Alternative Options Emerge For Data Backup And Storage

When most of us think of data storage, we picture saving a file on disk, or backing up a weeks work on a tape system. And while this may not be the most interesting task, theres no denying that storage and archiving of data are critical to the business of insurance companies and agents. Depending on your needs, however, some newer storage alternatives may also make sense.

Colorado Springs, Colo.-based STORServer Inc., for example, markets a complete line of what it calls “Backup Appliances,” hardware units designed to handle all of the important functions associated with storage.

According to John Pearring, president and CEO of STORServer, the devices are built around the need for data backup, archiving and disaster recovery. In a typical scenario, he notes, companies will have to buy servers, drives, a tape disk library, etc, then have someone build the backup and archiving system.

“Our approach is one box that does it all,” says Pearring. Characterizing his companys units as “plug and play” appliances, Pearring claims that customers need only 15 minutes to plug it in, hook it up to their networks, assign passwords and be ready to go.

STORServer says its products include “different models addressing the data protection needs of companies of all sizes. All STORServer Backup Appliances support 35 different platforms, and back up to any [network] that utilizes directly-attached storage.”

Once the device is on a customers network, it makes backup copies of all files, including a copy of the backup itself, which can be sent electronically or physically to an offsite disaster vault or other location, says Pearring.

The appliance contains all needed tape drives, disk drives, software, and server functions, and generates a “dashboard” that can be used to operate the unit where it is installed or remotely from another workstation, he notes.

Pearring adds that the Backup Appliances utilize “pool-based storage,” meaning that if a new storage medium–say a recordable DVD drive–is plugged into the appliance while it is still running, data will automatically migrate to the “new pool.”

This feature also allows users to update archives by easily transferring data on older media to fresh media after the original tape or disk has been in storage for several years, says Pearring.

Information technology professionals, Pearring notes, have received the appliances well, because it relieves them of a “mundane chore” in backing up. “The most burdensome IT task is backup,” he says, because it mostly includes “babysitting” the process to make sure it is successfully completed. Relieved of these chores, IT personnel “can be true user managers.”

He also points out that where IT personnel resources are thin, backup is the task most likely to be neglected. Automating the process can make the IT manager “a hero.”

The cost of using the appliances vs. putting together a backup program from several products is “about even at this point,” says Pearring. He claims, however, that the appliance takes only 30 minutes a day to manage, whereas it takes “typically one to two hours a day” for a company to manage its component backup systems. Similarly, setup for a component system may take “months,” while the appliances are “production-ready in 15 minutes.”

In terms of storage capacity, STORServers low-end model can handle from 100GB (gigabytes) to 700GB. Other models can store between 100GB and 20TB (terabytes), Pearring says. The low-end unit sells for $12,900, while other models range from $29,000 to $139,000. Options such as software licenses and tech support are extra.

Further information is available at www.storserver.com.

Another alternative to standard data storage paradigms is online storage. According to Chris Romoser, a spokesman for Iomega Corporation, based in San Diego, the companys online service allows customers to store digital content online and access that content anywhere and at any time.

Iomega, a maker of storage media, recently announced Iomega iStorage Online for Internet users, which it says provides access from any Internet connection.

“You only need a browser and a couple of passwords” to access the service, says Romoser. “Its particularly applicable if you want to share files at disparate locations.” It also provides a means to share very large e-mail attachments that may be too big to send via standard means.

According to Iomega, data stored online in client accounts “is completely safe from the data disasters that can plague a typical workplace–problems like a computer breakdown, theft, virus attack or accidental erasure.”

Iomega says user data is encrypted and kept in a redundant storage infrastructure that includes security processes and software, advanced disk drives, multiple tape backups and offsite tape storage.

Romoser says the service is ideal for small or midsized businesses that have multiple locations and/or personnel in the field, such as insurance agencies.

Iomega iStorage accounts range from $2.49 per month (for 50MB of storage) to $17.95 per month for 1GB, with 100MB, 250MB and 500MB capacities available, the company says. The service is seen as a complement to Iomegas other storage products.

Further details are available at www.iomega.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, August 18, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.