Five Minutes With Dan Hill

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Five Minutes with Dan Hill in December 2010

Dan Hill, CEO of UbiStor knows about data storage and disaster recovery. The firm provides data protection to clients in the financial services space, as well as other industries. Jim Kharouf spoke with him about data storage and the growing field of collecting and storing data from just about anywhere.

Q: Tell us about Ubistor. How did your firm get started?

A: UbiStor got started at the end of 2001, surprisingly right around 9-11. The owners of UbiStor all came from a company called Comdisco, and played a key role in the disaster recovery business for over 20 years. We were very good in the operations space and moving data from point A to point B. In 2003 UbiStor launched SafeStor online data backup making us one of the first players in the on-line back-up arena. We started as a managed services company and as the market became more commoditized, we started to get more into business recovery versus just backing up data. Our business really started out in the small business space and then moved up to the SMB (small and medium sized businesses) and even the enterprise area. We found ourselves swimming upstream into larger companies with a lot more data. We began designing dedicated back-up solutions, leveraging our existing on-line back-up solutions. We were able to show our clients how they could put together an online back-up solution together themselves and take advantage of the new technology and high-speed bandwidth advancements.

Q: What brought you into the financial services space?

A: We knew there was not just a need but compliance requirements for financial companies. We knew if we could help companies protect data properly, efficiently and cost effectively we could be seen as a valued partner to this community. One of our first clients was in financial services. With Comdisco, we handled disaster recovery for all of the large banks in the country. So we were very familiar with that space. The trading firms were really our first avenue into the financial space and it remains a strong customer segment.

Q: What does data service and data back-up mean?

A: In general, we help protect a company’s data by using newer technology that helps move data off to a secure secondary location so they can ensure successful data recovery. For financial trading companies, we primarily focus on protecting specific data required to satisfy compliance or satisfy other business needs. The data is sent over the internet or a private circuit in an encrypted format. We then store the data for long-term retention. We sign off to the SEC, meaning they can come directly to us without the intervention of the trading firm and can gain access to this information if required. One of the requirements of a trading firm is to store certain types of data with a third-party organization and we cover that requirement.

Q: Given all the new regulations that are coming, is that something that will mean more data storage?

A: Absolutely. Overall, storage and infrastructure is our specialty. Some of the requirements that are coming down require a third-party to manage certain data. And you have to give customers a fluid model that not only provides them this protection but also allows them to scale up and scale down as needed. If they had to do it in-house, they’d have to acquire these assets, install in a secure environment, manage to the solution and still have to hire a third party for specific data protection requirements. And a lot of the storage would go to waste. We take that off their plate.

Q: How has the technology changed over the years?

A: In the past, everything was done to tape. Then tape was moved off site. Today, electronic vaulting can occur. With the addition of high speed data networks, clients can move data from point A to point B without any intervention. And high levels of encryption can be put in place which adds a layer of security and ensures compliance.

Q: I’m sure large firms understand and have data recovery. But is there much more work to be done in disaster recovery and room for growth?

A: In the financial community, SMB firms are generally taking at least the initial steps more so than any other industry. Large businesses have been doing this for years. What is really nice about the managed services, cloud computing, is that it’s an enabler for small and medium sized financial institutions to take disaster recovery seriously and have viable enterprise solutions at a much more manageable cost.

Q: What’s next for UbiStor?

A: We’ll continue to increase our cloud computing platform, partnering with application providers in all different verticals. But in the financial space, we want to host those applications on our disaster recovery enabled infrastructure. As technology refresh points are realized, we will be there to offer a more robust, better protected solution.

Q: With all the email, texts, social media information, how much data can or should a firm collect?

A: They should collect as much as the technology will enable. Most times, an agent (or a piece of software), will need to be installed on every device – be it a server, desktop, laptop, PDA, iPad. For financial institutions, everything has to run through collection software that runs on these devices and sends data back to a centralized server for logging purposes. Firms are starting to do that. We’re doing it for firms in Chicago and New York. The next step will be at the handheld level.

Q: Communication technology has allowed us to do business from just about anywhere on almost every type of device.

A: Technology is going to allow you to collect this information but it’s also going to allow you to be alerted if someone is doing something that is against company policy. It’s just going to increase, the footprint of data and technology is just going to continue to expand. The technology is here today to do it, and we offer this solution at UbiStor.

Q: I have to ask this, who backs up the back up? Who backs UbiStor up?

A: We have several data centers rated at the highest security and resiliency levels with geographic separation. Everything is redundant. For every piece of backup data we have, we back it up to another location. This is all documented in our audited SAS70 Type II control documents.