Data Backup Review: Backup My Info

Data Backup Startup Review: Backup My Info


By Gerry Blackwell
March 26, 2008

“It’s not for everyone,” is almost the first thing entrepreneur Jennifer Walzer told me about Back Up My Info, the online backup service she launched five years ago, and that I test drove recently. She repeated this more than once.

It’s not that Walzer thinks some small businesses can afford not
to back up. Far from it. As she said, there’s no question your systems
are going to fail at some point with resulting loss of data – “it’s a
100 percent certainty.” The only question is when. And small businesses
that don’t adequately protect their data will inevitably suffer.

Walzer’s disclaimer has more to do with the fact that there are any
number of different backup solutions available – both online and
on-premises – and many of them, possibly most, are less expensive than
hers. If you look at price alone.

 

Walzer built Back Up My Info (BUMI) to be the Cadillac of online
services, and it’s priced accordingly. The company places heavy
emphasis on personalized, attentive customer service and hand holding.

This makes it great for small companies with no IT resources or
skills and little time or patience for the kind of attention to detail
and constant monitoring that a successful backup strategy requires. But
the skilled labor the company employs to provide this level of service
is expensive.

How much does it cost?

Cadillac Service
The BUMI Web site doesn’t even list prices, presumably for fear
prospective customers doing comparisons with other, relatively cut-rate
and much more automated online backup services will dismiss it before
they properly understand the “value proposition.”

The pricing scheme is simple. Customers pay only for the amount of
compressed data BUMI stores for them. The backup software,
installation, support, maintenance and any restores required – getting
your data back in the event of a disaster – are all free.

The minimum price is $55 a month. That’s for up to 1.5 GB of
compressed, encrypted data (so 3 to 4 GB of uncompressed data). Which
is well within the budgets of most small businesses. But given that
there are some online backup services charging a small fraction of
that, you can understand why Walzer wants to explain what her service
offers before telling you the price.

And it does offer a lot. Backup is a sometimes tricky business. Most
small businesses don’t understand it well. What should you back up? How
should you back it up? How do you know your backups are actually
working? What happens if you have a disaster?

The BUMI value-add is that it takes away all that uncertainty. It
provides customers with 24/7 technical support, free installation, free
consulting on backup configuration, constant monitoring to ensure
backups are completed successfully and periodic consulting sessions to
ensure you’re continuing to back up the right stuff.

 

Good Software
The backup software, which BUMI did not develop itself but licenses
from another company, is only a small part of it. The software resides
on your system and manages the process of copying data over the
Internet connection to BUMI’s storage servers. It provides fairly
typical backup software functionality – more than some, but not as much
as the most full-featured enterprise-grade systems.

It lets you back up automatically according to a schedule without
human intervention – once every week, every day, or some other
interval. It lets you choose exactly which folders to back up. You can
set up filters that will select only certain types of files to back up.

After the first backup, the software will only back up new files or
files that have been changed. And it will keep a number of versions of
each file – you select how many – so that if you change a file and then
want to go back to an earlier version, you can do that. But it only
saves the changed bits so you’re not using up valuable storage space on
near duplicates.

The only serious omission, which is about to be corrected, is that
the software can’t do open-file backups. Because of the way some
applications are programmed, it’s difficult to back them up unless
they’re shut down first. Microsoft Office Outlook is a prime example.

Until the latest version of the BUMI software appears in late March
or early April, the firm recommends clients shut Outlook down before
their scheduled backups. If they don’t, the software won’t be able to
copy the Outlook .pst files that contain all their mail, contacts and
calendar data. The new version, however, will be able to back up
Outlook even if you leave it open.

Better Service
The real point of the BUMI service is not the software, but the
customer service. Judging by my experience, it’s at a very high level.
The firm assigns an engineer – Walzer said her support employees must
have a minimum of ten years experience – to help each new customer
download, install and configure the client software.

The engineer I worked with was the soul of patience and obviously
knew his stuff. The usual procedure is for BUMI to use an Internet
remote support tool so the engineer actually takes control of your
computer and performs most of the installation and set-up tasks. You
only take over to key in a private encryption key and Windows user ID
and password.

For whatever reason, the BUMI engineer couldn’t stay connected to my
computer. It most likely had to do with the way my network router’s
firewall is configured. It meant he had to talk me through the process
instead, which partly accounts for the time it took to get me up and
running – well over an hour. It more typically takes 15 or 20 minutes,
Walzer said, and sometimes as little as 10.

The engineer carefully explained exactly what I had to do at each
step, from downloading the installer from the BUMI Web site and
launching it, to managing the install process, to configuring the
application.

There were a few additional glitches in the process – again, because
of problems at my end, most likely to do with having too many
applications running and not enough computing resources available. It
took two tries to get the software installed, then several steps went
painfully slowly.

Free Consulting
Once the software, including a lite version of Microsoft’s SQL server
software, was installed, the process of configuring it for the first
backup was relatively simple. This was mainly because the BUMI engineer
was able to guide me through the complex business of deciding which
choices to make about how to do backups and what to back up.

The firm’s methodology includes the sensible measure of using file
filters to prevent the program from backing up certain types of files,
including images, videos, temporary files and the like. My engineer was
able to e-mail me ready-made coding for this filter, which I could
simply clip from the message and paste into the software.

Another part of the methodology is to set up the software so it
communicates with a BUMI server to send it a notification when a backup
is complete, and show any errors that occurred. The server then turns
around and e-mails this notification to the customer.

Setting this up requires the engineer to input a password
proprietary to BUMI. Because in my installation, he wasn’t able to take
control of my system, he couldn’t do this. Instead, he set up the
software to generate a pop-up message on my screen with the
notifications, which was almost as satisfactory.

While the set-up process was more involved and time-consuming than
either of us expected, the experience was still positive. And the next
day after the first full backup was done in the middle of the night, my
BUMI engineer e-mailed to tell me it had completed successfully.

Constant Feedback
I subsequently adjusted which folders to back up – the customer always
has control of the client software on his system and can adjust backup
parameters or schedules or add new backups. Since my backup now
included some files that could not be backed up while ope, and I hadn’t
closed them before the scheduled event, the BUMI software reported
errors in a pop-up message that I found the next day.

A different BUMI engineer – mine was apparently busy in meetings –
e-mailed to point out these errors, explain why they occurred and
suggest that in future I could exclude folders or files that triggered
errors. He also offered to set up a teleconference to discuss what I
was backing up and how I might change that to increase efficiency and
reduce storage requirements.

A few days after the initial installation, a hand-written note
arrived in the mail from my BUMI engineer, with business cards for
recording my encryption key. (It’s important to remember this
password-like 16-character code because without it, you can’t set up
the BUMI service on a new computer and restore all your files from your
backups in the event of a disaster.)

You get the idea. BUMI smothers you with service. The attention to detail is excellent.

The software works well enough. I didn’t test a full restore of my
backup set, but I did experiment with restoring selected files. It was
faster than I expected and was easy to do. In the event of a real
disaster, though, my BUMI engineer – or another – would help me through
the restore process.

The real advantage here is the company’s level of service and the
reassurance that brings. It’s like buying insurance for your data, and
it’s money well-spent.

Based in London, Canada, Gerry Blackwell
has been writing about information technology and telecommunications for a variety of print
and online publications since the 1980s.

This article was first published on SmallBusinessComputing.com.

 

 

 

 

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