FORTUNE Small Business

Save your stuff!

New data backup solutions for your business.

(FSB Online) -- Be honest. Are you backing your data up like you should? Chances are, if your business is like mine - or the ones I work with or visit - the way you protect your life-and-death company information is a hodge-podge affair.

Just one small fire or a few minutes of sabotage by a disgruntled employee can do incalculable harm to even the best-provisioned small enterprise.


"We see many small businesses whose backup consists of copying data to a USB drive and then taking it home at night," says Alex Kelly, vice president of engineering for Icon Technologies, an IT support company located in Mayfield, Penn., that serves small and medium enterprises.

The good news: Several startups now offer data backup as a subscription service via the Internet. The names to know here are Mozy, Carbonite, Xdrive, SOS Online Back-Up and Zettabits from Zettabyte Storage.

For the past several months I've been testing Mozy, an online backup from Salt Lake City-based Berkeley Systems, which was recently acquired by software giant EMC (Charts, Fortune 500). I had the service recommended by some colleagues and I liked Mozy's interface and free service. So I upgraded to the pay plan.

Signing on is simple. Surf over to and sign up for two gigs of free online backup. Unlimited storage costs $4.95 a month for single users. MozyPro - my pick for the small business - offers live support and more robust features starting at $3.99 per seat per month and $.50 per GB of storage. So an average 10-person business with, say, 100 GB of files to protect - should expect to pay about $90 a month, way less than a few hours of professional IT support.

Note that Mozy works best for backing up data files, not your giant system and application files which you should back up on disks. Neat system dick tip: Jot down those insanely long license numbers for your office software and e-mail them to yourself. Than save that e-mail. That way you have your software keys in case of physical damage to the disks.

Once you sign up, Mozy installs a small piece of software that emulates a hard drive on your computer. You can see it on your PC's control panel. Mozy then prompts you to designate which files you want to back up and how you want to schedule your backups. And that is pretty much that.

Mozy starts uploading your files for storage automatically, and restoring data is as simple as clicking the "restore" button and following instructions. The service automates everything.

Mozy starts uploading your files for storage automatically, and restoring data is as simple as clicking the "restore" button and following instructions. The service automates everything.

And because uploading works very slowly on most broadband connections, back-ups can take, literally, days. One of mine lasted nearly a week. However, Mozy waits until your machine's processor is otherwise idle before doing any heavy backing up. So the performance of my late model was minimally affected.

Another caveat: The cheaper, consumer version of Mozy (MozyHome) only knows you by your login info. So if your business upgrades its operating system or making other big system changes, Mozy can lose that identification data ... and your stuff. Solution: Don't be a cheapskate. Get the more expensive MozyPro. It keeps better track of your content and gives you a live person to help out in the event of the emergency.

If online back-up still sound too complex for remote or home office workers, I'd recommend dead-easy-to-use outboard backup hard drives such as the Elements Desktop ($134) from Western Digital or the Brick Drive ($139) from LaCie.

But if you run a business with more than one employee and you aren't totally technophobic, Mozy is fast, simple, and relatively cheap. It gives you another layer of protection in the event of disaster. There is no reason not to use it. Top of page