Bell ramps up back-up service for smaller firms

Bell Canada has a new data back-up service for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that one industry analyst is calling a smart offering, both for users and the telco itself.

Bell this month unveiled Business Backup, a data protection service for small firms. It takes information saved on a company’s local hard drive and ports it to the telco’s storage infrastructure for safe keeping.

“We wanted to expand our offering to the small business group, particularly the mass customers – the small end of the small customers – to differentiate ourselves from some of our competitors, and start providing products that they were asking for,” said Kristy Cook, Bell’s business ISP director.

Is this to say Bell ignored the little guys in the past?

“I don’t know if I would say ‘ignored,’ but I would say there’s a renewed focus on making sure we’re able to meet their needs, and expanding beyond basic data and voice,” Cook said.

Business Backup is meant for SMBs that use Bell’s high-speed Internet service. Linda Yeh, Bell’s associate director, SMB products, said that after signing up for the program, a user would get an e-mail message directing him to a Web page, where he would download the application. Yeh said it takes five to 10 minutes to configure the program, wherein the user sets the timing and frequency of the back-ups – when and how often he wants the program to run.

Thenceforth it’s a “set it and forget it” situation.

“The back-up happens in the background,” Yeh said. “It doesn’t interrupt their day-to-day work, unlike other back-up methods, where you have to stop what you’re doing and wait for the back-up to finish.”

Restoring data is just as simple, Yeh said. The user would start the application and pick files or folders to retrieve.

Mark Quigley, an analyst at The Yankee Group Canada, an Ottawa-based research firm, said Business Backup could prove popular among SMBs.

“A back-up service makes absolute sense. Data loss for small business is as devastating, if not more so, as it is for larger ones.…It’s something that’s likely to prove to be very attractive…as long as the price is right.”

Bell said Business Backup costs $14.95 to $29.95 per month, per computer, depending on the amount of data the customer wants to store – 100MB to 4GB.

Quigley also said Business Backup could aid Bell during trying times. He pointed out that carriers are dealing with a shift in customer habits. People are turning more often to e-mail clients, instant messaging programs and mobile handsets to communicate. They’re less likely to pick up the wireline phone to chat.

Most of a carrier’s revenue comes from voice traffic, however, and now that data seems to be growing evermore popular, telcos must “start looking at ‘value-added’ services that (they) can layer on top” of low-margin data offerings, Quigley said. “That’s when you start to realize potentially substantial returns.”