Going Gretel
Gretel Going used a $50-a-month service to make connecting on the road easier, too. Photo by Buck Ennis.
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Call for backup! Channel V Media turns to the cloud

Owner-Tested

By Jeremy Quittner

April 13, 2011

The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan are reminders to business owners that disaster can strike at any moment. While most operators of small businesses know that it’s critical to have a disaster-recovery procedure in place, industry experts say that fewer than 20% actually have a plan.

Storage is an equally important issue. Experts say the amount of data that small business owners create, process and store nearly doubles each year.

“People think about [disasters] for a short amount of time, and then it fades away, because no one thinks it will happen to them,” said Jennifer Walzer, chief executive of Backup My Info Inc., a data storage company based in Manhattan. “At the same time, data is growing out of control.”

Fortunately, services abound that will let entrepreneurs store their most critical documents and information. Dozens of vendors—including Dropbox, Iron Mountain, EVault, EMC’s Mozy unit, Amazon, Google and Microsoft—double as disaster-recovery providers, too.

Prices start at around $15 a month on the cheap end, ranging to several hundred dollars a month and up to handle more complicated backup needs.

The challenge, experts say, is multifaceted. You need to make sure that you choose a vendor with a good record who you know will be there tomorrow. Question candidates to make sure they will store your data in more than one location; disaster can strike them, too. And ensure that the service-level agreement matches or exceeds what you can have at your own premises.

Many will offer a so-called hybrid approach: Your data is stored in the cloud, but you can configure the system so that it copies locally first. A pure cloud-based solution can slow things down, since each file-save request must be sent through your Internet connection.

Crain’s New York Business contributor Jeremy Quittner spoke with Gretel Going, co-founder and owner of Channel V Media. Her Manhattan-based media, branding and application development company has six employees and $1 million in annual revenues. She uses a service from Egnyte Inc., a cloud-based storage and disaster-recovery company based in Mountain View, Calif.

Following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Crain’s: When did you start using Egnyte, and what issue were you trying to solve?

Going: We started using Egnyte in January. I travel at least once a month for business, so if I would be working from California for a long period of time, I couldn’t access all my files when I needed them. We had an in-house server that I could access by logging onto my laptop, but I had to keep my desktop on, and if the Internet went down, you would be screwed.

We also have all kinds of company information that we have to store. We’ve got Word, Excel, Illustrator, Photoshop—every single image file you can think of. We do print and Web design, and we design mobile apps, so we store code as well.

After we got on the cloud, we realized how at-risk we were hosting our files in-house. Egnyte gives us access to a [disaster-recovery] solution.

Crain’s: Which vendors did you consider?

Going: Because IBM is a client, that was the first company my partner, Kate Fleming, and I looked at. IBM has phenomenal cloud-computing solutions, but they are more appropriate for companies larger than ours. We also looked at Microsoft’s Windows 7 cloud applications. I can’t remember exactly why we didn’t go with this, but I think it’s because we would have had to upgrade or purchase Windows 7 for every one of our computers. We also looked at Dropbox, SugarSync and Rackspace.

Crain’s: Why did you choose Egnyte?

Going: Our main concern was ease of use. We can have multiple users, and it gives us three ways to access our data. I can log in through a URL, I can map the [cloud] drive to my desktop, and I can log into a website and see all my company folders. And it is totally affordable.

Crain’s: How much are you paying, and what do you get for your money?

Going: We are paying $49.95 a month. Our current plan gives us 1 terabyte, or 1,000 gigabytes, of storage space. That is a ton of storage. We also get up to 10 power users—users who have access to the cloud through all avenues—and 250 standard users, who can access [limited] files by logging into our dedicated URL.

Crain’s: What do like best about the service?

Going: The fact that you can map the drives from Egnyte’s cloud to your desktop. I have a drive on my computer that is not dependent on me being online. If the Internet goes down, all of the files store locally, and when the Internet comes back on, they save automatically to the cloud.

We have a full backup of everything that’s on our hard drives. I have a personal drive in the cloud; everything on my desktop, including Outlook and email, backs up there. And every other person’s computer and all their personal files are backed up there.

Crain’s: What does not work so well?

Going: The system wasn’t completely compatible with XP. We have three Macs and four PCs, and we are in the process of migrating from XP. But I couldn’t open image files, although I could save them to the folder. I thought this could have been made clearer on the “Help” section of Egnyte’s site, considering that XP is a common operating system, even if it’s old.

Once I called support, they helped me immediately and efficiently. The solution was purchasing licenses for about $60 each for a product called WebDrive that allows you to create local drives for virtual storage solutions [with the XP OS].

(Egnyte says the issue is related to the XP operating system, which does not allow mapping to remote servers. Since the OS is old and due to be phased out, Egnyte recommends that XP users download the WebDrive widget as a bridge.)

Egnyte was experiencing some overall system issues when we first got started with them. However, we were optimistic about their features and had read so many great reviews that we decided to wait it out a few days to see if the situation would remedy itself. It did, and we’ve been pleased ever since.

(Egnyte says the slowness in January was due to a network switch problem in its North Carolina facility. It has since been corrected.)

Lastly, application storage is on an ad hoc basis. Some licensed programs you may own will not let you save to the cloud; they will let you store only on one computer.

Crain’s: How complicated was it to get set up with the Egnyte system?

Going: The most time-consuming thing was moving all the files. We had to replicate each of our existing local folders in the cloud, then go through all of our existing files, decide which ones to keep and which to toss, and finally, move all of them into their new homes in the cloud. I am still moving stuff. If I was dedicated to this [full-time] and I did not have to run a company, it would have taken a week.

Crain’s: How important is document storage to your business?

Going: It is completely important. We had all these manual and cumbersome solutions before to achieve the one thing that this does for $50 a month.