Offsite digital backup saves firm’s files from fire

A unique offsite service that regularly backs up files on an engineering firm’s server preserved all data up to the night of the fire.

Computers holding critical data about city, regional district and First Nations projects were damaged in a blaze that gutted McGill Engineering and Associates.

But a unique offsite service that regularly backs up files on the firm’s server preserved all data up to the night of the fire. “It’s as though nothing were gone,” said company president Brad West.

McGill does business with the city, Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and some First Nations. Recent projects include work at the West Coast and Alberni Valley landfills, as well as seismic upgrades of the Sproat Lake and Beaver Creek fire halls.

Friday’s early morning fire heavily damaged the building the business is located in. The firm’s computer hard drives may be salvageable but until West is able to enter the building he won’t know for sure, he said.

Meanwhile, the business has set up shop temporarily beside the Coastal Community Credit Union. McGill is already re-outfitted with new equipment and is downloading all the files from the off-site backup.

The idea of using an offsite backup service came about five years ago. “We used to use tape backup but that relied on who could remember to do the back up so we chose another route,” West said.

The business engaged the services of a US firm to regularly back their files up remotely.

“One of the things we thought about was if we deleted a file we could retrieve it,” West said. “But you just don’t think that one day there’ll be a fire that would cause us to have to rebuild.”

West said he’s spoken to the firm’s clients and assured them that all project plans and data are secure. “Maybe some hand-written plans from old surveys never made it but the rest is good to go,” West said.

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