I am asked a lot these days about Online Backup companies and if they work. With many home users and most businesses now having high speed internet, online backup companies are becoming a valid solution for home users and smaller networks.
Back in 1999 I offered an online backup solution to a few of my clients to handle their backup needs. I had the crazy idea that this could be a huge industry and at one point was thinking that it really could put me on the map in regards to business. Well, back then it was a bit tougher than what we have today. First off: High speed internet was an ISDN line (a whopping 128K connection). That was considered high speed and state of the art. You had to have a background in telephone systems in order to figure out how to program the ISDN router (very steep learning curve for me). The price per month for that high speed was well over $125 a month. Compare that today where you can purchase a 60 meg connection (or 60,000k connection) for under $50 per month! The second challenge was software. I spent hours, months and a better part of the following year writing software for my online backup service. To say that my software was clumsy and not user friendly would be an insult to "not user friendly." It did work, but the problem was that a typical office had around 40 megabytes of data to back up at night which meant that often times when the client arrived at work in the morning, their computer system was still backing up. I believe at the time I charged a $200 per month fee and after a year I realized my cost was about $250 per month. So, that project got scrapped.
Fast forward to 2015 and we are presented with a myriad of choices to back up your data online. With high speed connections, robust server farms to handle your data, and software that is easy to use. Top it off with the average online backup price of $50-$70 per month for unlimited storage!
Q: Aren't computers built much better today, do I really need to back up?
A: Yes computers are built better, but back up. I don't care what method it is, USB drives, thumb drives, hard copies that you print out, floppy drives, etc. but back up your data. Even with hard drives becoming more and more reliable than days past, your data can still be accidentally deleted, a virus could destroy your data or even worse is ransomware infection which will ask for a ridiculous some of money to restore your data (by the way, don't ever pay the ransom on ransomware, they seldom restore your data). The simple truth is that at some point and time your data is going to be damaged and lost. If you can live with your data being lost, then don't worry about a backup system. For the majority of us, our data is crucial and it is the one thing that I cannot replace or reinstall if your system crashes. Your programs and even your settings can be restored, but your data is unique and one of kind.
Q: How often should I back up and or do I need multiple backups.
A: Backup your data whenever you make changes to a file or program. Every night is the most common practice. Having more than one backup source is crucial to any good backup plan. USB drives fail, thumb drives wear out and if for some unfortunate reason you find that you are victim of Ransomware you will quickly find out that your USB drive will also be infected and not usable. Having more than one drive or source is mandatory for a good backup plan.
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of using a cloud backup service?
A: PROS: Cloud backup services run in the background and are generally setup to be backing up your system as you work. So as you make changes to a document, they are saved in the cloud immediately. There is no hardware that you have to maintain. The cost per year is extremely low and the technology is quite good.
CONS: Your data is being stored outside of your network on another company’s server. That can seem a bit scary, especially if you have extremely sensitive data, such as a patent design, etc. That being said, you have to make sure that the company you are using to store your data has a safe and proven track record. That they have a great business reputation, have been in business for a while and have positive reviews. In other words, you need to do a little bit of homework before entrusting someone or a company with your data. The biggest complaint I hear from a client is that in the event your hard drive crashes and you need to restore your data, the process can take some time. If for example you have a Terabyte of data to restore, even with high speed internet, it could take a few days before it was fully restored.
With that being said, here is an article that came to my email with the best ranked Cloud Backup Providers by PC Mag. Click here for listing and reviews (Of Note: I have not tried these services and therefore cannot vouch for them).
No matter which method you use, Local Backups or Cloud Backups, just make sure you are backing up your data (all of your data) and that you have a good backup plan in place. It is not "If I lose my data, it is when I lose my data" scenario that you need to be prepared for.