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Saved by SaaS: Data backup via software-as-a-service

Saved by SaaS: Data backup via software-as-a-service

Ta ta to tapes -- if you've got the bandwidth

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Electronic backup versus tape

Companies that must follow stringent regulatory requirements need the added security of knowing where and how their data is kept. Physicians Endoscopy, which builds and manages ambulatory surgery centers, has 13 facilities around the country in addition to the corporate office, and that makes manual backup a challenge, says Gene Goroschko, vice president of Information Systems.

"Our backup requirements, being a medical facility, are a regulatory requirement, not just a good idea,'' Goroschko says. "If there's a disaster we want to be able to recover medical data regardless of what happened to the facility."

Previously, the firm's backup was a manual process, with Goroschko's group shipping tapes to each facility, each facility contracting in turn with a storage provider in their area. But being geographically spread out, the main office didn't have a good indication of whether the tapes were being handled properly and that none were lost -- or even if a full system backup was being done every night.

"Online backup has obviously been around for quite a while, and we decided to try it out,'' starting with the corporate office, he says.

Goroschko says they were surprised by the lack of response from some companies when they asked how protected their data would be. After evaluating several vendors, they chose Mozypro from EMC about a year ago and pay a monthly charge of US$6.95 for each server, plus US$1.75 per gig per month.

He says the corporate office alone backs up several hundred megabytes of data and he was concerned about the ability to remotely back up such a huge amount. Additionally, since they have mobile employees, the firm is almost a 24/7 operation, so offsite backup had to share bandwidth with some 10 or 11 workers online at the same time.

"One of the things we liked about the Mozy system is that it can throttle back or control how much bandwidth is used,'' Goroschko says. The software allows them to set the hours and amount of data sent at any time.

"That wasn't a feature we thought about ahead of time, but it turns out it was the feature we couldn't live without,'' he says.

Today all of Physicians Endoscopy's facilities save one are doing remote backup through Mozypro. The IT department has a Web-based master account that gives the backup status of each location at any given time.

In some cases, backup SaaS comes as a feature of another type of Web-based application. Healthcare facility Health First discovered this when it began using a remote application to allow nurses to schedule their shifts electronically. Although their internal IT group takes care of backing up other data for the three hospitals it serves in east central Florida, the scheduling application is backed up by the provider, Concerro.

"Once we were aware that this is how this service is delivered, it was frankly a sense of relief,'' says Jan McCoy, chief nursing officer, at Cape Canaveral Hospital. "With the hurricane situation we have here it's good to know the data is protected and we have it when we need it."

But old habits die hard, and even with someone else handling backup concerns, some companies still rely on the manual approach. Physicians Endoscopy hasn't completely given up on the tape-based method, although they've scaled it back to once a week. Says Goroschko, "We're of the strong opinion you can never have too many backups."


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