As a small to mid-sized business grows, so does the sheer volume of information generated each day: account information and budgets, along with databases of inventory and employee records. The list is endless. A generation ago, it was euphemistically called the paper blizzard. Now, it’s more like a digital Tsunami that only gets bigger and more difficult to manage for the organization without a storage strategy.
“Archiving data is less about where to put it and more about how to get it when you need it,” says Andrew Reichman, an analyst from Forrester Research.
Indeed, many small to mid-sized businesses make the mistake of growing out their methods for storing data like the business itself: piecemeal and as needed. The end result can be disjointed, irretrievable data that is mission critical to the company, yet scattered across a variety of discs, servers, and individual employee hard drives.
The good news: data storage has never been more plentiful or cheaper. The trick is wading through the myriad of options available and deciding which one works best for your organization.
In-house versus out
The first big decision to be made is whether to keep all or most of the company data in-house or out-of-house. Traditionally, companies of all sizes have kept their information on site. However, using a third party host to store data online is increasingly popular.
Out of house options
What do Intel, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Seagate Technologies, and EMC all have in common? They are all heavily investing in online backup storage solutions; whether it’s buying startups like IBM snapping up Arsenal Digital, EMC acquiring Mozy, or Seagate absorbing eVault. And then there’s Google launching its own initiative called GDrive service. There are also countless independent companies (that haven’t been bought up yet) offering data backup and storage online and on the cheap.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages for the growing company:
Despite all the hype over third party vendors offering online storage, in-house options make a lot of sense, as well, and may be more practical for many businesses.
Sidebar: Data Storage Options
Carbonite is designed to backup data on each individual computer or server. It runs constantly in the background backing up data and is handy for the desktop user who loses a file or accidentally deletes something of importance. Lost information can be retrieved immediately. This is not a likely solution however, for growing companies that need to manage data in a centralized way controlling access and aggregating data driven reports.
Mozy Similar to Carbonite, it is designed for the individual user who needs his or her information constantly being backed up remotely in case of a virus strike or ill-timed computer crash. Mozy, however, does offer a professional version with a number of features like administrative powers to manage data from multiple sources and encryption. Its new parent company, EMC, may have something to do with the increasingly beefed up services targeting corporate clients. Pricing is based on a combination of price by seat ($3.95 per computer, per month) and 50 cents a GB per month
xDrive is primarily targeting the consumer market. But for the small business just starting out, it’s worth consideration. xDrive charges $9.95 for 50 gigabytes of storage. Based in Beverly Hills, Calif., xDrive is actually owned by AOL and markets itself as a preferred solution for backing up pictures, graphics and video for easy web access and collaboration with others. As is, it’s easy to imagine a business quickly outgrowing xDrive. But with AOL as its parent company, it’s also easy to imagine xDrive scaling up it services for growing organizations before that happens.
Nirvanix is attracting a lot of attention, as well as high profile investors like Intel. The San Diego, Calif.-based data storage company is especially attractive to the small to midsize business market because it offers scalable storage services for a flat fee of 18 cents a gigabyte. What makes Nirvanix special is its application programming interface (API) that enables companies to easily integrate Nirvanix Web Services into their own company applications.
In comparing just these four examples of online data storage vendors, there is at least one common denominator: they are all still growing out their corporate features to accommodate businesses. “The options are still limited today, but it’s getting there,” says Reichman.