Backup Problems Prompt Switch to Online Service

When a virus messed up the computers at Cameron Consulting, the firm discovered its backup system had not been working properly. That resulted in a shift to an online backup

November 27, 2008

4 Min Read
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Susan Cameron, a partner at Cameron Consulting, encountered the nightmare that many businesses fear when it comes to backup. When the company's computers were overrun by a computer virus, she felt safe because she had been regularly running a backup system. That feeling quickly dissipated when she tried to retrieve the information and discovered that the backup system had not been working for more than a month. That problem eventually led her in the direction of an online backup service.

Cameron Consulting provides a variety of therapy programs to children with autism, who range in age from infants to adolescents. The company works with both schools and individual families to put programs in place to help these youngsters. In some cases, the company designs a program, conducts teacher training, and hands the program off to the school to run. In other cases, Cameron Consulting staff not only design the curriculum but also run the programs.

The firm is typical of many small businesses. It doesn't have a central server, and its dozen or so workers all use Lenovo laptops to do their work. They send a lot of email, and the business generates a lot of paperwork. Case files have to be developed for every individual in a program. Cameron Consulting is constantly tweaking its curriculum to try and improve the results of its programs. The company has to track and bill clients for service rendered. Last, the consulting company frequently contributes to leading journals in the field.

In the summer of 2007, the consultancy hired a local computer reseller to set up its backup system, a One Touch system from Maxtor Corp. "Many small and medium businesses do not have IT staff to install their own backup systems," says Adam W. Couture, principal research analyst at research firm Gartner Inc. Cameron used the system for several months. During the holiday season, the company discovered that several of its laptops had become infected with a virus. Once it dealt with that problem, it turned to its backup system to recover essential information -- only to discover that the system hadn't been working properly for nearly a month and only contained outdated information.

The consulting firm turned to the local reseller for help and was unsatisfied with the assistance it received. That started a search for other places where copies of key files may have been kept. Six weeks later, Cameron had recovered the bulk of its lost data, but the process certainly drained time and efficiency from its operation.Rather than buy another backup system, the consulting company decided to see what other options were available. The array of backup systems and services can be confusing and bewildering to non-technical personnel at small firms, and it can be difficult to sort through them to find the right option. As a result, "while there are hundreds of online backup vendors, the penetration into SMB and enterprises is relatively small," says Lauren Whitehouse, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) .

Many companies don't know that online backup services are available or whether they'd be right for their needs. In the spring of 2008, Cameron discovered this approach and did a Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) search for potential suppliers. The consulting firm identified a handful of options and chose Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC)'s Online Backup for several reasons. Cameron liked the fact that Symantec stored information in a couple of places rather than one, so there was no single point of failure.

The service's security features were also enticing. The service continuously backs up data whenever a user is connected to the Internet, so the backup files are up to date. To help ensure that data remains secure, information is encrypted with a 256-bit AES encryption algorithm. The encryption key is password protected and known only to the customer and a third party.

And the price was right, so the consulting firm signed up for the service. "The cost was only about $20 a month, which was reasonable for us," Cameron says. Symantec's service starts around $9.95 a month for up to 10 GBytes of data.

To ease new deployment, Symantec relies on a Web browser for its user interface, and Cameron started backing up information incrementally. "Because of our previous experience, I was a bit nervous about the process," she says. Symantec technicians walked her through the process, and the company's information was online within a week.Cameron Consulting decided to go with the continuous backup option rather than nightly backups. "We write reports on children and can spend seven hours straight [on a report] and do not want to do it twice."

The system has been in place for about nine months. "Now, I do not have to worry about system backups and can focus more fully on our core business," Cameron concludes.

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