What Really Counts in Online Backup

What Really Counts in Online Backup

Posted on 04. Jul, 2012 by in Security, Software

To many of us, (me included) our computers are a big part of our life and losing major functions and data would be a total disaster. The only true solution for this is to protect yourself with some form of backup strategy. Disaster recovery is generally based on redundant sites with the same capabilities as your main site.The thinking is that even if a hurricane came and destroyed your computer setup, having a second one somewhere else would provide the ability to be back to normal in a short time.

Doing a local backup to an external drive provides a second source for your stuff. Online backup provides you with an offsite home for your data for another level of protection. It can additionally provide for a very up to date backup because it can always be running whereas a local backup is generally only run from time to time.

The most recent online backups provide for extra features such as multiple system synching so that you can have the same very latest files on a number of systems simultaneously. They also provide for mobile access of your online data. You have to decide if these features are important to you and base your choice on them. In my view, the most important role of this type of program is backup of my crucial data and everything else is gravy.

 Important Backup Features

Non intrusive constant backup

The program should provide backup capabilities as long as you maintain an Internet connection. Some programs allow for constant monitoring and backup as well as scheduled backup. If you select the always on option, the online backup shouldn’t slow you down by eating up too much of your memory or processing power. It should upload new and changed files immediately.


Communication between your computer and a remote site depends on your Internet upload speed. This is MUCH slower than your speed from your computer to your hard drive. Therefore, transferring your data to your online backup site can take a very long time. In general, the amount of data changed or created on your computer on a day to day basis will be rather small and can easily be managed by your online backup software. However, getting your original 50 or 100 gigs up there can take months. Some vendors offer the option of seeding where for an extra fee you can send an external hard drive loaded with your primary data and they will start off your backup data set with the contents of that drive.

Does it upload new and changed files immediately? Does it allow syncing or sharing of data? Can it back up files while you have them open? Is there a Web client for restoring? Is there a mobile client? A Mac client? For some, the most important question is “How much will it cost?” In the next section, we’ll offer guidelines to just that.


When you backup you save the current versions of your files. If you do some sort of incremental backup, you may have multiple versions of your files such as documents that are being changed over time. Many online services don’t offer archiving, some offer limited archiving and others like Crashplan offer unlimited archiving.

This feature allows you to go back to an old version of a file that has important information that you no longer have in your most recent files.

Archiving, however, has its costs. It takes extra room and if you’ve paid for a limited amount of space, you may run out of it sooner than you expect. Check out the archiving policy of the vendors that you consider to see if they fit with your needs.

External disk of your data available in case of emergency

I would only use online backup as a second level backup. However, if it ever turned out that your local backup was destroyed and your system needs to be recovered, the online backup company should provide you with an external drive of your data for a fast restore. Restoring online only could take a very long time, on the order of weeks.

What should you back up

The easiest thing to back up is everything. However, it may be expensive because it will take much more space and it might also be useless since the system data may not be saved in a form that’s recoverable. If you’re up to it, you should make a careful assessment of what you want to back up and identify it to the backup program.

Bare metal restore which can recover a totally destroyed system is an up and coming feature of the latest online backup programs.

My Personal Choice

After review of a number of programs, I narrowed my choice to CrashPlan, iDrive,  and Pc Magazine’s favorite, SOS Backup for my 500 gb system. I wanted disk seeding, unlimited backup at a reasonable price and minimal problems. iDrive didn’t offer seeding for a single user and their iBackup costs were too high. SOS Backup was way more expensive than the other 2 and was not a choice. Crashplan provided everything I needed for a reasonable price and this is the program which I am going to use.

One final note. Please read the user reviews and search the Internet for <program name> complaints to see about the problems that programs might have that the reviewers don’t tell you about.

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