have to think about that stuff."
According to Data Mobility Group's Martins, you want to make sure the service is geared toward small businesses rather than home users. Some services will only back up based on this category.
Relying on Retention
Several insiders, including Lauren Whitehouse, an analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, and Iron Mountain's Stevenson, said an ideal service should be able to retain data for any period of time.
"Does it only store my data for 30 days, or can I select a certain amount of data for one year?" Stevenson suggested users ask. For example, according to Gutmann, his company lets users specify precisely how long they want to keep their data, for periods such as four days, 12 months or seven years.
You should also be able to save copies at various stages, Whitehouse said. This way, it's quicker to back up the files with just the latest changes and you can restore from any point.
"That's a very key component to an online backup solution," agreed Robert Haines, business development manager at Pro Softnet, parent company of the iDrive service.
Laura Dubois, an analyst covering storage for research firm IDC, said the online backup service you choose should let you recover data either through download or a quick shipment of discs. Brick-and-mortar office supplies retailer Staples offers one option that provides physical and online backup.
And when you need to need to recover the data from physical sources, how long does it take? Shail Khiyara, senior vice president of Seagate Technology's i365 EVault unit, said some online backup services have a three- to five-day waiting period to receive CDs in the mail.
Getting Your Money's Worth
With all of the options out there in the market, it still may not always be clear how to ensure you're getting the biggest bang for the buck. Fortunately, there are a number of ways a small business can ensure it's not overpaying for its storage service.
For starters, the services should allow users to choose which types of files they want to back up, Couture said, enabling the services to pick up only business-critical documents like Microsoft Excel XLS files, PowerPoint PPT documents and others.
"If I'm a businessman paying for the backup, I don't want to pay for MP3 recordings, just XLS, PPT, Word files — things that are truly related to the business," he explained.
It's also important to consider whether a solution offers simple setup and doesn't require any additional, hidden expenses. Stevenson suggested asking, "Do they need to go out and purchase multiple components to make it work, or is it an out-of-the-box solution?"
Martins advises users to find out what the total cost per month will be for a service they're considering, including any hidden fees.
According to Gutmann, one fee worth paying for is compression. That way, you can fit more data into the space you're purchasing. While some vendors charge $1 a gig for uncompressed space, Intronis will charge $2 for compressed space, however.
"Make sure you really know whether it's compressed," he explained. "Otherwise, you can't make a correct comparison."
Greg Schulz, senior analyst and founder of StorageIO Group, warned that some companies may charge a fee for extra bandwidth consumed, to send or recover data, and for extra copies made.
Couture said to watch out for files being copied more than once, since this can run up the bill. Vendors like Carbonite charge a flat fee for unlimited storage, such as $49.95 a year, while others like Mozy charge per gigabyte for its business product.
Therefore it's important to make sure the vendor offers de-duplication and backs up files only once. "If you're not doing de-duplication, the amount of storage you can consume is going to be a lot larger than if you're not doing de-duplication," Couture said.
Adapted from Internetnews.com.
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