Online Backup – Consumer versus Enterprise

A recent post to this blog received a number of comments questioning primarily the reliability of online backup solutions, as well as the security of the data.

Whilst these comments relate to valid concerns that should be considered when choosing a solution, the examples given, for the most part, seemed to relate to providers of consumer solutions, rather than SME level solutions.

There are several key differences between online backup solutions aimed at the consumer (home user) and business. This blog aims to discuss these distinctions and we welcome readers’ comments.

The distinctions stem from the cost of the two types of service. To put it simply, consumer and entry level business solutions put in much less investment, whereas the more comprehensive solutions aimed at larger businesses invest much more heavily in various areas.

Looking at this argument from a customer’s point of view, it is easy to see why providers of the consumer products keep costs down. The home user will, for example, use online backup for  pictures and videos of family holidays. Whilst this data holds precious memories, it will not incur costs to the user if data is lost, corrupted, or even stolen.

For this reason, consumer online backup providers will put low levels of investment into the initial development of the product as well as key areas such as staffing levels and hardware. This benefits the home user or very small business owner, as the relatively low level of investment on the provider’s side keeps cost down. The home user is likely to be backing up a small selection of data and therefore can manage the software themselves with few problems. The small business user, whilst requiring more frequent backups, is not likely to have acquired large amounts of data, and in any case will likely be restricted in their range of choice by their IT budget. For these types of customer, a provider which puts more emphasis on low cost rather than quality of overall service, is the right way to go.

However, when dealing with the data sizes of an SME, a more comprehensive and sturdy online backup solution is required. For example, companies, even those with around 20 employees, can still have data in the region of 1TB, spread over several servers or machines, on different operating systems. This can become a massive headache for whoever is lumped with the responsibility of making sure that this data is backed up on a regular basis, is held securely and reliably, and is restorable in the quickest time possible.

On top of the daily management, if a business experiences data loss, for example, pay-roll or customer data, the lasting effects can be hugely costly to the business both in time as well as money.

This is where a managed service providers (MSP) come in. Having already invested in the software solution, the accompanying hardware and the knowledge and training of its staff, the MSP takes on the responsibility of monitoring backups and restores. Furthermore, the customer has direct access to an experienced team of engineers who work with backups on a daily basis to fix any problems just as quickly as they are discovered. The customer can even choose where their data is kept – in a shared data centre on the internet or  their own data centre connected to their office using a private link – and also the level of encryption they require to secure it. This frees up the employee previously responsible for backups and restores, allowing them to concentrate on other roles.

So, to conclude, the customer generally gets what they pay for. If the files to be backed up do not hold a monetary value (family photos, for instance), it does not make sense to invest in a high quality online backup solution. However, to many businesses, customers’ data is the most important electronic asset and is therefore worth a considerable amount. Accordingly, businesses should chose a solution and service that reflects their investments.

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