Online Backups

Online Backups

Whether we want to or not, we all use computers in our businesses. Regardless of how much we use them, one thing is common, everything we create is important. Are we prepared when the worst happens such as when fire strikes, lightning fries your computer, a burglar makes off with the goods or Santa Claus decides to leave you with a lump of coal for a hard drive this year ? An online backup service can be the perfect addition to your backup plan.

Today large amounts of storage is available at a low cost or even for free and today's fast internet connections are making online backups more viable. These services use desktop software to synchronize data on one or more of your computers and store your data on massive server farms. All the top services support Windows, Mac and even Linux. After the initial backup, the services are efficient about uploading only changes by breaking a file into pieces and then after examining the pieces, transfering only the changed or new pieces in a compressed format to make the upload even faster. Most services let you specify deleted files to be removed or retained as older versions for a set time or forever.

Pricing usually follows one of two schemes: flat-rate or per-gigabyte storage. Flat-rate services generally set a rate per computer with unlimited storage. Although there are some exceptions that mix schemes. Usually, one can expect to pay on average $50 to $60 per computer per year.


Unfortunately, differences abound, so what one thinks is a con may be another person's pro, but I will try to make some general recommendations. One feature to look for is the ability to select hard drives, flash drives and network-mounted volumes. The way in which files are choosen varies, but the method used should allow a good degree or freedom and ease of use. Excluding files is a tedious process in most programs, in which you must navigate down through nested folders to make a selection. Being able to exclude large files, such as movies or virtual disk images can be helpful in speeding up backups.


We all know intenet bandwidth is a precious commodity, so look for abilities to choose time of day to start/stop, idle time before backing up, bandwidth limits and backup frequency. Unfortunately, no package yet offers reasonable scheduling, such as during after hours and on weekends for work systems and during work hours and overnight at home. Nor do they yet offer setting limitations on monthly bandwidth which could affect you during the intial backup. This can be an issue given the trend toward bandwidth caps. To counter this, consider staging your critical data in several sets. Add a new selection after the previous backup is complete. During new selections the incremental backups will keep all previous critical files up to date. Also, look for a service that protects files on your computer prior to transfer using 128-bit encryption.


Look for easy ways to restore a file or a volume, such as selecting files directly from your account, preferably more that one at a time. Versioning can also be a handy feature when accessing that old version that the client really wanted. Just make sure to periodically check that the service is functioning properly by retrieving a modest-size backup set. And not to beat it into you any further, but local backup is important too, just in case the online storage site goes belly-up. So after all is said and done, the current leader, at least this week, appears to be CrashPlan Central which gets the highest marks for interface design, simplicity, options and multiple computer backup options.

Source: Glenn Fleishman via

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