THERE is a growing awareness among businesses in KwaZulu-Natal that the loss of vital computer data can have devastating, even "fatal" effects.
But far too many businesses in the province are still prepared to "take a chance" by keeping all their important data on computers without proper back-up, says specialist
Burne says the changing attitudes are reflected in the way his fledgling business, Bastion Backups, has shown healthy signs of taking off since it was launched with minimal fanfare two years ago.
But, he adds, there is still a reluctance among many people to appreciate fully the devastating effects data loss can have on a business.
"In the past two years we have grown from having 24 clients, backing up 33 computers, to having ' clients, backing up 306 computers," he said.
"We have achieved that almost entirely by word of mouth, with a bit of help from our Bastion website on the internet."
Bastion offers a service to businesses backing up computer records and storing them off-site, using the ultra-modern and secure facilities provided in
Burne said back-up systems were "all about not keeping all your eggs in one basket", thereby risking a devastating loss of computer data. "The loss of critical data can easily destroy a small business.
"It is sometimes impossible to put all those lost records - files and other important documents - back together again."
He said loss of computer records was more common than many business people wanted to admit. "It can happen through failure of hardware or software and through all kinds of mishaps.
"Computers are lost through fire and theft, and some are even damaged by corrosive gases in factories. And, as we know, laptops are left at airports and all sorts of other places."
In that way vital, sometimes irreplaceable, information was lost to those users who did not have a reliable and secure computer back-up system.
It was essential, Burne said, that businesses have some kind of back-up for at least their selected, most essential data and that was where Bastion could be of service.
Bastion made every effort to keep costs down and could often provide a service securing only the most critical of data for as little as R150 to R200 a month. "That allows for a back-up of about 10 gigabytes of data suitable for most small and medium-sized businesses."
He said Bastion had concentrated much of its energy on providing services for small to medium businesses.
"We know we can provide a valuable service for those businesses who cannot afford expensive systems or to employ their own IT people."
But, small or large, it was extremely important that any back-up system be properly serviced.
"No matter whether you have a R1 back-up solution or a R10 000 one, chances are it will fail if it is not properly managed or looked after. It must be tested on a regular basis."
He said the Bastion system was managed. "On a daily basis the client and Bastion receive e-mail reports that alert us, and any issues will be dealt with."
The system constantly updates data. "We instal software that monitors data for changes. When new data is found, it is automatically uploaded to the secure servers."
Burne said that in spite of greater awareness of the dangers there had been a reluctance among business people to invest even small amounts of money during the recession years.
"A back-up system is really a type of insurance and at times like this, when money is tight, people look at the cost of protecting themselves.
"They also seem to have the idea that these disasters could not happen to them, so they put off doing anything for 'just a month or two' and take a chance."
But that reluctance, he said, had not prevented Bastion from growing well over the past two years and its potential for future expansion was "huge", because of the many businesses needing its services.
"From my years of working in IT and being in my own business it is obvious that very few businesses have a proper back-up system."
It was probable, he said, that well under 10 percent of businesses in KZN had adequate protection.
Burne said he was aware of a number of businesses that had narrow escapes from disastrous losses thanks to newly installed back-up systems.
Escapes had even been reported by a number of customers who had taken a Bastion back-up system on trial. "We have sometimes given people, who were not backing up, a 30-day free trial - only just in time."
He said one company would have lost almost its entire accounts record if it were not for the "trial" back-up system. "There have been two or three others who could have lost everything.
"Too many people are just not aware that the data they rely on so much can be there one moment and gone the next."
Burne is passionate about computers and traces his love of electronics to his childhood. "My dad, Warren, brought home a computer when I was 11 and I really enjoyed it."
His enchantment with computers remained at the back of his mind even though he tried his hand at a variety of unrelated jobs after leaving
"I went overseas on a two-year working visa in 2000 and while in England I really started to study computers."
When he returned to
Burne then started a support business, GK Computers, and ran it for nine years. "In 2006 I started to offer data back-up as one of the services of GK."
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