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Online Backup Services: Weighing Their Worth

Backup has become the bane of IT managers everywhere. In too many shops, the sheer volume of data needing backup has surged beyond the manageable, even as the amount of time and resources available to back it up have shriveled. At the same time, there's unprecedented pressure to make sure data is intact, searchable, and retrievable in any contingency be it a natural disaster or a manmade one.

Given all this, it's no wonder that online backup services are gaining in popularity – despite the fact that their return on investment can baffle the bean counters.

Indeed, research for this month's Byte and Switch Insider report hints that IT consumers aren't deeply concerned about paying more for online backup services than they would for in-house backup.

"The costs have come down over time," says one IT manager at a Texas law firm that's using services from LiveVault. Having replaced a tape backup system with the service, the firm saw its spending on backup actually rise. But, as this spokeswoman says, having a service guarantees that backups can be performed even if one of the data centers is out of commission. "There's nothing I don't like… In earlier years, we'd have been out of business if we lost telephones or a building. Today, we can lose both and still operate."

For companies that opt not to use services, the issue is more one of control and preference than cost. Paul Scheib, director of operations and chief information security officer at Children's Hospital Boston, says a service wouldn't meet his group's security and control requirements. Further, he's skeptical about the amount of bandwidth that may be needed to send large volumes of data to a remote provider's site. And he's not sure disaster recovery as a service would be more effective than retrieving data from off-site vaults.

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