You can lose your data and not lose your mind

Backing up your files via the Internet means that spare copies are always available.
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The Independent Culture
ARIE DEN HEIJER works for networking company Cisco Systems. One afternoon earlier this year he was sitting in a cafe near his offices in Amsterdam, having completed a particularly satisfying piece of work. Sipping coffee and watching the world go by, he wondered if things could get any better.

His reverie was rudely interrupted by a call on his mobile phone from the Dutch police. "We have got some bad news," the voice said. "Your laptop has been stolen from your car. We have caught the culprit, thanks to a passing motorist who gave chase, but the thief threw your laptop into a canal when he saw us coming."

This could have been a disaster for Arie. Cisco encourages its staff to work electronically as much as possible. This often means dealing with colleagues by e-mail and keeping copies of important documents on their laptops rather than on paper. For Arie to have lost all this material could have cost him his job.

Arie was not particularly concerned, though. Conscious that data back- ups are crucially important to this kind of working environment, Cisco had previously entered into a partnership with the UK start-up company NetStore, whose unique service allows users to back up the contents of their PC to a remote store, using the Internet.

"I had made a back-up the previous day," Arie explains, "and so within two hours, I had a new laptop with all my data on it. In fact, everything was just as it had been on the machine which is today at the bottom of the canal."

For Arie den Heijer and other users of NetStore, backing up data is becoming the rule rather than the exception, largely because it is so easy to do.

"People tend to be put off by the idea of backing up because of the time and effort it takes," says David Blundell of NetStore.

"They don't realise the importance of doing it until they have experienced critical data loss. And by then, of course, it is usually too late."

To illustrate the importance of backing up data, Blundell fires off a raft of facts and figures.

"We've got research showing that nearly a quarter of stolen computers are nicked from cars," he says, "and around a fifth are stolen in street muggings. That's a lot of mission-critical data that could become lost for ever if not backed up. Figures issued by the DTI last year show that 70 per cent of companies that experience data loss across the organisation go out of business within 18 months."

It is this kind of data that has driven the development of NetStore, and which encourages its use, but fear of data loss alone is not enough. Blundell, who has made both academic and professional study of user interfaces, thinks that ease of use and flexibility are just as important.

"The thing about NetStore," he says, "is that it is extremely straightforward to use, and is completely scaleable across an organisation, catering for one staff member or for literally thousands.

"Because we use the Internet, you can back up or retrieve data from anywhere. And, most important, the end user can dictate exactly how they want their back-up to work."

In effect, this means that the software can be configured to dial up and make back-ups at regular intervals, or, if users prefer, it can be run manually - for instance, when you go for a tea break, or at the end of the day. NetStore can also produce log files that can be tailored for specific needs. "We can give IT managers the really important information, such as who is not backing up as often as they should," Blundell says.

One of the crucial questions for any potential user of NetStore concerns data security. NetStore tackles this in several ways. The backed-up data is stored in two separate sites in different parts of the UK, so that if one goes down the other should be available. Every individual's data is protected by a password, and when someone leaves a company their back- up files are wiped. Forty-bit data encryption is used to provide extra security.

It is not just corporate users who can benefit from the services that NetStore has to offer. A single user licence costs around pounds 10 a month, which, according to Blundell "is cheap when you consider the peace of mind it delivers in return". Arie den Heijer would probably agree.

Trial access to NetStore is available at http:\\ or call 01344 395768 for more information