Online data backup and recovery services: A checklist for SMBs

Many SMBs are now discovering that online data backup and recovery services can work for them the same way it does for small office/home offices (SOHOs) and individual consumers.

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These online backup services offer more than a place to store data; they automate the transfer of files over a WAN connection to safe storage at a remote site.

But there are issues that should be taken into consideration when evaluating an online backup vendor or product. Here's a checklist SMBs can use when shopping for an online backup vendor or product:

  • Efficient transfers and storage of data. In addition to incremental backup, look for some form of capacity reduction, especially if pricing is based on capacity of data stored.

  • Speed. Look for a vendor that offers an alternative to WAN-based transfer to accelerate the initial full backup or full recovery.

  • Matching scalability. This is crucial; you want to partner with a provider or vendor that can match your firm's growth--capacity, nodes, sites, etc.

  • Disaster recovery (DR) planning. What's the vendor's disaster recovery strategy? How many data centers exist and how geographically dispersed are they?

  • Meets industry regulations and compliance requirements. Is the vendor equipped to meet Statement on Auditing Standards No. 70 (SAS 70) and Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) audits? Would the vendor be able to comply with an e-discovery request?

  • Clarity in service commitments. It's critical to have a handle on service-level agreements (SLAs) and operating-level agreements (OLAs). You'll want to make sure service objectives are discussed and benchmarks set.

For SMBs, the arguments for outsourcing backup and recovery technology are compelling. Round-the-clock monitoring and defensible service-level agreements should convince you, but be sure to network with peers; ask vendors and providers for customer contacts, and arrive at any vendor meeting with a list of real-world requests for data you've had or can expect to have. Just as the technology is proving itself, so do its sellers have to work to convince SMBs that their data will be safe and accessible -- and at a price point that makes sense given all the companies vying for your attention.

This article originally appeared in Storage magazine.

About this author: Lauren Whitehouse is an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group and covers data protection technologies. Lauren is a 20-plus-year veteran in the software industry, formerly serving in marketing and software development roles.

This was first published in August 2009

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