“It’s not for everyone,” is almost the first thing entrepreneur Jennifer Walzer told me about Back Up My Info, the online backup service she launched five years ago, and that I test drove recently. She repeated this more than once.
It’s not that Walzer thinks some small businesses can afford not to back up. Far from it. As she said, there’s no question your systems are going to fail at some point with resulting loss of data – “it’s a 100 percent certainty.” The only question is when. And small businesses that don’t adequately protect their data will inevitably suffer.
Walzer’s disclaimer has more to do with the fact that there are any number of different backup solutions available – both online and on-premises – and many of them, possibly most, are less expensive than hers. If you look at price alone.
Walzer built Back Up My Info (BUMI) to be the Cadillac of online services, and it’s priced accordingly. The company places heavy emphasis on personalized, attentive customer service and hand holding.
This makes it great for small companies with no IT resources or skills and little time or patience for the kind of attention to detail and constant monitoring that a successful backup strategy requires. But the skilled labor the company employs to provide this level of service is expensive.
How much does it cost?
The BUMI Web site doesn’t even list prices, presumably for fear prospective customers doing comparisons with other, relatively cut-rate and much more automated online backup services will dismiss it before they properly understand the “value proposition.”
The pricing scheme is simple. Customers pay only for the amount of compressed data BUMI stores for them. The backup software, installation, support, maintenance and any restores required – getting your data back in the event of a disaster – are all free.
The minimum price is $55 a month. That’s for up to 1.5 GB of compressed, encrypted data (so 3 to 4 GB of uncompressed data). Which is well within the budgets of most small businesses. But given that there are some online backup services charging a small fraction of that, you can understand why Walzer wants to explain what her service offers before telling you the price.
And it does offer a lot. Backup is a sometimes tricky business. Most small businesses don’t understand it well. What should you back up? How should you back it up? How do you know your backups are actually working? What happens if you have a disaster?
The BUMI value-add is that it takes away all that uncertainty. It provides customers with 24/7 technical support, free installation, free consulting on backup configuration, constant monitoring to ensure backups are completed successfully and periodic consulting sessions to ensure you’re continuing to back up the right stuff.
The backup software, which BUMI did not develop itself but licenses from another company, is only a small part of it. The software resides on your system and manages the process of copying data over the Internet connection to BUMI’s storage servers. It provides fairly typical backup software functionality – more than some, but not as much as the most full-featured enterprise-grade systems.
It lets you back up automatically according to a schedule without human intervention – once every week, every day, or some other interval. It lets you choose exactly which folders to back up. You can set up filters that will select only certain types of files to back up.
After the first backup, the software will only back up new files or files that have been changed. And it will keep a number of versions of each file – you select how many – so that if you change a file and then want to go back to an earlier version, you can do that. But it only saves the changed bits so you’re not using up valuable storage space on near duplicates.
The only serious omission, which is about to be corrected, is that the software can’t do open-file backups. Because of the way some applications are programmed, it’s difficult to back them up unless they’re shut down first. Microsoft Office Outlook is a prime example.
Until the latest version of the BUMI software appears in late March or early April, the firm recommends clients shut Outlook down before their scheduled backups. If they don’t, the software won’t be able to copy the Outlook .pst files that contain all their mail, contacts and calendar data. The new version, however, will be able to back up Outlook even if you leave it open.