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An Offsite File-Backup Service
Designed for Most Businesses
The heavily advertised file back-up services
seem to be designed
only for consumers. But here's a back-up service designed to
meet the needs of most businesses.
by Charley Kyd
I've become increasingly concerned about file backup over the past
year, for several reasons:
- About once a week, an ExcelUser customer writes to say that his
hard drive has failed and that he needs another copy of a file he's
- A house fire in my neighborhood -- caused by an oil-soaked rag
placed on a deck railing where it would be "safe" -- reminded me
that I didn't store backups off-site.
- In spite of my best intentions, I don't back up as frequently as
- I moved recently, and found myself hauling my computer in my car with me
wherever I went. I was mostly concerned about the data, not the
So I started to check out backup services. At first, I researched
services I heard advertised on the radio, or discussed in magazines.
But I found some real problems with them, as I'll explain.
Finally, when I spoke recently at an AICPA Technology conference,
I met Levi Staal, the President of
Abacus Online Backups. He
explained that the backup services I had been researching weren't
designed for businesses. As I compared Abacus to the other systems I
had seen, I understood his point.
I signed up for his backup
service several weeks ago and started the backup process. Over the next several days,
Abacus backed up my 50 gigabytes of data, with no apparent effect on
my computer's performance as the files were being backed up. Now, with all the files backed up, Abacus
backs up changes according to the schedule I've set.
Below is a
comparison of the other backup systems with Abacus. By "the others" I'm referring to the
typical performance I found among the other backup services that I
My business is very small. I thought it would be useful to show
the perspective of a large business. This testimonial, which I found on the
Abacus web site, is from the president of the Canada division of the largest
solutions-based distributor in the world:
- The others don't back up files greater than 2 gigabytes in size.
This is a show stopper because many businesses have larger files.
But Abacus can back up files of any length.
- The others keep only one version of our documents. This is a
show stopper because it's easy to damage a file by mistake. And
corrupt files are fairly common.
But Abacus can store files by date for 20 years.
- The others don't use
file compression. This is a show stopper because it severely
reduces the amount of backup
data we can transmit per 24 hours. One heavily advertised backup service
sets this limit at only around 2 gigs per 24 hours with a DSL
connection...if we don't use our computer during that time. But
if we use our computer for 12 hours per day, then only one gig
can be backed up per day.
This is a show stopper, of course, because I have more than 50
gigs of data and I'm using my computer constantly.
But Abacus compresses and transmits the files whether I'm using
my computer or not.
- The others restore as slowly as they back up. This is a show
stopper because if I lose my data I wouldn't want to take a
25-day vacation to allow my computer to slowly restore 50 gigs
of data at two gigs per day.
But Abacus takes a different approach. For quick restoration,
they can copy our data to a USB hard drive and send it to us
overnight. Similarly, for a quick backup, we can send our data
to them on a USB hard
- The others don't back up open files or databases like SQL
Server, Oracle, Domino, or MS Exchange. This is a show stopper
for many businesses.
But Abacus can back up open files and databases.
- One of the most heavily advertised backup companies limits
backup to half a gig after 50 gigs have been backed up. This is
a show stopper because my Outlook file alone is larger than that
and needs to be backed up daily.
But Abacus imposes no such limitations.
- The others back up the complete file, even if only a small
piece of it has changed. This is a show stopper because it would
take six hours per day merely to back up my Outlook file.
But Abacus uses "binary patching." The practical effect of this
technology is that they back up only the changes in a file, not
the whole file.
As a consequence of binary patching, Abacus is able to keep
computers with as much as 2 terabytes (2,000 gigabytes) fully backed up.
- The others don't store our data in an encrypted
format. That's a show stopper because their employees could see our data.
But Abacus uses 128-bit encryption to ensure that we're the only
ones who can access our own data.
"With over a terabyte of
data to back up, our tape backup was running more than 13 hours a day,
and even then, it simply couldn't keep up. The process was becoming more
and more unmanageable over time.
"We had to be on-site to change the tapes, remember to take the tapes
off-site, catalogue the tapes, regularly verify the contents of each
tape, clean the tape heads, and of course purchase the tapes. And even
still, we were never 100% sure the backup worked.
"ABACUS changed that. It's an inexpensive solution which is fully
automatic - you set it and forget it. We spent a just few minutes
configuring the settings according to our needs, and then the backups
run daily, even hourly in some cases, without any human intervention. I
get an email report delivered to my inbox which confirms which files
were backed up, or if any problems were encountered. And with every
backup, we have the added security of knowing our data is replicated in
three locations across North America simultaneously.
"Having removed most of the hassles of doing backups, I am certainly a
In short, I like the Abacus solution. Unlike most of the other backup services
you may have heard about, this one is designed for business use. To find
out more, go to
Abacus Online Backups.