Yay or Nay: Online backup services

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We’ve reported a number of companies getting into the online data storage/backup game recently, including Carbonite, BT, AOL, Diino, and Streamload. Back in July it was Backup Awareness Month, though the primary reason for that was to get you to backup on a local hard drive.

So, this week’s “Yay or Nay” is online backup services. Are they worth investing your money and trust in, or should you invest time, effort and money into developing your own local backup routine?

The advantages of backing up online are that you don’t have to worry about the cost or storage of hard discs, optical discs or other systems, nor the software you need to do automated or incremental backups. You effectively let another company be concerned over the safety of your data. It’s also good to get your data backed up off-site, away from your computer.

The disadvantages are that your trust is put in another company, which could be prone to data loss, theft, hacking, and so on. You may have to pay a monthly fee, and you are also eating into your broadband bandwidth quota every time you upload and download files. If the company goes bust, what happens to your data? How reliable is a free service? You may also end up using more than one service because you have a lot of data to store.

Do you have to choose between one type of backup or the other, or should you used both? How important is your data to you?

Online backup/data storage services. Yay or Nay?

Andy Merrett

4 comments

  • I found that both MOZY and CARBONITE have some limits: slow full system and not dynamic back up.
    I found MEMOPAL (www.memopal.com) more dynamic and faster.

  • I agree with the comments posted previously. I always like to see unlimited* services. (The star means ‘not really’).

    I do work for a company, Backup To The Web, http://www.backuptotheweb.com, which is trying to be somewhere in the middle. The last thing I want to do is backup 45GB of data to a company who is going to determine that their pricing model is unsustainable next quarter.

    Backing up 🙂 to the original article, though, I would say that Online backup is a great part of a good disaster plan. I always tell people that most theives, fires, tornados, etc, are not generally nice enough to say ‘oh, let’s take the computer, but we’ll leave that external
    HDD he’s backing up to…’ A backup is only good if it isn’t succeptible to the same issues the computer may have. Online is a great system.

    The question posed about trust, however, may be a little out of date, at least with a client like the one my company offers. We couldn’t decrypt your data unless we wanted to take the years required to do it. The client encrypts the data before it leaves the machine, and we NEVER have the key (so don’t lose it!). If armed guerillas invaded our datacenters, they’d be up the same creek hand-paddling along with us. Fortunately, the data is replicated to a second data center hundreds of miles away within 5 minutes, so they’d have to storm both!

    Online backup is going to become much more common, which is why we offer Mac, PC, linux, netware, and solaris clients. Above anything, trust the encryption, and give one of the services a try. Most, like mine, offer 30 day free test-drives.. Some don’t even ask for a credit card in advance.

  • Interesting. We have launched a remote backup service based on software by Remote Backup Systems, Inc. here in the states. http://remote-backup.com We will certainly not be competing with the Mozy/Carbonite set, as their pricing model is simply not sustainable – and our software is much better. We WILL provide a much higher level of service, support for open database files, and other SLA components that matter to businesses with critical data to protect. Seems Mozy and Carbo are cut out for consumer level backups where price is the foremost consideration. My opinion? Let Mozy and Carbo have ’em – based on my experience, consumers are at once fickle, cheap, and disloyal. The churn rate for these cheap services has historically been super-high, and they’ll leave you in a second once a newer, sexier, and (above all) cheaper solution arrives on the block.

  • It’s amazing how many websites have picked up this story this week. This is old news in the US, and Carbonite is just one of many startup backup companies with strong product offerings including Mozy, SpareBackup, SOS Backup, iBackup, Connected, xDrive, and dozens more. I have settled in very comfortably with Mozy.com.

    Some major differences exist between the two.

    Carbonite has a very attractive interface that a computer newbie could use. While Mozy’s isn’t very attractive, it is very intuitive yet flexible for the newbie or seasoned geek.

    Mozy has the ability to backup locked files (i.e. Outlook when it’s in use) and large files over 2GB. Carbonite says it is currently working on these capabilities, but it is a difficult, long-term challenge to overcome. Mozy offered these in its alpha release a year ago.

    Even with these two issues, I really liked Carbonite still. But, the clincher was Carbonite’s not keeping multiple backup versions of my files. For example, if a database I was working on became corrupted yesterday and backed up last night, my backup would be corrupted on Carbonite. If Carbonite kept backup versions, I would have been able to restore the uncorrupted database from the backup two nights ago. Again, Mozy offered this as a standard feature since its alpha.

    Foremost is that Mozy does not offer the deceptive “unlimited backup”. The Terms of Service on Carbonite allow them to kick “abusers”, which many bloggers say is around 50GB per account. However, Mozy does offer 2GB free and 3 paid plans: 5GB for $1.95/mo, 30GB for $4.95/mo, and 60GB for $9.95/mo.

    Yes, I’m a Mozy fanboy. But, you wanted feedback on online backups. BTW, I backup about 45GB on both Mozy and Carbonite (free beta accounts).

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