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Selecting an Online Backup for Power Users

Written by BobW on February 3rd, 2011

I am big fan of online backup. It is an easy way to automatically protect your important files with minimum effort. To be effective, a backup strategy has to be easy to set up and maintain.

My consulting company’s clients rely on my company to keep their data and the projects safe. A good backup strategy plays a big part in protecting data and work in progress. It is very important to have a backup plan that provides quick, secure access to any files in case of a computer system failure.

I have found that a backup procedure that requires manual user intervention, (i.e. loading a tape or plugging in an external backup drive) makes it very difficult to keep reliable backups. At the beginning, it is easy to be diligent about doing backups. However, as time goes by, it is too easy to forget about scheduling regular backups.

Online Backup

Online backup solutions make the process simple. You install a program on your computer, tell it what directories to backup, how often to backup and let it run. The program runs in the background while you do your work. It sends your data off to the cloud where it can be retrieved when needed. Online backup also provides safety in case of a flood or fire at your office because the data is saved offsite.

Selection Criteria

Here are my requirements for Online backup:

1)      Reliability
Reliability is key. In the event that my computer goes down or the hard drive fails, I want to be able to retrieve all of your files as quickly as possible. I also want to know that I can contact a helpful technical person at customer support in case of difficulty.

2)      Unlimited (or very large) data backups
Many of the online backup systems have a relatively low cap on the amount of data that can be stored. My backup set is around 400 Gbytes so I need a lot of storage. After the initial backup, which can take a while, the daily backups are small since I only need to update the files that have changed.

3)      Secure Encryption
The data on my computer is confidential. I want high quality encryption for the transmission of the data. I want the data stored offsite to have an encryption key that only I can use. I don’t want to rely on the security provided by the backup provider. If I am the only one that holds the data encryption keys then I do not have to worry about a hacker accessing their system. My data will remain secure no matter who accesses it.

Some services hold the encryption keys themselves. This allows them to help a user that loses his key. It is also a potential security risk allowing company employees or hackers to access my data.  I will not use a service that does not allow me exclusive access to the keys.

4)      Low cost
It has to be affordable.

5)      Low CPU overhead
The backup program is going be running in the background all of the time on my   system. If it slows my computer down enough that I can notice it, then I won’t use it.

6)      Easy to use but with lots of options
It should set up easily and allow me to customize my backup procedure.  I want full control of my backup options.

Selecting An Online Backup Company

Since I need large storage capability (my backup set is over 400 Gb) I eliminated many of the companies that provide data caps. I looked at Mozy, Carbonite, CrashPlan and BackBlazeCrashPlan came out at the top of my list.

I had been a satisfied Mozy user for years until they dropped their unlimited plan with almost no notification. I found this out when I happened to pull up the status screen and saw a message saying my account would expire in 5 days, even though my account was set up to automatically renew every month.

CrashPlan provides unlimited online storage at $49.99 per year.  It has a free offsite storage option if you have access to a second computer at a remote location. It allows multiple backups at sites that are local and remote. The program is easy to setup but also allows customization of every detail. My computer has been uploading over 30 Gbytes of data a day to their server (during the initial upload) without noticeably slowing my computer. They give you the option to password protect your encryption keys or to generate your own for the ultimate in security.

Carbonite may be a good option for some users, but they cap the bandwidth for large uploads. Form their website, , ” …. for exceptionally large backups – 200GB or more – backup speed will slow noticeably (100 Kbps) after the first 200GBs have been backed up.” They also do not allow users to hold their own encryption keys. That kills it for me.

BackBlaze looks like a pretty good choice. It does not have a Linux option or the many backup storage choices that CrashPlan offers, but if those options are not important to you, you might want to check it out.

Links For More Information

You can find some reviews of these products and others at:

Storage Monkey Blog

Lifehackers Alternatives to Mozy

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