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Costs and regulations drive users to outsource backup, replication

Businesses of all sizes are facing the same issues when it comes to backup and replication for disaster recovery. Costs are high, time is short, and personnel are scarce. All of these factors, and more, are causing users to opt for outsourced storage services.

There's a small insurance consultancy in the Golden State run by one man, his son and a handful of employees. It handles benefits and compensation plans for a few major clients. Most of the firm's records reside in filing cabinets and on diskettes.

Everything's fine. Then the big one hits. A fault line opens up under Southern California and swallows the 401k, pension and benefits records, and they're never to be seen again. This was Ronald Bateman's biggest fear before he turned to a service provider for his backup and recovery needs.

As president of Ronald J. Bateman Group Inc., a Los Angeles-based insurance consultancy, Bateman does billing and collection work for a large international church and a college. Because of the nature of his business, he must worry about federal data-retention regulations.

Not surprisingly, considering the size of his organization, Bateman does not enjoy the luxury of having a dedicated IT person to handle his storage. And, living in L.A., an area prone to earthquakes and brownouts, Bateman needs peace of mind. "It's important for me that I'm able to keep that business going. I can't afford any downtime," he said. "It's important for me to make sure that my data's there."

Like many small-businesses owners, Bateman's main obstacle when it came to choosing a backup and recovery service provider was time.

"The biggest problem is getting around to it, because you're so busy taking care of clients most of the time," he said. "Most of us are time broke."

Prior to signing up for EVault Inc.'s SmallBusiness Edition (SBE) disk-to-disk data backup and recovery service, Bateman would back up his server to a disk and take it home in his briefcase. "When I finally got the time to devote to [evaluating outsourcers], I was surprised at how easy it was. It was a no-brainer," Bateman said.

EVault touts its SBE service as specifically designed for small businesses with limited IT resources. The service allows a company to automatically back up data to an off-site location using its existing Internet connections. With a 20-minute installation and no additional equipment to buy, EVault claims the SBE service is aimed at firms with less than 15 GB to automate. EVault's service starts at $85 per month.

While Bateman's issues revolved around being "time broke" and maintaining peace of mind, Neil Benson, vice president of technology for First Coastal Bank, was looking to save money.

First Coastal, a small community bank with four branches in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County, was running typical tape backups at a cost of more than $5,000.

For a small organization like his, $5,000 was a hefty price to pay. Fear of a natural disaster was also weighing on Benson's mind. "Our tapes were being rotated between each of the offices, the furthest of which is 15 or 20 miles away. We realized that if there was a wide area disaster, we probably wouldn't be able to recover," he said.

Benson acted on his concerns and also signed on with EVault. He now saves between $1,000 and $2,000 each month.

Outsourcing isn't just for the little guy. Geoff Sinn, president and CEO of the Salem Group, a hardware reseller based in Winston-Salem, N.C., said that the same principles apply to big companies. He said that businesses, regardless of size, are looking to save money and satisfy the regulators.

The Salem Group recently partnered with Santa Clara, Calif.-based Topio Inc. to offer a heterogeneous data-replication service that offers off-site data protection. The remote replication service, provided by the Salem Group using Topio's Data Protection Suite (TDPS), is aimed at midsized and large enterprises looking for secondary backup sites for disaster recovery and business continuity purposes.

He said that regulatory concerns are driving interest in outsourcing. "It doesn't matter if you're a big financial institution, a big hospital or a small one. You're subject to the same regulations," he said.

Sinn also said that a lack of personnel, as well as time and cost considerations, make outsourcing replication a good financial deal. "Users don't want to put money out for software and hardware," he said. "They don't have a second data center, and they don't have the expertise."

The Salem Group plans to have this service available in the coming weeks. Sinn was almost baffled by the user interest in the service. "I really have never had this type of response," he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Kevin Komiega, News Editor.

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