of Major Offsite Backup
Service Suppliers in
Faculty of Informatics,
It is important for enterprises to protect important data from damage, alteration or loss by a rigorous procedure of data backup and recovery. One technique for such practice is in real time or near real time to copy data to a location outside the primary storage system (Petrocelli 2005). This is called off-site backup strategy. Traditionally, data backup requires considerable investment for backup software and hardware and professional personnel to manage the operation. As a result, to lower such cost, many companies prefer to outsource this work to third-party off-site backup service suppliers, meaning the process of data backup will be facilitated and monitored via the Internet by a third party. For this service, no initial cost for software and hardware is needed, and the clients can decide what to back up and how often to do it The only drawback found is its low speed – it can take more than 12 hours to transfer a single gigabyte of data over an ADSL connection (Andrews 2009b). In this paper, the author is to review and compare the following ten major off-site backup service suppliers in
* Australian Online Backup (www.backup.com.au)
* Backup Express (www.backupexpress.com.au)
* CyberSecure (http://www.cybersecure.com.au)
* DataBank (www.databank.com.au)
* INA Solutions (http://www.inasolutions.com.au)
* OZ Backup (www.ozbackup.com.au)
* SOS Online Backup Australia (www.sosbackup.com.au)
* VaultCentral (www.vaultcentral.com.au)
Based on the analysis of the comparison, the author is to find out the answers to these research questions:
* What kind of common services do they offer?
* Does one company offer services that another does not?
* How do their costs compare?
* How can the differences be accounted for?
2 Method and Approach
The primary method and approach used for this research is to review the official websites of the ten offsite backup service suppliers, and then extract useful information from them. To obtain further information, the author also contacted the suppliers via online chat (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Online Chat between the Author and a SOS Online Backup Sales Representative
3.1 Common Ground in Services
With an onsite visit, a call or e-mails, technicians can estimate clients’ backup needs and suggest a solution, or provide the clients with a quote based on their requirements (AustralianOnlineBack n.d.; DataBank n.d.-c).
Free trial accounts are usually available for online data backup services. To obtain the free service, clients are required to provide the suppliers with contact details so that the sales departments can follow up (CyberSecure n.d.-c; INASolutions n.d.-c; OZBackup n.d.).
As for online data backup services, the suppliers usually require the clients to install a client software onsite that will work quietly in the background looking for new and changed files to back up (AustralianOnlineBack n.d.; Canobite n.d.; INASolutions n.d.-b; IronMountain 2006). The installation may be implemented by the clients or by personnel from the suppliers. This can also be completed by remote administration of clients’ computers.
The actual backup service starts from initial backup, meaning the first step of data backup is to define which files and directories to be backed up and to back up them entirely for the first time. According to the result of lab testing, this process can be slow. For example, it took 6 hours 9 minutes for Carbonite to complete an initial backup while SOS Online Backup needed 10 hours 51 minutes to do the same (amount of files for initial backup not specified) (Andrews 2009b). Therefore, some suppliers offer physical media upload service for initial backup of large files. In that case, the clients will receive a storage drive and they are asked to copy the files that they want to back up to the drive and send it back to the suppliers, or a representative assigned by a supplier will come onsite to pick the data storage media (CyberSecure n.d.-b; DataBank n.d.-b; IronMountain 2006). As for pure online backup services, the suppliers will copy the files into the storage space of the clients’ account. As for pure offsite data media storage services, the suppliers will give the clients online access to their account information where storage status is shown.
3.l.5 Automatic Backup
Scheduling options are available on the client software to help automate the backup process. They allow users to configure backups at any time, multiple times per day or even before the operating system shut down. Some client software can start and stop the backup process intelligently. For example, when the clients’ computers are not being used, the client software will start to automatically back up the new and changed files. When the clients are busy using their computers, the software goes to sleep so it will not slow down the performance of the computers or the internet connection (Andrews 2009b; AustralianOnlineBack n.d.; Canobite n.d.; INASolutions n.d.-b; IronMountain 2006). Some services offer live protection. In such mode, any files or folders the clients have selected are backed up as soon as any changes are made to them (Andrews 2009b)
SSL or TLS encryption is widely used by backup services. Files will usually be encrypted either before or after transfer using a 256- to 448-bit Blowfish algorithm, or 256-bit AES (Andrews 2009b). Some suppliers also allow clients to specify their preferred password and/or encryption key for the encryption before the data leave the clients’ computers (Andrews 2009b; CyberSecure n.d.-b).
When clients want to restore or recover their data, they can do that in two ways: via the Internet or via physical media. As for the Internet mode, clients can transfer their backup data back to their computers via the client backup software (Canobite n.d.; INASolutions n.d.-b). As for the physical media mode, technicians from suppliers will deliver the backup data using physical media and provide onsite service to assist the clients to complete the data restore process (AustralianOnlineBack n.d.; INASolutions n.d.-b; VaultCentral n.d.-a).
3.2 Differences in Services
Basically, there are two types of offsite backup services: online backup and offsite media storage. Among the ten suppliers, only
Typical online backup services are to transfer clients’ data to their storage servers for backup and transfer the data back to the clients’ computer for recovery, which is illustrated by Figure 2. This type of services focuses on the process of backup and recovery.
Figure 2: Online Backup Service Model (CyberSecure n.d.-b)
Among the ten cases, DataBank and VaultCentral are typical offsite media storage service suppliers. The services focus on the storage. They assume that all they critical data have been backed up to a media by the clients and their work is to go onsite to pick up the media and deliver back to the storage. Once the clients request retrieval of data, they deliver the media back to the clients. Their focus is on managing the tapes in the storage (see Figure 3). And they are also quite concerned about the delivery process, as they claim that they have professional staff and well-equipped vehicles (see Figure 4) (DataBank n.d.-b).
Figure 3: Tapes in Storage (DataBank n.d.-b)
Figure 4: Delivery Vehicle (DataBank n.d.-a)
Low recovery speed is the major drawback of online backup services (Andrews 2009b). To minimize such negative influence on the backup service, Backup Express and CyberSecure provide clients with additional recovery solution for large files. Backup Express can explore the data from the server to a “Rapid Recovery Disk” and then ship to clients using courier. They guarantee overnight delivery provided that service is requested by 12 noon (BackupExpress n.d.). CyberSecure utilises an onsite hardware appliance to backs up multiple servers simultaneously and keeps the latest backup onsite at all times. The caching feature means rapid restoration from across the LAN, rather than from the remote CyberSecure datacentre (CyberSecure n.d.-a).
Carbonite and SOS Online Backup are two pieces software that have received positive recognition from two major PC magazines. Carbonite is a “Labs Winner” of PC Authority (Andrews 2009a) and SOS Online Backup is an “Editors’ Choice” of PC Magazine (Muchmore 2008). The reviews for the two awards focus on the result of lab testing and the software per se, but seldom mentioned the services and solutions. Actually, the two US companies give clients an impression that they are distributing software and selling licenses in Australia, and the local service and support may not be as much as other offsite backup services providers in Australia. On the other hands, other Australian offsite backup companies claim that local service and support will be quick and effective (AustralianOnlineBack n.d.; INASolutions n.d.-a; VaultCentral n.d.-a).
The following quote from Carbonite Australia’s website can account for this (CanobiteAustralia n.d.):
Carbonite Australia Pty Ltd is the licensed Australian distributor of the Carbonite software…Support for Carbonite is provided directly through the Carbonite, Inc (US) support channels (email, phone and chat)…If you are experiencing difficulties accessing any of the above direct support options, please contact our local Australian office.
According to an online chat between the author and a sales representative of SOS Online Backup from
3.3 Comparison of Pricing
According to the information on the official websites, the pricing of the ten services are as followed (for convenient comparison, prices have been converted to “per month”):
* Australian Online Backup: AU$50 per month (may vary after estimation).
* Backup Express: AU$29 to AU$299 per month for
* CyberSecure: AU$18 to AU195 per month for
* DataBank: depends on estimation.
* INA Solutions: AU$19 to AU$209 per month for
* OZ Backup: AU$20 to AU200 per month for
* SOS Online Backup
* VaultCentral: depends on estimation.
From the above pricing information, we can see that three companies do not release pricing information because their services involve much human effort and need estimation. For other companies, the prices for the storage space of Carbonite and SOS Online Backup are relatively cheaper than others. Actually, they may offer even much better prices if you talk to their sales representative. The following is a segment of an online chat log between the author and a sales representative of SOS Online Backup (“you” refers to the author and “Derek” is the name of the representative):
you: Is there any additional fee for PMU?
Derek: I’ll throw it in for free with an annual subscription
Derek: $150/use generally
Derek: depending upon the total backup space you need, I can also get you a great price for the service
Derek: especially since there are 2 days left in the quarter
Derek: I can really get you a great discount if we move this today or tomorrow
Derek: all accounts are given 14-days before any billing is processed
Derek: even after the 14-days, we have a policy of not charging customers for services not received
Derek: how many servers/workstations do you need protected?
you: So what’s the price for 100GB?
Derek: I can get you 30% off an annual subscription, $1260/year
Derek: + free PMU + a free year (in other words, $1260 for two years)
4.1 Differences in Services
Pure online backup services define their primary market as those personal users or small business users who do not have the knowledge and skills of onsite backup, or do not want to bother using DVDs or removable disks to back up data regularly. These users need specialists or software to take care of their critical data (AustralianOnlineBack n.d.). On the other hand, some large companies may have had their own data backup strategies and solutions. They need a secured space to store the data so that they can meet government regulation requirements and release the burden of their own staff (DataBank n.d.-c; VaultCentral n.d.-b). So the main reason for the differences in the services is that the suppliers define their target market differently. Home users prefer easy online backup while large entities require more careful services (e.g., rapid recovery, onsite service, etc.).
4.2 Differences in Pricing
The prices for the services are generally determined by their cost and the value created for clients. The figures in Section 3.3 show that the prices of the services offered by Carbonite and SOS Online Software are cheaper than others. As mentioned above, these two companies’ focus is on their software. The software even has been awarded by two PC magazines (Andrews 2009a; Muchmore 2008). They provide clients with fewer services delivered by personnel. So their cost in this field is definitely lower than that of other companies. Furthermore, since local support may not fit local clients’ need. In other words, the two companies may create less value for their clients. That’s why their prices are relatively lower.
This paper has reviewed and compared the details of services offered by ten offsite backup service suppliers in
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