How To Choose an Online Backup Provider

By David Strom, PC World |  Storage, Backup & Recovery, online backup

Online backup makes a lot of sense: It gives you off-site peace of mind and the security that comes from knowing that someone else is keeping your data safe and sound. The trouble is that, while there are dozens of individual service providers, there are just a few designed for enterprises and small businesses.

Good choices for backup services are those that work on non-Windows machines that you need to backup, as well as those allow you to use one account to backup multiple PCs and multiple users. Three notable vendors that offer these features include iBackUP.com, SpiderOak, and Amerivault.com.

Some of the more notable services--such as JungleDisk, Tilana.com, Zmanda or ElephantDrive--offer no upper bounds on storage. Others, such as Iomega's iStorage Professional Edition, Onlinebackupvault.com, and StorageGuardian.com, support an unlimited number of users. Additional things to look for include 24x7 phone support, server OS support, mapped and network drive support, and an administrative Web-based console to manage all of your employees' backups. Mozy Pro has these features. Backupmyinfo.com has extensive support for a wide variety of server OSs and SQL Server and Exchange native support, too.

While some consumer-oriented services are stingy on the storage they offer, a number of vendors offer lots of free storage for individual users. This can be acceptable for very small businesses. Microsoft has begun offering 25GB of free storage for Windows users of its Live Skydrive service. Adrive.com offers 50 GB. Most of the other services are a gigabyte or less, but at least you can try them out for a few days to see how they work and understand their limitations and what they will end up charging you each month.

An important thing to ask about any backup service is how long they keep their archives and whether or not they distinguish among the various versions of the same file in their archives or not. Again, this is a good reason to try out the free version and see what is involved in recovering an accidentally deleted file.

Finally, an interesting twist on this whole genre is from a Columbus, Ohio company called 3x.com. They offer a hardware appliance solution, where you create the initial backup on your LAN and then move the appliance to a remote location--such as a home broadband link or another office--to do the incremental backups, which makes a lot of sense because usually the first backup will take several days going across even a reasonably fast Internet connection.

I have a table with links to these and other vendors here on my Web site.

David Strom is a former editor-in-chief of Network Computing, Tom's Hardware.com and DigitialLanding.com and an independent network consultant, blogger, podcaster and professional speaker based in St. Louis. He can be reached at david@strom.com.

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