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What to look for in an Online Backup Service

Posted By : Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on June 12, 2008 12:33 PM

Question

I want to start backing up my computer using one of those online backup companies, but the prices and options are overwhelming. How do I know if I can trust the companies not to look at my data and why are the price ranges so large?

- Mel

Answer

This question was answered on June 12, 2008. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Let’s start by giving you kudos for thinking about something that most don’t address until they’ve had a major data disaster.

Backing up your computer is an essential part of owning one, but for many, the process is often too complicated or confusing. Online backup services offer a simple solution to this problem and most offer a free trial so you can take a test drive. (One of our favorites is at http://www.rdbup.com/partner/?id=datadrs)

In order to take advantage of one these services, you will need a high speed Internet connection and knowledge of where your various data files reside (what exactly do you want to backup?)

One of the biggest issues, unless you are fairly technical is you probably have no idea exactly where on your computer’s hard drive your data resides.

Contrary to popular belief, everything you care about is not in the My Documents folder. Personal accounting programs, for instance, often store their data files amongst the various program files that they install.

You also need to think about files that are in other profiles if you have more than one user account on your computer.

You also need to think about how you want to handle items like pictures, music and video that don’t change all that often, but take up a lot of space. I recommend an external hard drive for backing up these items. (Get professional help if all of this is already too mind numbing!)

As far as the security of your data, look for companies that have more than one data center (the better companies have data centers in two different parts of the country that simultaneously replicates your backups).

Most of them will also warn you that if you lose your passkey, there is no way to get to your data back, which is a good thing. This means that no one can randomly access your backup account without the passkey, not even the employees of the data center (even if you lose your passkey!)

You also want to make sure that you are getting multiple copies of your data that are automatically uploaded on a scheduled basis, the more the better. This will help you when data is corrupted or irreparably infected by a virus, but you don’t catch if for a while.

I also prefer companies that charge a monthly or annual fee based on the amount of data you are actually storing vs. companies that offer free or unlimited backups.

Everyone knows that FREE and low price offers often have hidden exceptions or fine print and your data is just too important to play those games.

One of the biggest complaints for those that have used low cost services is that it takes forever to get the initial backup completed.

Low cost services often throttle down your upload speed to limit how much data you can backup. This helps reduce their bandwidth costs and somewhat limits how much data you can backup, even though some of them claim to be “unlimited”.

The adage that “you get what you pay for” is especially true in the online backup world, so be careful where you choose to store your data.

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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on June 12, 2008

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