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Backing up data at Manatt's Inc., a privately owned general construction company in Brooklyn, Iowa, used to be quite an adventure. First, IT Manager Nate Hopwood copied all of the company's most critical files to digital tapes from IBM. Next -- usually hours later -- Hopwood took the tapes, placed them carefully in his truck and drove them home. Finally, he carried the tapes inside, storing them in a desk drawer in his home office overnight.
Hopwood re-enacted this ritual every night for almost four years. Then, in late 2005, at the behest of his chief financial officer and the company's accounting task force, he admitted that in the event of a natural disaster like a tornado, even this method wouldn't provide the company with adequate data recovery.
And so Manatt's set out to develop a new disaster recovery plan. As part of its strategy, Manatt's opted to outsource data backup to a company called Iron Mountain Inc. Under the new approach, a server attached to the network automatically backs up terabytes of files intermittently throughout the day. Hopwood hasn't driven home with backup tapes since.
"For us, outsourcing backup is like an insurance policy," he says, breathing a sigh of relief. "The old way was so antiquated; now we don't even have to worry about it, and we can rest assured our data is there if we lose it and need it down the road."
As the volume of data expands and storage costs continue to decrease, a growing number of midsized businesses like Manatt's are tackling the backup process with outside help. Outsourcing data backup isn't new, but as the range of approaches grows, CIOs have more options from which to choose. And all those interviewed for this story remain bullish, even when outsourcing costs them more than doing it themselves.
This was first published in August 2007