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Agile Computing: Blog Post

Enterprise Online Backup and Losing a Lady Gaga MP3

First of all, the term “enterprise online backup” is a bit misleading

Recently there was an interesting blog post by Scott Raymond entitled “Where Are the Affordable Enterprise Online Backups?” I made a comment to it – to the effect that bandwidth and RTO (Recovery Time Objective) are incompatible.  That caused some other comments to be made.  I decided to write a bit longer post concerning the entire phenomenon on this blog.

First of all, the term “enterprise online backup” is a bit misleading.  What the author of the post was complaining about was that there are no unlimited storage options with associated flat-rate pricing of the sort in the consumer space.  The reason tends to be that pesky term “enterprise” and what it means to people.  There’s an old joke that when someone mentions “enterprise” that means “hold on to your wallets.”  It’s actually a bit more complex than that.

The characteristics of enterprise-level online backup can be categorized as follows:

  • Infrastructure.
  • Quickly protecting data.
  • Recovering from disaster.
  • Security and privacy.
  • Reliability and availability.
  • Manageability.
  • Trust and monitoring.
  • Alternative disaster recovery methods.

For more on this you can search “cloud” on this blog and find lots of information concerning these; there’s also a webinar and an associated white paper that goes into this in much more detail and describes each one.  What I’d note at a high level is that this is a good bit more complex than getting back that the latest Lady Gaga MP3 that you lost when you spilled beer on your laptop.

Dan Goldberg had a good comment on the original ZDNet blog post that there was a tendency of unlimited online vendors to bait and switch with regard to upload speeds – to offer unlimited backup storage at a flat rate but then to throttle you down if you upload too much.  He’s right, of course.  He also notes that you can get many online vendors to ship you a disk at an extra cost.  Of course, what you do with that disk belies the “enterprise” nature of the discussion.  Enterprises, even in 100 person organizations, have multiple servers, desktops, and laptops – what you do with that data you get back and how quickly you can bring your business back is at the heart of your recovery strategy.

My favorite part of one comment was the following Freudian slip:

I am curious though why the prices are higher for businesses. Amazon S3 pricing page does not distinguish businesses and individuals. And many web backup providers sue Amazon s3 anyway.

As we saw with Carbonite, there really is quite a bit of suing going on (note: I realize that the intended term was “use” – just found this humorous given the nature of our industry.)

The fundamental truth of the matter is that consumer-based online backup is based upon the fact that the change rate of data on a consumer PC is relatively low and that a profit can be made in an arbitrage of the monthly fee with the underlying cost of the bandwidth and storage.  Read the terms and conditions and the SLAs of these services – if you lose data, you don’t have many remedies.  Small and medium businesses tend to have higher data change rates and larger data volumes – thus the attempt to create an attractive flat rate structure in which a profit can be made is much more difficult.

And note that I say this as someone who works in a company that charges $0.49 per gigabyte per month – and does so quite intentionally because companies such as Mozy Business, Carbonite Business, Barracuda Networks, and others charge $0.50.  The margins are awfully skinny regardless of the $0.01 difference in pricing – if you’re making sure that your customer can recover, and recover quickly.

One last note.  When we talk about “alternative disaster recovery methods” above, note that this can mean anything from rotational archiving to single tenant private cloud vaulting – none of which should have a monthly fee attached.  Of course, there’s no free lunch – there’s a capital and operational expenditure associated with everything.

More Stories By Mark Campbell

Mark Campbell is the COO of Unitrends. He originally joined Unitrends as its CTO in 2008. Unitrends enables its customers the freedom to focus on their business instead of backup. The company achieves this through a scalable, all-in-one backup solutions that no other data protection vendor can provide.  Unitrends integrated backup appliance simply protects businesses’ IT infrastructures at the lowest total cost of ownership in the industry. More companies every day join those who have discovered the customer-obsessed, enterprise-level data protection only Unitrends can offer.

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