Online PC Backup Made Easy


Nerds on Site, a London, Ontario-based group of 500 consultants worldwide, this month started offering storage services from Toronto-based Acpana Business Systems, developer of the Data Deposit Box online PC backup solution. Those consultants, referred to as Nerds, are individual contractors that offer a variety of services catering to smaller businesses and home users, including Web hosting, custom development, VoIP, Media PCs, and outsourcing of IT departments, says John Harbarenko, co-founder of Nerds on Site. About half of their business comes from home users and home-based businesses, he says.

Harbarenko decided to work with the Data Deposit Box service because of its flexibility. "If you back up 1 Mbyte per month, the cost is 1 cent," he says. "It's the most flexible, cost-effective solution out there."

About 50 Nerds signed up to resell the service within days of Nerds on Site signing on with Acpana, says Harbarenko. "They bring the solution to the customer's attention and help them find what files need to be backed up," he says. "They make sure it works."

Data Deposit Box was designed for users with very basic IT skills, says Peter Carroll, Acpana CTO. Once installed, it looks for files on the PC to back up, including Microsoft Outlook Express files, which are hidden up to six layers deep, Carroll says.

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Once an initial full backup is executed, the software uses a PC's idle time, when there is no keyboard or mouse action, to search the PC for files that have changed and automatically backs up those changes as well. And because it backs up only those blocks of data that change, Carroll says it's also effective for users with dial-up modems.

Customers can back up their data to Acpana's storage center for a cost of 1 cent per Mbyte of actual storage space, regardless of the number of PCs backed up, says Carroll. He says there are no term commitments and no capacity commitments. Should a user have 2 Gbytes or more of data backed up online, Acpana offers a 10 percent discount. This rises to 25 percent for 5 Gbytes, 50 percent for 10 Gbytes, 60 percent for 50 Gbytes, and up to 70 percent off for 100 or more Gbytes. Acpana works with four levels of resellers. At the basic level, an integrator that signs a customer receives a commission of 15 percent of the user's monthly fees, downloaded to the reseller's credit card on a monthly basis, Carroll says. Acpana handles technical support.

At the wholesale level, the digital integrator handles technical support in exchange for a higher commission. ISPs, telcos and other larger channel partners can also offer the service using their own name. And, at the highest level, a large telco can actually host the service using its own infrastructure, Carroll says.

Acpana is also working with digital integrators across North America and in other markets. One integrator, Aaron Shaffer, owner of Cleveland-based Shaffer Consulting, says he has offered the service for several months and has found it trouble-free. Shaffer says the Data Deposit Box service, for now, is better suited for small-business customers than for home users. "At home, 1 cent per Mbyte is still expensive," he says. "Customers' photos are large files. They'd rather back up to CD."