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Small businesses that want to save money (a major concern during a recession), as well as hassle (a major concern anytime), should look to the heavens - specifically, the clouds. Or rather, "the cloud," that ethereal place on the Internet that will eventually supply all our data and computing needs.
The cloud is ready for prime time, says Henry Broodney of InGrid Networks, which has come up with perhaps the first low-cost, enterprise-level system-recovery application/platform for small- and medium-sized businesses.
Usually, it's hard to find sentences in which the terms "small business" and "enterprise level" are used together. Hardware, software and service companies offer all sorts of enterprise-level products and services - because enterprises can afford to pay big money for those items. As a result, administrators of corporate data centers and networks can avail themselves of all sorts of backup, duplication, replication and recovery schemes, with data stored on site, off site, underground or across the sea, depending on the system's parameters and the company's needs.
Products designed for data recovery leave no stone unturned, ensuring large organizations - who can afford to pay for privilege - the ability to get back on-line within minutes of a disruptive event, like an earthquake, terrorist attack, etc. With a recovery system in place, workers can be moved to other sites and pick right up where they left off almost immediately, ensuring that the business - and income flow - continues.
Unfortunately for the small-business person - the accountant, the lawyer, the graphic artist - enterprise solutions that allow them to immediately recover from major outages are out of the question, mostly because of the cost. Instead, most small businesses rely on file backup - copying important files to CDs, or uploading them to an on-line backup server, like http://mozy.com/, or even using Google Docs (http://docs.google.com/), which gives you scads of free server space.
That's fine if you're looking for file backup, Broodney says, but it's hardly the stuff of enterprise level system recovery.
"If you use a specialized application in your business, for example, it's not enough to just have access to the file," he says. "You need to reinstall the application, and maybe the computer or server has to be configured a certain way to get it to work. So, you waste a lot of time and effort in getting back to work, and you may even end up having to hire a professional to set things up for you on a new system.
"In the US alone, annual data loss costs businesses $18 billion. One out of 15 PCs crashes every year, and each data-loss episode costs $4000. And yet, the majority of small-business PCs remain unprotected, and virtually no small business has a business-continuity plan in place."
That's where InGrid's products come in, Broodney says.
"Recovery, as opposed to backup, is what large organizations rely on, and this is the concept and product we are bringing to small business," he says. "For an extremely reasonable fee, users can install the InGrid recovery system, guaranteeing them a minimum of downtime due to lost or corrupt data or systems."
And while there are hundreds of backup systems for small businesses or individuals, there is no other recovery system out there that offers enterprise-level protection for those customers.
InGrid will offer a two-tiered recovery system; users will be able to avail themselves of local or remote backup. In the local system, Broodney says, the InGrid system will create a "local" cloud consisting of the free space in an organization's PCs.
"The backup system is dynamic, so it doesn't affect the ability to save new data," he says. "The organization's files and systems will be backed up using our software, with the actual data distributed on existing free disk space throughout the network. This saves small businesses the need to set up a dedicated backup system, saving them money, while still giving them an enterprise-level system, in which the recovery of entire servers and PCs takes just a few minutes in any scenario." There is redundancy as well: If a machine with some of the data goes off-line, the backup - and recovery - can continue, he adds.
Beyond the local virtual-backup device, Broodney says, InGrid will offer a recovery system where the user's computers will be replicated off-site - in the "cloud," specifically the one managed by Amazon, which provides on-line server space for all sorts of purposes (http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/).
"Amazon makes a lot of sense for a product like ours," he says. "It's a lot cheaper for customers to use an existing infrastructure rather than build one from scratch. Plus the Amazon cloud is already on-line, so customers can start enjoying the peace of mind we are helping to provide them sooner.
"Industry experts and analysts don't know which ones are going to succeed, but of one thing they are unanimous: Eventually, all sorts of services are going to move into the cloud, and there is no doubt that this is the future of backup and data recovery."
The company successfully raised money last year; the first service (local backup) is due to be released within a couple of months.
"We're actively seeking new investments now as well, but it hasn't been easy in recent months, as you can well imagine," Broodney says. Still, he is hopeful that the company will thrive, even during tough times.
"We offer an innovative product that fills a definite business niche, that we believe will be very popular with businesses and individuals who are seeking a comprehensive yet affordable backup and recovery system," Broodney says. "Once we get to market, I am sure the demand is going to be heavy, as we are already seeing increasing interest from our distribution partners."