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Murray Smith was in the middle of a client presentation when the hard drive in his laptop failed. He took the machine to a local repair shop and learned the data he lost could not be retrieved.

Smith, the co-founder and CEO of business consulting firm OneCoach, San Diego, bought a new laptop and contacted his Web-based data-backup and recovery service. A couple of hours later, he had his data back.

Smith uses a service provided by Toronto-based Global Data Vaulting, which charges monthly fees to back up, store and, when necessary, restore customer data.

Daily backups take place over secure VPN connections, and the data is stored in a datacenter with physical security and fire suppression.

The laptop hard drive failure was one of three times in the past 18 months that Smith has asked Global Data Vaulting to restore data for him.

The investment in the service, he said, costs only a couple of dollars a day and protects business’ most important asset–the data.

“I can’t imagine anybody in business today not making that investment,” said Smith, whose company consults with businesses and self-employed professionals on improving profits and revenue. Protecting data is a key piece of advice for OneCoach clients.

“We talk about it in terms of buying insurance,” Smith said. “The number one thing that would stifle their growth is the loss of their data.”

Research firm Gartner Inc. has found that 93 percent of businesses that experience a significant data loss go out of business within five years.

Even so, some estimates put the number of businesses without sound backup practices and recovery plans at as high as 50 percent.

Jeffrey Beallor, president of Global Data Vaulting, said there is a disconnect in many businesses between the executives running the company and the managers running IT.

The IT staff typically is responsible for securing protecting and recovering data. But often top management does not allocate enough resources to backup and recovery, and IT managers don’t have enough clout to change that.

Offering backups, storage and recovery as a secure managed services over the Web takes the burden off the IT staff and makes it more affordable, Beallor said.

“We set up the customer and we manage the policies for them. We make sure all their daily backups run smoothly. If there are any deficiencies, we correct them for them,” Beallor said.

Through managed services, providers take over some or all of a customer’s IT functions for a monthly fee.

Customers get predictable service with round-the-clock remote monitoring and management for a set feel while providers get predictable revenue.

Among the services growing in popularity among budget-conscious businesses is Web-based backup and recovery, which lends itself to the managed services model because the approach automates and monitors recurring tasks that often are neglected.

Uncorrected errors

In the more traditional approach, errors often go uncorrected because no reliable monitoring systems are in place.

On-site tape backups require transferring the tapes elsewhere, and there have been cases of tapes lost in transition.

Global Data Vaulting offers Web-based backup and recovery to about 60 customers. The company uses a system based on IBM Corp.’s Tivoli platform that makes it easier to implement data backup and retrieval plans. The company licenses Tivoli Storage Manager 5.2 software to its customers.

“Deployment of our services can usually be done within an hour and a half,” Beallor said.

The system can zero in on the exact location, even the precise file, where a backup error occurs, he said.

The process of identifying the source and location of errors, corruption or breaches can take many hours, even days.

But the Global Data Vaulting System takes only an hour or two because of the monitoring and reporting capabilities of the Tivoli technology, which make it possible to implement regulation compliance and security policies, Beallor said.

And since customers need not make capital investments on equipment, the Web-based service is more affordable to them, Beallor said.

“They’re able to afford it, and they can start putting a little bit more into their disaster recovery planning,” he said.

Affordability is important, especially for the small and midsize businesses that are providing most of the fuel for current economic growth.

According to research firm AMI-Partners, New York, the SMB (small and midsize business) market will spend more than $175 billion on IT next year, up from an estimated $163 billion this year.

Global Data Vaulting started out about five years ago as a small consulting firm.

Having turned to backup, storage and retrieval as its core business, the company now is starting to make the service available to other channel companies.

The company already has four partners and is looking to add more.

“We have a very good compensation package; it’s annuity-based,” Beallor said.

Other companies seeking to entice partners with managed storage offerings include managed services platform providers N-able Technologies Inc. and rival Level Platforms Inc., both based in Ottawa.

N-able is in the process of launching its service, while LPI is still in the development phase.

Another platform provider, San Francisco-based Kaseya Inc. also offers backup and recovery services.

Smith said he learned about the importance of protecting and backing up data while running Indian Motorcycle International LLC, which he led out of bankruptcy.

The company at one point had a system failure that caused a serious loss of data.

“It was at that time that I recognized that our biggest asset, our intellectual property, could be gone,” he said.