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TMCNet:  Five Reasons: Web-based Backup is Better [Equipment Today]

[November 12, 2012]

Five Reasons: Web-based Backup is Better [Equipment Today]

(Equipment Today Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) What would you do if all of your client and project data was suddenly gone Web-based applications are now an integral component of virtually every Americans life, both personal and professional. From online banking programs for consumers, to professional programs that once were installed on local computers and servers, the benefits of these software-as-a-service systems is that they are instantly accessible from anywhere, allowing us to be more mobile, and yet still as productive, if not more so.


This does mean, of course, that some of our personal or professional data is hosted outside of our personal control - "in the cloud" - stored on remote servers that are usually owned and managed by major data hosting providers like Amazon, by the technology developers themselves, such as Intuit, Thomson Reuters, CCH and BNA, or through third-party providers, such as Iron Mountain, Gillware, SmartVault and Aceti st.

The primary concern of all computer users should always be security, especially those that manage sensitive client information. However, over the 15+ years that online programs and web-based backup have been available, it has been proven that online storage is not only secure, but is actually safer and more reliable than simply keeping the information on your office computers or servers, even when you perform backups in -house.

WITH DATA BACKUP, HUMANS ARE THE WEAKEST LINK The main reason for this is the human element. As with any technology, a data backup routine is only as effective as the weakest component, and human error is the most common contributor to lost data - whether it's getting lax on backups and performing them less and less frequently; storing the backups or having a backup drive located in the same office with the computers; or being too casual with passwords and office security protocols.

While it is easy to see the potential danger of theft related to the final point, the problem with where the backup is located becomes a factor when dealing with natural disasters or fires that may damage your office building and the contents within it. This wouldn't result in unauthorized access to sensitive information, but the sudden loss of all of your client and project information could have crushing effect on your business.

After the human factor, the most common cause of data loss outside of a fire, theft or natural disaster is system crashes. In the technology age that we live in, it's a simple fact of life that hard drives including those in external backup devices. When this happens, sometimes the data can be recovered, but with total crashes, all is lost.

The odds of both your computer and external hard drive failing simultaneously are about nil. But if you haven't been maintaining a near-perfect backup routine, then you may still lose days or weeks worth of client or project activity. This wouldn't necessarily result in a total failure of your firm, but the time spent recreating that data would put incredible stress on staff and clients alike.

HOW WEB-BASED BACKUP AVOIDS THESE PITFALLS The first way to dramatically improve the reliability of data backups is to take humans out of the picture. Yes, as I noted above, technology fails at times, too. But we humans are more likely to forget even routine things. A central feature to almost all web-based backup systems is that, after initial setup, they automatically perform the functions at pre-scheduled times - such as in the middle of the night, so it doesn't slow down your computers while they are in use.

When it comes to security, these online systems also stand above local solutions such as external hard drives or discs for several reasons. To start with, they automatically encrypt all data before it is uploaded and the data remains encrypted while it is stored at the backup service provider.

Most advanced systems don't just back up your data to one location, but to at least two or more locations in geographically diverse areas of the country. With no backup or with backup in your office, the data is at risk from fire, flood, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, theft, computer crashes and countless other disasters. With the redundancy and geographic separation of web-based backup, however, it is virtually impossible for the data to be lost because of one or more of these events.

In addition to government-level encryption, all of the major data backup providers also have strong physical security at their locations, including armed guards and biometrie technologies. Many have security audits and testing, including meeting the requirements of the Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) No. 16.

For those who note that even the government, banks and other financial institutions get hacked, admittedly, no system is perfect. But from a hacker's perspective, which would be easier to target - several small firms with barebones security, or a technology powerhouse The odds of cloud-based client data being compromised are much less than data stored within a firm's office.

What would you do if your client and project data went MIA tomorrow With cloud-based, online backup, if one of the above disasters did happen to the computers in your office, this data and the entire contents, programs and email on those computers could be quickly retrieved and installed on brand-new computers. With no backup plan in place, your odds are better at a Las Vegas slot machine. Even with a local system in place, you may be flipping a coin.

The difference is potentially the choice of a day or two of downtime as you get the data back and get new systems up and running, or early retirement as many of your clients look for a more reliable firm.

Cloud-based storage can provide a safe haven for valuable client and project data.

For more insight on software solutions for your business, turn to the Business Management/ Technology section of ForConstructionPros.com.

Isaac M. O'Bannon has been the editor of CPA Practice Advisor since September 2002. Through his experience in the areas of consumer and professional-level software and peripherals, as well as knowledge of the public accounting field, he provides reviews of technologies used by accountants and their business clients, as well as contributes a regular column that provides helpful information ranging from improving search techniques, to when to upgrade a computer, to computing security issues. He can be reached at isaac.obannon@cpapracticeadvisor.com.

(c) 2012 Cygnus Business Media

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