Encino-based 4service inc. finds niche in disaster recovery industry providing small and medium-sized firms with low-cost protection against computer catastrophes of both the natural AND man-made kind A three-foot high bronzed warrior with a spear and a Fu Manchu mustache stands sentry in the office of Encino-based 4Service Inc. To co-owner and company President Andreas Raab, the statue represents the firm’s mission: to protect its clients from the hackers, viruses and natural disasters that can disfigure a company’s server at any time. Led by Raab and fellow owner and 4Service Chief Financial Officer Abdiel Sanchez, the company caters to small and medium sized businesses seeking protection against potential catastrophes. Both Sanchez and Raab have worked in the computer industry for almost 20 years but the idea to start an IT disaster recovery firm didn’t come about until 9/11. “After 9/11, we had so many calls from people wanting disaster recovery plans. We researched solutions and the companies that were out there provided solutions that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Most of the small businesses didn’t use them because of the high costs,” Raab said. “We started developing a service and we’ve been doing it for two years. I believe we’re the only company in the state that does the services we do, being geared towards the small and medium sized businesses.” The company differs from competitors, like Boston-based Iron Mountain, because of the technology it uses. 4Service’s rivals merely provide tape rotation services, meaning that each night tapes store the data saved on any given day on a computer server. Once a week, a courier picks up the tapes and stores them off-site. Essentially, these companies function as glorified public storage with a courier. 4Service implements a relatively new technology known as server imaging. Rather than merely grab the newly saved data on a hard drive, server imaging takes the image of the entire server, including its configurations, programs and its operating system, as well as its saved files. Server imaging allows a server to be up and running within a matter of hours if catastrophe occurs, rather than a matter of days. Sanchez also noted that while backup tapes are a decent rudimentary form of protection, they are inherently faulty. “People often think that tape backups are sufficient to meeting their needs, but the truth is that tape backups on their own tend to be inherently bad. You have problems with tapes on occasion,” Sanchez said. “The copies can be bad and the data isn’t physically there, then one day when you go to restore it, it’s gone. That’s the worse time to find it out that you’ve lost data, when you actually need it. That’s why it’s critical that small businesses form an actual plan for disaster recovery. It’s to protect their data.” Rapid growth The company has grown rapidly since its inception in 2003, going from revenues of $600,000 in its first year, to $1.2 million last year. In 2005, Sanchez and Raab anticipate revenues of $1.8 to $1.9 million. They attribute the growth to the uniqueness of their service and the recovering economy. Additionally, they tout 4Service’s affordability, with solutions costing in the low hundreds of dollars per month, where competitors can sometimes quote prices several times higher than that. “The other disaster recovery providers aren’t local or they don’t offer the combination of services that we do. I think the key is the server imaging that we offer that allows us to take copies of the server off site. Nobody else can do that,” Raab said. “Add that to the fact that the economy is picking up. Clients are starting to spend money on technology and the threats that we live with on a day to day basis. After 9/11, companies are looking at solutions that they didn’t look at before,” Sanchez added. Yet Sanchez and Raab maintain that a company’s greatest threats aren’t planes flying into their building or massive tsunamis shattering their server. Rather, they claim that the dangers of the Internet age pose the greatest threats to businesses. Cyberterrorism “Most disasters are few and far between. But what we see as a larger threat are operating systems being destroyed, servers being destroyed, hardware malfunctioning, viruses destroying servers or malicious codes. Cyber-terrorism has become very popular. People often go onto competitor’s servers and delete information,” Raab said. Glen Eichenblatt, management information systems director for the southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, considers himself fortunate that his server has never completely malfunctioned, but nonetheless he speaks glowingly of 4Service’s products. “It’s a very elegant service and very transparent. They provide a high level of protection with a minimum amount of impact on the network. What they’ve done is pretty ingenious, by having the system creating images to hard disks and rotating them off site,” Eichenblatt said. “They are incredibly excellent and professional. They have a solution for every problem.” As for the future, Sanchez and Raab remain focused on spreading the gospel of IT disaster recovery to the small businesses in the region, hoping to eventually take the business outside of the Valley to the rest of southern California. “Our plan is to continue marketing the company. We’re using print advertising right now and a lot of cold calling. We plan on hiring five more employees this year. We want to get the word out. We want to let businesses know that there is a viable disaster recovery option for them,” Sanchez said.