The best home backup plan options - Part 4: Cloud based backup

The best home backup plan options: Part 4

Cloud based backup is considered by many to be the backup method with the most advantages. As home internet connections have grown in bandwidth, this type of backup has become more accessible than ever before. Your data is stored at a remote location so the co-location problem is solved. Your data is housed on large arrays of redundant hard drives do the data protection element is accounted for. You have access to a virtually unlimited amount of storage space so expandability is not an issue. It's almost perfect. Almost.

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While the above points are completely valid, there are some considerations to be aware of when going this route. For starters, you're going to be paying a recurring fee to house your data in the cloud or to use cloud backup services. These fees can be in the form of a monthly/yearly subscription plan, or be based on the amount of storage space and data transfer you use, or a combination of the two. As your data size grows, you can quickly start to rack up large fees for cloud storage.

Another concern is the trust involved with relying on an outside company to store your data. There are the obvious privacy implications, but there is also the possibility of the company going out of business leaving your backups in limbo. Due to these issues, it's important to properly research the company you decide to go with.

Read to give it a shot? First place yourself in one of the following categories:

#1) Small - Medium Data User

You're an average computer user, you might have several devices in your home but in general

  • You store family photos

  • You have a variety of office files in your documents folder

  • You have a respectable music library

  • You need to backup other important items like Quickbooks etc.

#2) Large - Very Large Data User

You are a media or technology professional, you have Terabytes of data

  • You have a large amount of professional video or audio

  • You have digital photos

  • You have a large music library

  • You have large Photoshop / Illustrator compositions

#1) Small - Medium Data User

Most people should fall into category #1. For you, the answer is straightforward. If you want to pursue cloud backup you should look for a cloud backup service. These services will handle just about everything for you and help automate your backups for a smallish monthly fee. They will also provide you with the tools to retrieve and restore your backups 24/7. For a few good examples of these types of services, have a look at Backblaze, Crashplan, and Mozy. Backblaze and Mozy both have personal plans around $5/month and Crashplan has a free plan which can be upgraded to a more feature rich Crashplan+ for $1.5 - $6/month. Crashplan might be the most home user friendly so I might start there. Keep in mind that the time it takes to backup your files is determined by your home's internet connection speed, specifically the upload speed which is usually lower than the download speed.

#2) Large - Very Large Data User

If you fall into this category, you already know that backup is hard. You've likely tried some forms of external drive backup but fall behind on keeping them up to date, or simply ran out of storage space. I'm going to assume that if you're this type of user you probably have a pretty decent connection into your home, hopefully some type of fiber, otherwise you'll be uploading data for weeks.

Even though you have special data needs, it doesn't rule you out from choosing a cloud backup service as many offer business and enterprise plans that would suit your needs. Not all of them are crazy expensive either, in fact Crashplan for business offers an unlimited plan for up to three computers for just $7.49/month. This gets you all of their backup tools, reporting, and monitoring as well.

For a more DIY approach, you can go directly to Amazon S3. After all, it's likely that many of these backup services are ultimately using it anyway. If you want to attempt the more hands on approach, I would suggest you check out Amazon Glacier. It's similar to Amazon S3 only far less expensive and meant for archiving data, not serving it up. For instance, 2 TB of glacier storage runs about $20/month, but if you need to access the file it may have to wait in line before you can get it. That's probably not a big deal though. Another thing is that you pay for accessing the data if you need to get at it. It's a small fee, if you needed to pull down all 2TB of data you'd pay a one time fee of around $20, if you need a smaller portion, like 20 GB you'd only pay like $2. You can retrieve 1GB per month from your archive for free.

#2) Low Complication

This type of backup, especially for the average user, offers the least friction to a backup plan. Most, if not all, of the work is handled for you by the service you choose. The down side is that you're paying for the service for as long as you use it. The good news is that the cost is low.

Do yourself a favor and take the first step toward protecting your data by starting a free trial at an online backup service to see just how easy it is. Then, like I said in the first post, try to scare yourself into it by imagining losing every picture of your children, every vacation, graduation, birthday, wedding, etc. Surely protection against that occurrence is worth $5/month isn't it?

#2) Conclusion

That wraps up the third basic type of home backup. In the next and final post I'll describe how you can use a combination of the three methods to provide the most complete protection for your data.

Next - Part 5: A complete backup strategy

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