I just read about a service “Doyenz ShadowCloud” that talks about taking a virtual copy of your onsite Windows Small Business Server each day and putting it in the “cloud.” From there you can use it as a backup in case your server goes down. It looks like you might just be able to run from it in the cloud also.
While services like this are becoming more popular I reserve my judgment as to whether they’re really a good idea or not for anything but the backup. I think it’s a good idea to have a backup and even to having a backup server hosted offsite you could use temporarily. But as to whether you’d want to use one as your primary server or not I just don’t think so… at least not yet.
There will always be a blend of onsite and offsite IT services for my clients. As internet access to offsite services gets better, clients will use more and more of them. But, at least for now, I can think of a lot of good reasons to KEEP YOUR SERVERS.
Here they are:
1. Performance – accessing your data over a remote connection is just SLOWER. There are expensive technologies that promise to accelerate access to applications hosted remotely, but they’re really out of reach for small businesses for the most part.
2. Ease of Use – when you connect to a remotely hosted service often you need to start a VPN. A VPN is an encrypted data connection between your computer and the server. This is necessary so that your data isn’t easily available to everyone on the internet and ensures that only those that should have access are able to connect to your server. The downside is that A. You have to “connect” the VPN by clicking a button and typing in a username and password; and B. Your data is encrypted and decrypted at each end… causing a delay in accessing your data and making for a slower user experience (see #1, above).
3. Control/security – if you have a server in your office you can put it in a locked room or closet and know that the only way someone can get to it (physically) is if they open that door. While we are told that hosted systems in the cloud have big datacenter security, you generally don’t know who is accessing your system and you may not even really know where it is. Theoretically it’s unnecessary to know where your stuff is, but I’m a little old fashioned in that way I guess. I’d at least like a COPY of my stuff just in case something happens to that datacenter I’ve never actually visited in person.
4. Flexibility – when you put your systems in the cloud you generally lose the ability to customize the software on them. You also lose some physical things like the ability to hook up a hardware access/license key dongle if you have an application that requires one.
So, there are lots of reasons to keep your servers. In most cases, I’m going to recommend that my clients don’t move 100% in to the cloud. It’s just not ready. But, in some very specific instances it makes a lot of sense. And having some of your services in the cloud now is all but inevitable.
Next time I’ll talk about when I *do* recommend businesses move to the cloud and for what parts of their Information Technology.
After working with the Datto and Zenith backup and disaster recovery (BUDR) appliances for a while it’s time for an update. I’ve covered 5 categories: Reliability, Service, Integration, Pricing/value, Ease of Use. I’ve scored each device in each category and summed the scores out of a total of 50 points, 10 for each category.
Here’s how it played out:
—————————— Zenith ——————————
Reliability – the boxes themselves seem to work fine, but periodically I get errors in the backups that require me to restart either the Zenith or the target box. I’m not sure if it’s Zenith’s software or Shadowprotect. It doesn’t happen all that often and the monitoring and ticketing system notifies me well when it does.
Service – For being a e-mail/instant messaging only service, Zenith does a good job. I still wish I had a person to talk to on the phone though.
Integration – I use Autotask and Level Platforms and the Zenith just doesn’t integrate all that well with them… I assume since they do their own monitoring. I understand that now I can have the Zenith system push tickets in to my Autotask but I haven’t done it yet. I’m not sure I can do any monitoring of the Zenith box with my Level Platforms. I’d like to in order to keep everything managed by my NOC. That’s a task for another day.
Pricing/value – While the Zenith has a considerably higher up front cost I’m not getting as much hardware for the buck. Zenith beefed up their servers in the last iteration but Datto still beats them in most all the models. You just need more RAM for virtualization… especially for things like SBS 2008.
Ease of use – the Zenith has a more robust interface, but it’s clunky and has too many options buried in submenus. The remote access on the other hand is better for the Zenith since it uses Logmein IT Reach.
—————————— Datto ——————————
Reliability – The machine itself is at least as reliable as the Zenith. No problems with the hardware. The box is smaller and looks more like an appliance, so I thought maybe it would have cheaper hardware, but apparently not. They’ve been solid.
Service – The phone support has been spectacular. This is why I’m not looking back at Zenith. I call, get a person on the first try, and they speak English as a first language. Don’t get me wrong, some of the support guys overseas are great, but you never know how much of an accent they’ll have and sometimes that’s a bar to communicating technically. As another item, it’s a really nice but small thing to have them send out the offsite hard drive. They even notify you that you need to do it and it’s easy to request. They manage the whole process better.
Integration – I don’t think the Datto is much better than the Zenith, frankly. In addition, it’s a Linux box rather than Windows, so I imagine it’ll integrate less well with monitoring services. On the other hand, I’ve had less problems with the backups on the Dattos, so maybe it’s not a big deal. I need to look further in to having the Dattos monitored and fully managed by my NOC.
Pricing/value – When I considered the two products pricing I took in to account several variables: initial cost, monthly cost for support, monthly cost for offsite storage. Because the Datto charges in 1 TB increments for offsite storage I compared the Zenith with similar amounts of storage offsite (the Zenith charges a base plus per GB over last I checked). It comes down to this… the Zenith has a much higher up front cost than the Datto. The Datto has a somewhat higher monthly cost. When I projected the cost of both out 3 years using 2 TB & 3 TB the Datto was hands down cheaper by over 20% for the term. Having more monthly charges for Storagecraft might change this slightly, but not enough to sway me… especially with the service and support bonus for Datto.
Ease of use – Ordering off their website is easy although I’ve had a couple problems with their website now and then. Maybe they were just doing upgrades to their web hosting hardware? It’s easy to buy the Shadowprotect licenses and assign them to clients. Their phone tech support is stellar… have I mentioned that yet? The only problem I have is with the remote management capability of the box. There’s a silly drop down box on the support website where you have to choose what you want to do and click submit. You then wait a while for an e-mail link that gives you the remote capability you requested (VNC, web access, etc.). It seems like this could use some work. It’s just not nearly as nice as the LogmeIn IT Reach service.
—————————— Scoring ——————————
Scoring Zenith & Datto out of 10 in each category:
|Ease of use||7||6|
—————————— Conclusion ——————————
While I don’t have any real problems with the Zenith product and they’re both pretty slick offerings, I’m going with the Datto for two reasons – price and service. If you are on the Zenith monitoring platform that’s probably enough to push you to the Zenith, but otherwise I recommend the Datto.