Corporate users turning to Internet backup

Corporate users turning to Internet backup

Zachary Shess

Online PC and remote backup software services are slowly carving a niche as more corporate employees who telecommute or work from the road require easy and immediate access to their data. Using the Internet as a data repository and having data accessible through a browser is also gaining appeal in small and medium-size companies lacking IT expertise.

International Data Corp., a market research firm in Framingham, MA, predicts that the market for PC online backup will grow from $12 million last year to more than $200 million in 2003. "As more remote laptops become part of the enterprise, IT administrators are beginning to realize the value of online backup services," says IDC analyst Philip Mendoza. "Remote PCs can`t continuously backup to the LAN, and it`s not practical to carry around Zip drives," he says.

From providing 20MB of Internet-based storage for a single user to delivering server-level live backup for a fleet of laptops, online backup implementations vary significantly. While vendors such as @Backup and Connected Corp. offer services at both levels, vendors such as Atrieva Corp. and StoragePoint.com cater more to individual users who want to back up crucial files while on the road or share files among multiple PCs.

In this scenario, a software agent scans the PC`s hard drive for changes. To ensure security and minimize the burden on the network, the data is encrypted and compressed, and when the machine is online, data is sent to a virtual hard drive stored at the vendor`s data center.

"The opportunity we anticipate in small businesses is where there is not a dial-up network type of access and people want to transfer files, store files offline to download in other places, or share emails," says Mary Kerford, vice president of marketing at Atrieva.

As an advertising executive at Elvis & Bonaparte, in Portland, OR, Duane Benson frequently works from home, finishing up PowerPoint presentations and other proposals. For about six months, he found Atrieva`s services useful and convenient for file sharing and having a secure extra copy of particularly important files--just in case.

"At work, I`ll drop the file on the Internet, and when I`m home I`m able to go online and quickly pull it back down," Benson says. "I tried to do something similar with email, but some free email programs don`t handle attachments well or they have limits on how much you can store," he adds.

An increasing number of Internet-based, server-level backup services are becoming available. Last month, for example, Network Integrity and @Backup each announced backup services geared to the enterprise. Traditional scheduled backups require all data to be replicated and then routed in batches from the server to the backup device. With online data backup, agents scan local and remote client hard drives for alterations, while software simultaneously monitors both open files and databases, all of which are backed up in real time via the Internet.

As they bring their technologies to market, online backup vendors must also grapple with overcoming users` perceptions--or lack thereof--about the need to back up their data and who will control that function. "There`s certainly an ongoing debate about data control and whether it should be in-house or from a third party," says Jim Till, @Backup`s vice president of marketing.

This article was originally published on November 01, 1999