Online backup services secure your data for less
Mar 21, 2008, 3:02 GMT
Washington - Most people are one bad day away from losing all of their data - even if it's backed up. That's because true data security comes not just from keeping multiple copies of valuable files but also from keeping copies of irreplaceable files in another location entirely.
Few of us are so secure. One theft, fire, or other catastrophe in a single location can result in years' worth of data - and all onsite backups - being lost forever.
That's where online backups can save the day. The trouble with online backups, up to now, has been that they were both prohibitively expensive and excruciatingly slow. But thanks to the growing number of companies offering online backup, bargains abound. And thanks to the proliferation of broadband Internet access, speed is much less of an issue as well.
So which are the best online backup solutions around?
If you've never experimented with backing up your data online, it makes good sense to start first with a free solution. Doing so allows you to familiarise yourself with how online backups work, establish a backup routine, and develop trust in a solution.
If you have a Google GMail account, you're one quick download away from having about 6 gigabytes (GB) free online storage. Just download the GMail Drive extension program (http://www.viksoe.dk/gmail), install the program, and in less than a minute you'll have an extra drive in your Windows Explorer called GMail Drive.
Click it, and you'll be asked to provide your GMail logon credentials. Once you've done that, you won't be asked again, and you'll be free to copy data to the drive as though it were another hard drive hooked up to your computer.
The GMail Drive extension is a third-party tool, not developed or supported by Google, and changes to the GMail service could render the tool inoperable. But plenty of people already swear by it, and it's a good way now to try out online storage.
There are some limitations, though. Total filename size must be less than 65 characters, for instance. If you try to copy a file in the name of which is more than 65 characters, the copy procedure will fail.
Stay tuned to Google, as well: rumours are rampant that the company is about to release its very own My Stuff online storage solution, which will be accessible to any device that can access the Web.
Mozy (http://mozy.com), too, has garnered a lot of attention over the past year as a reliable and easy-to-use free online storage solution that can easily be upgraded with more storage as your needs or comfort level with online backups increase.
Mozy offers considerably more automation than a bare-bones solution like the GMail Drive extender. Download and install the Mozy client program, and you can then choose which files should be backed up and even schedule the program to run on its own. Mozy offers several levels of security, will monitor changes to targeted files or directories, and can make secure copies of your Outlook e-mail files.
The free version of Mozy limits you to two gigabytes of storage space, however, while a 4.95 dollar per-month version gives you unlimited storage.
Carbonite (http://www.carbonite.com) does not have a free version - although it does offer a 15-day free trial - but the service's yearly fee of 50 dollars provides users with unlimited storage, which can make your life much easier. Some prefer Carbonite's interface to Mozy's.
Amazon's S3-backed JungleDisk is another online storage solution that's gaining popularity. With no limit to the amount of space you can use and a pay-as-you-go approach, the service works out to be less expensive than either Mozy or Carbonite for users with similar storage needs.
When evaluating online storage for your backup needs, pay close attention to what the various vendors mean by 'unlimited' storage. While unlimited may indeed apply, usually there are bandwidth limitations in the small print. Reach a daily or monthly bandwidth limit, and you may not be able to transfer any more files to an 'unlimited' account.
Also check the terms of service carefully to be sure that all file types you intend to back up are allowed. Carbonite reportedly will not allow files with certain extensions to be backed up. These files vary depending upon the level of service you buy from Carbonite.
At this point, there seems to be little doubt that online backup of important files is here to stay - and may even be the future of backups altogether. Once you use an online backup solution to get your data safely offsite and yet have it accessible from anywhere, you'll quickly understand why.