Off-Site Backup Changes

Due to the sale of Symform to another corporation and the resulting degradation in service we have evaluated new off-site backup solutions. We decided not to simply look for a replacement but to take a big picture view of the problem of securing data and address the problems of roaming laptops, users with bad data storage habits, critical server data folders and site recovery. Technology changes rapidly and in the 4 years that we’ve been using Symform the landscape has changed so it made sense to take a fresh look.

Essentially we have three data backup challenges:

  1. Laptop users tend to store files locally because saving files elsewhere is inconvenient or they use their laptop offline (not connected to the Internet).
  2. Some Desktop Users save files onto their desktop or local documents folder rather than server locations.
  3. Although the backup drives are supposed to be swapped and taken offsite, this job often gets missed

And we have a business continuity concern:

  • In case of single server hardware failure how quickly does it need to get up and running?
    • The answer may depend on what that particular servers does. Do we need to whole server right away or would just the data folders suffice temporarily?
  • In case of multiple server failures what should the order of recovery be?
    • Which ones need data folders only? Which ones need full servers? How quickly do they need to be available?
  • In case of theft, fire or flood that destroys the entire server(s) or your office do you need your servers available and how quickly?

The answers to these question are going to be specific to your business, your data and your applications but it’s important to answer them and have a plan.

To meet these needs we’ve created a uniform solution using Microsoft Azure backup, storage and site recovery services. The data will reside in Microsoft’s data centers which are located in the eastern and mid-eastern USA. Data will remain in the USA. Data is encrypted in transit and at rest. It meets all security standards for HIPAA, SOX, PII, PHI, DoD and more. The data is stored redundantly within the same data center. Optionally it can also be stored in a second data center at least 400 miles from the first for further assurances.

Let’s look at price

Backup of laptop, desktop, or specific critical data folders is priced as a software rental plus bulk storage. It is $5 per instance if storing less than 50GB of data. Or $10 per instance for each 500GB stored. The data stored costs $.025 per GB. (that’s 2 and a half cents) The price is billed on the actual data stored not the size of the data volume. Data can backed up multiple times per day in small snapshots of only the changed information and it can retain multiple copies of the data for the day, week, month and year up to 99 years! We have complete control over the data retention period so we can customize it to your needs.

Example: I am backing up my laptop using this service. It is costing me about $10 a month and I’m storing just under 5GB of data. Most of the data is my OneDrive. Remember that when you sync a cloud storage location locally and it saves changes into the cloud, should my laptop get an infection the corrupt files would be sync’d into the cloud. By backing those up with this service I’m protecting myself from that potential loss. I also backup my desktop because occasionally I too end up saving something there that Intend to move later.

Business Continuity is priced differently. It is priced as $54 a month per server plus storage. Storage is the same as above $.025 per GB. In this program the whole server is saved as a virtual machine that is ready to run in the cloud. It is an exact replica of the server in your office. Should your server be unavailable this one will startup and once we have a VPN connection made between your office and Azure, work resumes as normal. When the server issue at your office is resolved we reverse the process and everyone starts working on the local server once again. While your server is running in the cloud there are additional charges. Those are based on the number of processor and ram that the server needs to run.

These are not either or solutions. You might choose to backup a couple of laptops, a few critical data folders and 1 or more servers. It’s is perfectly acceptable that we build a custom solution by picking and choosing what makes the most sense for you.We feel that these solutions provide the security and flexibility to control costs based on your data types, work style and need for business continuity.  We are starting to talk to those of you that were using Symform first since the need to move to a new solution is critical. But if you’d like to be moved to the top of the list, just say the word.


– Amy

President, Harbor Computer Services

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