Networking

Mobile backup services help users save, sort data

If you've ever wished you could easily search through your cell phone voice-mail messages or save all of your text messages, SkyDeck has a solution.

It's one of several offerings on the market designed to help mobile users either back up data they store on their phones or more easily sort through phone information.

The full suite of mobile storage features from SkyDeck are already available on BlackBerry and Android phones, and last week the company started offering the service to Windows Mobile users.

SkyDeck “mirrors everything” that customers do on their cell phones, said Jason Devitt, president and CEO of the company. Voice-mail messages, text messages, call records and contacts are all backed up online. Users can opt for a feature of the service that transcribes each voice mail, so they can search through the messages for specific words.

SkyDeck customers are typically “people who live and die by their phone,” Devitt said. Real estate agents, salespeople and lawyers are common customers, he said.

A salesperson can use the service to more easily track follow-up calls to clients, for example. With a full call record accessible through a Web interface, a salesperson can check the last time a customer was called. The user can also add notes to each call record.

Users can also respond to phone calls from the Web interface using a built-in VoIP client. To a recipient, the call appears to originate from the SkyDeck user's cell phone number. Users can also respond to text messages via the online interface.

SkyDeck first launched the service in January. While some of the basic components, like the voice-mail backup, are available on most phones, the full array of features is available once users download a small client to their BlackBerry, Android or Windows Mobile phones.

For $29.95 per month, users get unlimited voice-mail transcriptions and calling from the Web client. A cheaper, $9.95 monthly subscription charges users for each transcribed voice mail and outgoing call.

Microsoft and Apple also both have mobile backup services, but neither is geared for such heavy users. Microsoft's free MyPhone offering backs up data only once a day and is really designed as a backup-and-restore service in case users lose their phones or replace them. Plus, it works only on certain Windows Mobile phones.

Apple's MobileMe service is limited to the iPhone and is really designed to sync e-mail, contacts and calendar items between a user's computer and iPhone.

FusionOne has a phone backup service, primarily aimed at consumers and offered through carrier-branded services like Verizon's Mobile Backup. But it also has an offering that lets users back up applications that they have downloaded to their phones in order to transfer the applications to a new phone. That could become more popular as people download applications to phones.

It's a sticky issue because of copyright rules that could prevent users from legally transferring applications to new phones, said Alex Chow, senior product marketing manager at FusionOne. The company is busy signing deals with content providers to legally facilitate that transfer.

Key to the service is that FusionOne also checks the capabilities of a user's new phone, making sure to download the version of the application that will work best on that phone. That's important for users who might upgrade to a touch-screen phone from one that lacks a touch screen, for example. For now, Alltel is the only operator offering FusionOne's application transfer service, to users of phones that run Qualcomm's Brew application platform.

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