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Volume 27, Issue 3

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Does Your Remote Backup Have All The Features You Need?

Written by  Raghu Kulkarni March 1, 2011

More than 70 percent of the 1,228 SMB budget decision-makers in Forrester's "Global IT Budgets, Priorities, and Emerging Technology Tracking Survey Q2 2010" said upgrading disaster recovery and business continuity (DR/BC) is likely to be a top technology priority over the next 12 months. Of 1,575 enterprise decision makers, more than 60 percent selected DR/BC as second in the survey right after IT infrastructure consolidation.

Although the definition of cloud may vary widely, the case for "cloud storage" can finally be made and backup software-as-a-service has finally come of age. Factors to consider range from service level agreements to security to pricing to flexibility to feature set. In this article, we'll focus on the importance of the features available within the software which affect dependability and flexibility.

Often, in the haste of trying to make the service easier-to-use or to provide it at a lower price point, vendors might rush to launch a lite version or remove key features. The goal in highlighting these features is to ensure that you consider the most important features for your particular need and do a proper comparison between vendors and see how they stack up. Below are the features we'll cover in this article.

(1)   True archiving

(2)   Mapped drive backup

(3)   Versioning

(4)   Continuous data protection

(5)   Open file backup

(6)   Time-line restore

(7)   Web-based backup management

(8)   Fast incremental backups

True Archiving – Many vendors, in a rush to launch an unlimited service at a low price point, will remove the true archiving feature. What does this mean for you? For example, if you remove an external drive, then after 30 days or 90 days those external files will be removed from your online backup set. Or, once you delete files from your computer, once again at some point these other providers will remove those files from their data centers in order to make room for all their users who are looking for unlimited storage. There are only a few online backup providers that will not delete your files backed up until and unless you manually select those files for removal from your remote backup.

Mapped Drive Backup – As discussed above, this is the feature which would support mapped drives and external drives, even if your system is logged off. Be sure to look into this feature as many providers will automatically choose to remove your files from the remote backup set if these drives are not logged in or connected indefinitely. Just imagine you're a photographer or filmmaker and you pull your portable drive off your machine and go off to do a project for a couple months and on your flight back, the airline loses your luggage where you kept the portable drive or the drive crashes… do you still have those files backed up? Ask yourself if you have true peace of mind with your data and what that is worth to you?

Versioning – Ensure that your online backup provider keeps multiple versions of each of your files; at the very least the previous 30 versions of each file. And also make sure that they don't count those versions against your quota – i.e. no online backup provider should charge you extra to maintain multiple versions of your files.

Continuous Data Protection – With the click of one button, you can set some online backup services to backup all your files instantaneously (i.e. the software checks every minute to find changes made and saves those incremental changes to your remote backup account). This is a great feature to have if you accidentally delete a file from your computer and need to retrieve it quickly, hassle-free. Because of the frequent checks and constant backing up of changes to files, turning on this feature could slow down your computer and online connection but it should be okay as long as your file changes aren't huge and you have a decent broadband connection.

Open File Backup – Sometimes you might work on a document and leave it open on your desktop or laptop computer but that doesn't mean you're telling your online backup provider to ignore that file. It is extremely important that any service you select has open file backup.

Time-Line Restore – This feature allows you to roll your local files and folders back to a particular date/time and easily find when/where your files are that you need to backup. Why is this important? Let's say you're collaborating with multiple people on a document or short film and you're unhappy with the changes made, then you can go back to a previous backup and restore the files and start over. Also, you may not remember filenames or all the files in a folder as we think in terms of dates and times so this makes it very easy to find what you're looking for and restore quickly.

Web-Based Backup Management – Many services will offer you web-based account management, but make sure that you have all the major features from the web-based system such as manage your backup set (add/remove files), restore folders, schedule or re-schedule a backup set, view session logs, etc. Plus, account management features such as checking your quota, upgrading your account, editing your profile, adding additional accounts, etc. should be available as well

Fast Incremental Backups – Simply put, your online backup software should only send the incremental block level data for each file and that too after compressing and encrypting the data so that the backups are fast and secure.

Although there are many comparison charts available online, it is strongly suggested that you create a comparison chart for yourself with each of the features listed that are important to your particular situation and possibly even giving higher weight to the critical ones. After all, you want to make a sound decision the first time around and ensure that you and your team can recover the data lost quickly and with the proper technical and customer support at your disposal.


Raghu Kulkarni is the CEO of Pro Softnet Corporation, the parent company of IDrive (www.idrive.com), which was founded in 2001 in its present form. Kulkarni leads product development and overall strategy for the company. Kulkarni attended the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) where he studied information systems and worked as a software consultant for six years before founding the company.

IDrive is presented by Pro Softnet Corp., a comprehensive leader in online backup, storage and remote access. Pro Softnet protects nearly 13 million gigabytes of data for more than 700,000 users in more than 125 countries. IDrive has received accolades from PC Magazine, PCWorld, and CNET and been featured on TechCrunch, Engadget, GigaOM, among other publications.