Blog Post

Dell’s Got Your Back(up)

A friend of mine in enterprise sales once told me that “absolutely nothing sells like great personal service.” This is a lesson for any business and has been the mantra of traditional consumer goods over the ages.

Not surprisingly, I’ve noticed a clear trend of consumer electronics companies trying to differentiate their commodity products with great new services. Look no further than Apple, a company that clearly understands this philosophy, as shown by how their iTunes services makes the iPod stand out in the sea of MP3 players.

So, while everyone else in the industry was marveling at the new gadgets at CES last week, I was intrigued by a specific portion of a Dell press release. After talking about faster bandwidth via fiber and new computer products, the company announced that it is moving into personal services, specifically online data migration and backup, a service that makes a lot of sense to me.

Mr. Dell described a new service that will be available later this year in the U.S. — an online data-migration and backup capability. It will enable customers to securely transfer documents, programs, drivers, settings, and other data via a broadband connection to a secure data-storage portal. Customers will be able to have the service preinstalled by Dell during the manufacturing process, alleviating the need to do it themselves after delivery.

“Consumers have repeatedly told us they’d like this type of assistance and we’re answering the call,” Dell added. “Dell is uniquely positioned to offer these personalized services because of our direct model — nobody else can do this the way we can.” Moving all of your files from one computer to another is a pain. And with most people having music, photos and videos on their computers, the days of moving everything on a CD, DVD or memory stick are long gone.

I recently took longer than I would have liked to migrate from one Dell to another and the reason was that I needed to figure out how to migrate my files (about 600MGB). I solved the issue in true high-tech form by installing a personal NAS box built from RedHat Fedora and Samba and then moving my files initially across my home network. I suspect that this is not a solution that would get lots of traction outside of the high-tech world and while consumer-ready NAS devices are available, they can be pricey and intimidating to the average PC user.

On the other hand, if I could send my files to Dell and have them pre-installed on my new Dell computer when it arrived at my home, that would be a great personal service. It could keep consumers from thinking about other computers (like an Apple) and that is exactly the point. There are some unanswered questions that I have about the service, including the amount of storage, how long the storage lives at Dell, privacy issues and, of course, cost. But since Dell has not announced these details, I’ll wait to pass final judgment.

It appears that Dell has thrown down a gauntlet to its competition with this service and I can’t wait to see when others respond with their own great personal services. A few thoughts:

  • Tivo – If you want me to upgrade to the new HD model, how about transferring all of my settings and recorded shows to the new box before it ships to me?
  • TomTom – Want me to upgrade to the latest model GPS? How about uploading all of my favorites and last addresses to the device before it ships to me?
  • Nokia – I’ll get an E62 phone if it comes pre-loaded with all of my data and personalization from my Blackberry 8700c. Can you provide this service?What great personal service do you want from your consumer electronics company? What would make you convert from one device to another?

Allan Leinwand is a venture partner with Panorama Capital and founder of Vyatta. He was also the CTO of Digital Island.

13 Responses to “Dell’s Got Your Back(up)”

  1. oh my gosh. never heard such a weird thing. i mean hey ever heard of acronis, phone explorer and last but not least PC MOVER. PC Mover can catch everything even installed Programs, use it for years now.

  2. provides an automatic backup with full encryption. All data is encrypted and compressed on the users PC/MAC before the data reaches our servers ensuring an extra level of security. OnlineBackupVault is scanned on daily by ContolScan and has SSL Issued by Xramp and an extra level of security provided by Trust-Guard.

  3. Completely automatic, no-brainer online backup already exists. It’s called Carbonite. “Unlimited” storage space for $50 a year. I bought it a few months ago and it’s awesome — it just sits there and works in the background.

    (I don’t know if any online backup service would be practical for someone with 600GB, though. Your computer would probably crash before you had a chance to upload it all.)

  4. Jennifer Hicks

    Backing up mobile data is what does. They back up a users mobile data for FREE. They let you take your mobile data online (if you want to) and bring it to life in a social context, plus they keep the link alive to the native contact list and calendar on the mobile giving users control of their mobile data.

  5. you’ve seen timemachine. all consumers need is an external hard drive or if they have a powermac another drive dedicated to backups. and i believe it sets itself up.

  6. This sounds like the perfect solution for me. Currently I am considering building or buying a new computer. My issue is I already have a slave IDE hard drive that holds over 60GB of media and files that I need. My primary recently crashed, and I need to buy a new one. If I must do that, I would like to start purchasing towards my new computer (SATA drives). I dont want to waste my money on old technology and replace with another IDE, but I dont want to spend loads of money on pieces of a new computer when im not sure when i can afford the whole thing.

    Now I know i can spend for a small hard drive, and when the time comes, Dell can handle everything I need. Thanks Dell!

  7. Heavy data such as media, should be backed up separately, it should be the important personalisation parameters which should be stored.
    This is a part of the reason why I use Firefox and Thunderbird on my PC. Everytime there is a reinstall done, I just have to point to my backup profiles, and it’s like I never changed anything.

    For a normal phone, the main thing is the backup of contacts, that’s why bluetooth synchronisation should be something to look out for, in the next phone.

  8. Why not having Dell or others proposing a “platform solution” (personal device (à la iPod)+ a backup/viewer (à la iTunes).

    I’m sure most people aren’t doing backup because it’s not a “natural process”.

    Let’s think about an “integrated sync personal device” doing images/songs/videos along with docs backup/viewer.. doing backup of “sensible folders” (applications,…).

    All backup solutions are too much techminded…make it personal, well integrated (I mean unattended but done backups) and people (including my wife, children…) will do backup.

  9. why not get a Western Digital external HD and use it for backup and xfer of files between PCs. its about $120 at Costco for 120GB. A lot simpler and faster than doing your own NAS

  10. “Moving all of your files from one computer to another is a pain. “

    Not true. Moving all our files from one Window’s computer to another is a pain.

    With a new Macintosh, you answer a few questions that come up when you turn your new system on, connect the two together, and everything transfer perfectly.

  11. Intriguing idea, although privacy is my biggest concern. I wouldn’t want to send all of the financial projections and product documents for my company to Dell (though I’m sure they’ll take privacy very seriously).

    Bandwidth and size limitations are another issue. Tranferring less than 1GB isn’t a big deal for me – I’ll do it all on a memory stick. But what about my 20GB’s of movies and music? This is always the biggest challenge for me when migrating to a new computer, and I usually end up solving it by making my old hard drive a slave in the new computer, and moving files over – hardly an elegant solution. An online solution isn’t the fix either, as my upload is capped at 45k/sec on Comcast. I suppose 5 days of non-stop uploading is feasible, but not practical. And, frankly, my 20GB of media pales in comparison to some of my friends’ collections.