GLOVERSVILLE - Shelly Becker, owner of the High Rollers Family Fun Center on Route 30 in Amsterdam, has been working to computerize the longstanding local business' files.
The advantages are clear - a neatly organized customer database can help Becker reach her customers more effectively and inform them about specials in which they'd be interested. But what if all the names collected over the years suddenly disappeared? That would mean Becker would have to slowly rebuild that database.
"All the work we're doing to become completely computerized, it would be a waste of time if everything crashes," she said.
Chuck Mosca, intuitive services manager for Twinstate, speaks Wednesday to a group of local business professionals at the Fulton Montgomery Chamber of Commerce at 2 N. Main St. in Gloversville during the “Cloud Based Data Protection” seminar. (Photo by A.M. Metzger/The Leader-Herald)
That's just one example of crucial data businesses need access to regularly to maintain and grow their companies. Payroll is another example. If a business loses those records, its employees could feel the consequences.
Keeping back up copies of crucial records has always been an important part of keeping commerce moving as businesses face potential loss of information from natural disasters, human error or malicious activities.
Methods in past years have included everything from physical file cabinets to storing data on tape and more recently disks and disk-to-tape methods.
In the virtual age, many small and medium-sized businesses and organizations are turning to cloud-based data backup, an alternative formerly only available to large corporations that could invest in their own alternative servers at other company-owned locations.
Simply put, cloud backup stores digital files at a data center owned by a data backup provider. In other words, instead of the data being stored at just a server on site at a business, it's stored in a data center owned by company that specializes in the service.
Now, businesses can purchase monthly subscriptions for cloud-based data backup. They no longer have to build their own separate server and have another area offsite to store this data.
The cost is sometimes based on the amount of data stored using a per gigabyte per month formula.
Most cloud data storage systems have no limit on capacity and are easily accessible. Versions of cloud backup are now available for individual consumers as well as for businesses of all sizes.
With the cloud, instead of investing in costly equipment or off site locations, businesses now can purchase monthly subscriptions for cloud-data backup.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, 93 percent of companies that don't have sufficient recovery and backup, and lose significant data, are shuttered within five years.
"It's one of those things that we know we should do," said Chuck Mosca, intuitive services manager at Twinstate, a company that offers converged voice, data and video solutions for businesses. "But we don't, and then something happens and the urgency changes."
Living in the northeast, businesses are subject to power outages from snow and ice storms. Flood waters from hurricane and tropical storms Irene and Lee underscored the importance of data recovery last year. Twinstate can help companies use the cloud to form a disaster recovery plan using the cloud.
"How much time can my business go without a given application before it seriously impacts business?" Mosca said is one consideration for companies. "We don't want to disappear from our customers. That's on the dramatic side, but if our customers couldn't be reached by us, our competition is reaching them."
On Wednesday, the Fulton Montgomery Chamber of Commerce hosted a seminar on cloud-based data backup for businesses at its North Main Street location.
Mosca, representing Twinstate, which serves New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts as well as this state, gave the presentation.
Businesses that don't back up their data regularly and don't regularly test or have formal disaster recovery plans can be at risk, Mosca said.
To get on the right track, companies should set data-recovery objectives, he said, which include a recovery time objective - the amount of time it takes for data or hardware to be restored and become available - and recovery point objective -the point in time from which data can be restored after a disaster or data corruption.
When choosing backup methods, businesses should look at the quality and integrity of the backup data, how difficult it is to retrieve and store the data, as well as the cost of downtime without the information in increments of hours, days and weeks depending on the business.
Becker said she was impressed by the presentation, and the cloud seemed a simpler concept than she'd thought.
"I'm impressed. I had a different idea of what it was about, but it seems simpler than I envisioned," Becker said.
For many years using a tape method, storing data on a cassette-type system, was the least expensive option, Mosca said.
Michelle Foster of Coldwell Banker Real Estate in Johnstown said her company recently switched from that method to disc storage.
"We were having more and more problems with tape, so we went to disc," she said.
She attended the seminar Wednesday to find out more about cloud backup, and said the security made the cloud method more appealing.
"It's the security that our system would be OK," she said. That's important for the company's 20 local independent agents who depend on those files. With many company programs in all industries constantly being updated today, cloud offers flexibility.
To figure out the cost effectiveness, Mosco said companies should consider how much time and money they're currently spending on their backup, and how secure their files are in the current system.
"The biggest reason to implement cloud-based data [backup or protection] is for security and disaster recovery," he said.
When deciding what company to go with, Mosco said businesses should have a set of questions ready. First, ask if there are multiple data centers where information is stored and find out where they are located. Make sure the company is certified, and know how long they've been around, he said. Some businesses also may want the ability to have a local copy at their facility.
"Stay away from any service that was consumer based that has grown into [offering] commercial backup," he said.
For medical offices and other companies that must abide by federal or state standards, data encryption levels are set by law. Twinstate offers a 256-bit encryption, and that is essential, he said, to keep data secure and safe from hackers. This level of security is offered for both data at rest and data being transmitted, he said.
Twinstate has data storage facilities on both the east and west coast, and data is backed up at both locations. He said companies should be sure their data is being stored at a server at least 100 miles from their location.
"Backing up is good, but it's not about backup. It's about recovery. How quickly can I restore? Do I have copies of my data off site? A good backup plan is not a disaster recovery plan, but you can't have a disaster recovery plan without back up," he said.