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What's your take on online backup services?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / February 5, 2010 5:38 AM PST

What's your take on online backup services?

I truly enjoy the Friday afternoon (well, evening in my part of the country) newsletters. I seem to learn tons and tons about things that I never knew I wanted (or needed) to know! So many times I archive the questions because I know that I?ll need to know that soon, or I had that exact same question before-?and probably will again. Or, more often than not, the question is timely for my own issues, and I get to try out the suggestions right away. This is an AMAZING group!

I have never written before, but I want to get the group's collective wisdom on online backup services ( just to use an example). I have had two fatal hard-drive failures in the last year. While I use an external hard-drive to back up data (most of the time), I am starting to really think about using an online backup service. That said, I am trying to understand the various services that these companies offer versus the costs (I am concerned about cost-?an external hard drive is relatively cheap, so I?m not going to pay a small fortune for online services). I am not a large corporation looking for mega-service. I am a sole proprietor, and I?m looking for a safe place for my 500GB of data (actually, well under that amount, but it could grow to that amount) that resides on one computer (Windows) and one external hard-drive.

So, I am looking to all of you to help me better understand the following:

1. How secure from "prying eyes" are these online backup services? I don't know that I have anything that anyone would care about on my computers, but I certainly don't want some random technician accessing my data, just because they were servicing the server on which the backup was stored and felt like "helping themselves."

2. Has anyone had experience with some of the more well-known services? Recommendations?

3. How accessible is the data--really--anytime/anywhere/from any machine?

4. How do you compare the costs? It seems that the quotes I've seen are not giving me the capability to compare apples to apples.

5. Does Continuous Data Protection slow down one's computer/Internet access (assuming high-speed Internet)

6. Can you backup more than one computer to a given location? In other words, if I use a laptop and a desktop (that are supposed to have the same data set), can I back them both up to the same location?

7. Are there big differences in ease of setup and ease of use between the services?

8. Whatever other very important point I missed listing, but you're certain I need to know to make a sound decision (part of the "I don't know what I don't know qualification!")

I am looking for a cost-effective solution, but don't want to be penny-wise and pound foolish. And, I CERTAINLY don't want to put myself in a situation where my data is easily compromised. I know that many of these services offer free trial periods, but I don't want to go through the trouble if: a. I can?t afford the service when it starts to cost, or b. my data would be compromised easily by that particular service.

Any ideas/thoughts that the brain trust has would be much appreciated.

Thanks again.

--Submitted by Sandy C. of Media, PA

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

First, know what kind of backup you are looking for --Submitted by mijcar

Reliable, fast, and affordable --Submitted by charleswsheets

Online backup - pros and cons --Submitted by anuchoksey

Multiple protection levels --Submitted by fivecentfamily

Some are better than others... --Submitted by Doh_1 has worked well for me --Submitted by: theperfectk

Thank you to all who contributed!

If you have any additional advice, recommendation, or tips for Sandy please click reply and post it. If you are recommending a service, please provide a link. The more details you can provide in your answer the better. Thank you!
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Carbonite for Mac Lacking
by clintbradford / February 5, 2010 9:31 AM PST

Carbonite gets a lot of press. But if you are a Mac user, it lacks several features that Windows clients enjoy - mainly (for me) the ability to SCHEDULE a backup. I don't think it's just me - but I want to control when my system's resources are being used. And the lack of scheduling in Carbonite for Mac isn't in the forecast (I've been told for nine months now by Carbonite that they really don't have Mac improvements first and foremost in their minds).

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Carbonite Pro doesn't work at all for the Mac
by Kingdaddy2000 / February 19, 2010 9:22 PM PST

I looked into Carbonite Pro for our small business that uses both Macs and Windows 7/Vista, and it does not support Macs at all, so Carbonite Pro is completely out of consideration!!!!

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So.... what's the answer for Mac users
by jbev4 / March 1, 2010 8:54 AM PST

I'm new to Mac, backing up on a Time Machine, but really want to pack up photos and other things elsewhere (out in some cloud) without having to remember to schedule every time. Thoughts or recommendations?

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Just buy a copy of Windows 7
by thljcl / March 1, 2010 12:03 PM PST

Well, at least 80 percent of Mac users have a copy of Windows installed on their Mac. You can buy a copy of Windows 7 and install on your Mac.

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by asciibinary / April 30, 2010 6:18 AM PDT

Hi, why use a paid service like Carbonite... No reason for that; plenty of free services ARE available! :-D

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Store your data online
by Zussinator / April 6, 2011 2:40 AM PDT

I suggest you check out NovaBACKUP at

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My PC Backup is great!
by cloud145 / September 24, 2012 5:04 AM PDT

I highly recommend My PC backup to backup all the files on your computer. It's cheap, fast, and super easy.
Try it for free here

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I dont know what i would do without it!!!
by CR7PTON / January 28, 2013 4:38 AM PST

Haven't used any other service or place but haven't felt like moving to any other provider so far, got it installed on my mac and pc and all seems to go smooth - features are pretty good and enough for me anyway, when someone asks me if i backup i like to say that - I backup #like a boss :0) cause thats basicly what its called

I havent had to recover my entire system before but i have had to rely on a few files, its much easier than hard drives so im happy the way technology is going these days.

My 2 cents...

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What's your take on online backup services?
by wendyb / February 5, 2010 9:44 AM PST

I use Carbonite and love it. I don't have to remember to do anything,it takes care of itself. I haven't noticed a slow down of my computer,because it backs up when the computer is idle. I payed $54.00 for 1 year and to me that is quite reasonable. It is my first time at using off site back up and really have no complaints. You can also use it on more than 1 computer.
I also had need of a saved back up just last week and retrieved it with no problem,was up and running again in 10 minutes.
Hope that helps with some of your questions.

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What's your take on online backup services?
by massadaddy / February 19, 2010 9:35 AM PST

1 TB external drives at <$150.00 means I use those which are kept separately in case of fire, theft or flood. Smaller stuff I use Stuffit to chop up and Gmail it to myself. Australia has yet to enjoy unlimited bandwidth so there's a disincentive to store anything elsewhere.

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You can use it on more than one computer
by pinkliv / February 19, 2010 9:16 PM PST

Hi, I use Carbonite and I noticed in your post that you said "you can use it on more than one computer". I just purchased a laptop computer and I currently use Carbonite on my desktop. Do you mean I can use Carbonite on my laptop without having to pay a seperate subscription price for the laptop?

Please advise and THANK YOU!!

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Not such happy experience with carbonite
by gbswales1 / February 21, 2010 4:06 PM PST

I am sure that carbonite (and others) offer a good service for people wanting to back up an average amount of data - 2-3 gb

I used it to provide a complete back up and it took about three weeks to upload the initial back up - that I accepted because I was talking well over 400gb of data and uploading is a slow process. It was possible to recover individual files quite easily and I though that I had found a perfect solution and paid a years subscription.

When the inevitable happened and I had a complete hard drive failure I purchased a new one and kicked off a restore - expecting it to restore at my expected download speeds of around 6mbs - in fact the restore was running so slowly that despite leavin my computer on 24/7 after a week only about 20% had restored. I discussed with their support but they were not much help and warned me that if I turned my computer off at any stage it would break the restore and I would have to start again (in an area prone to the odd power cut this was worrying)

I decided to try again to recover content from the failed drive and found that if I didnt run it for more than an hour it would work so in short bursts I managed to recover about 80% of the data before it died completely.

I decided there and then that online back up did not suit my use (it was the unlimited storage that attracted me to carbonite) and cancelled my renewal to fund a new external drive. I am now thinking of buying a second external drive and using this to do a monthly back up of the normal back up drive which I can keep at another location.

I use paragon free back up utility which is much much more efficient than the built in windows 7 back up

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Download and upload speed?
by thljcl / February 21, 2010 6:57 PM PST

In the place where I live, it is considered one of the best places in the country where the best Internet Connection is available in the country. The speed and stability are far more better compared to elsewhere. Yet it can hardly fit the requirement of modern cloud computing. As a result, I can never go fully to the cloud computing. I do, however, go to cloud computing as far as I can go.

I've heard someone complains about the speed of 6Mbps. In my country, the best download speed we can get is 4 Mbps or equivalently 512 KB/s. So suppose you have the data of 400 GB, it will take 9 days 11 hours 33 minutes 20 seconds to finish the download process. That is if you can go at full speed at all time. For ADSL connection (the only option we have), the fastest upload speed is 512 Kbps or 64 KB/s. So the upload process will take 8 times of the time you need for the download process to be complted.

What makes the situation worse is that at most of the places in country, the Internet Connection is largely unstable. The best download speed they can get may be 1 Mbps or slower. The best upload speed may be 256 kbps or slower. I'm lucky to stay in a place where the capital of the country, Kuala Lumpur is only 5 Km away. It's so stable that we hardly have any connection issue. But other places aren't so lucky. Often, they can't even go online.

What should I say? the federal government is so corrupted that she doesn't allow any form of real competition to take place. She allows a company that is known as Telekom Malaysia Berhad to enjoy sole monopoly. As such, going full the cloud computing cannot be realized at least currently. Racisim, nepotism and corruption hinder the nation to develop in the pace that it should be. Nevertheless, the change and development will happen over time in the way that no one can really stop it.

I recognize the importance of Internet Connection and information technology. Although I cannot go fully to cloud computing, going partially proves to bring a lot conveniences and benefits to me. For example, video conferencing and sharing vital documents on the SkyDrive seems to be pretty convenient.

Just like others, I have hundreds of GBs of movies/animes/dramas collections. But putting them online for backup purpose is simply not practical currently. But putting my essential documents, pictures and musics and others online is possible and practical with my current Internet Connection speed.

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just my opinion
by firefly45 / February 5, 2010 9:59 AM PST

Oh yes, the on line programs do work to preserve your information.......But In my opinion , it is just another way for them to access any information they want from all of their slaves ! (us)...
With out the need for wire tapping. You think what you want, But I have lost all faith in our privacy, security, or pursuit of happiness!

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Use an encryption program
by nrosenb / February 5, 2010 9:36 PM PST
In reply to: just my opinion

One way to address the security concerns raised by firefly45 is to use an encryption program, such as TrueCrypt, so that only encrypted versions of files are backed up.

I chose to use Idrive, because it's relatively easy to access individual files anywhere, anytime from their online servers.

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RE: Use an encryption program
by pete.adlington / February 19, 2010 12:00 PM PST


I have not used TrueCrypt but usually encryption programs are designed so that file/folders are decrypted for all programs running under the user or system accounts. This means that any data copied out of the system is decrypted and you rely on encryption provided by the application in question (in this case the backup program).

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Online BU vs DIY
by skipcashwell / February 20, 2010 11:47 PM PST
In reply to: just my opinion

firefly45 has a solid point - whatever you allow to leave your own hands can become useful to anyone! There are very few people, IMHO, who have even 1TB of data - so why spend money fr slow and hackable online storage when an external HD is cheap, private and always within one's control? Besides, if your computer can crash, what makes you think a big data center cannot?

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Why can't we get the best of both worlds?
by thljcl / February 21, 2010 5:41 AM PST
In reply to: Online BU vs DIY

It's true that nowadays the external hard drive is fairly cheap. That's why I just got myself a 1TB external hard drive two days ago. Besides my movies/dramas/animes collections, all other stuffs are practically stored stored online as a backup. Some of them are in my internal hard drive as well. I do not pay a single cent for cloud storage. I am using Windows Live SkyDrive. I'm using three accounts where there are still most of places left in all of my accounts. It seems like they are enough to store my Musics/Pictures/Files/Softwares at least currently. Just as the price of hard drive has gone down in recent years, I believe that Microsoft will even offer more free space as time goes by. Let's wait and see.

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Data Center Stability
by GalvanicCorrosion / February 21, 2010 6:07 PM PST
In reply to: Online BU vs DIY

There's hardly a comparison between the stability of a data storage facility and the stability of a home PC. The laws and architectural standards that govern the construction of a large data storage facility are far more strict than the permits required to build a house.

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That should not be a problem
by LionsMike / February 21, 2010 2:31 AM PST
In reply to: just my opinion

I am sure that most programs provide some method of deciding what you want to back up. You simply use the on-line service to back up files which relate to legal activities, and use a zip drive or external hard drive to back up files which relate to your illegal activities.

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It's not just about legality ...
by Bill Osler / February 22, 2010 10:28 PM PST

I have a LOT of legal information that needs backup but does NOT need to be shared. Banking information, password lists, tax records, health information ... all require some degree of privacy. My password list already has strong encryption but the rest of the information has variable degrees of encryption on my hard drive.

One of my reservations about online storage is the question of how easy or hard it would be for somebody else to get access. How secure is the provider? Many providers claim security, but how can we really know?

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Security is an important thing to consider...
by thljcl / February 23, 2010 2:13 AM PST

In modern time, we use email, web conferencing, telephone and other means of communications. These means communications come with the possibilities of eavesdropping. We've no choice but to leave the security to the service provider. There are hundreds of millions of people who are using hotmail as their email. There are billions of people who are using Windows or related softwares. We are already relying on Microsoft on providing security somehow. Considering this, I've already use hotmail for my main email for years. I certainly do not want others to know my conversations with others without my explicit permission. To me, it makes no difference I use another service from Micrsoft, Windows Live SkyDrive.

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by LionsMike / February 23, 2010 3:54 AM PST

I am also a sceptic. My concern would be the hackers. I had probably just read a post about concerns that the government might take advantage of the oportunity to "take a peek".

I do often get aggrivated or frustrated at the password rules and the Log-in ID rules which make it neccessary to keep files with the hundreds of different logins and passwords.

I cannot use the same login and password to post a message on this forum and on the Microsoft forum.

I hate being told that my login and password are 6 monts old snd have to be changed.

I often tell people that we can have a contest to see who's security work best. We can both both save some data on a computer and then use our security to prevent the other from getting it. They can set their password and I will hold a .357 magnum to their forehead and pull the trigger making a 2? inch hole in the back of their head. We will each then have an hour to breach the others security.

I think mine is at least as good.

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Online Backup
by dthomas400 / February 5, 2010 10:01 AM PST

I too have used Carbonite for the past few months and find it works very well. I have restored several files just to be certain that all works as intended. It easy as its files mimic your windows explorer. Simple to restore files. I also have a external drive and I still use that, mostly for storage.

Incidentally, each time you add, change or delete a file, Carbonite backs it up, as well as deletes changes you make automatically. Best thing since sliced bread.

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Some are better than others...
by Doh_1 / February 5, 2010 10:09 AM PST

I decided to use one of these recently, and started with Mozy. I installed it and after saving the initial load of stuff, the computer froze (hung) the next morning not too long after booting. So I got in touch with Mozy, and told them that, and went through a series of useless support chats, and hung computer experiences. I finally gave up on them, they couldn't help me, and I couldn't tell why my computer was hanging. And I was tired of risking the data on my computer, oddly enough.

Next I tried Carbonite, and that just worked. There was one glitch, where I needed to change the settings on my Nod 32 AV so that I could bring up the regular status information window from Carbonite, but that only took me a few minutes and I was off and running. I've been using it now for a few weeks, and have test restored a few files to make sure it works, I have 4.6 Gb. on Carbonite, mostly pictures and email. Seems good, I don't see any performance impact at all on the computer, and I found a 20% discount coupon on the internet for it. So I paid for a year, and will give it that long...what worries me is if my computer and my external backup drive are stolen or my house burns down, or have earthquake damage or are damaged by some other natural disaster, I don't want to lose my photos and email, etc.

Oh yeah, you can restore either to your computer, or another computer if you have to (or want to) replace your computer. The only thing that I don't like so far is that there doesn't seem to be a log file on my system that I can look at to see what's up if things look to be going wrong. There's the status information, but no detailed log file with timestamps of exactly what the Carbonite software was doing. But since it seems to just work, I can let that one go for the time being.


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Missed a few questions, sorry...
by Doh_1 / February 5, 2010 10:18 AM PST

1. Carbonite cost me about $43 for a year with 20% off. Most of them quote per year, which when divided by 12 gives you the cost per month *smile*. Some of them charge more for more GB., Carbonite is "unlimited", except for a limit on single file size. And some file types are also not backed up. Neither of these limits affects my use.

2. Your data is encrypted while backed up.

3. You can only back up one computer, each one is paid for separately. Unelss you get their new small business "Pro" service where you pay one charge per month based on GB., not the number of is more expensive, though. Fortunately, we have all the photos and saved email on one computer.

4. As far as ease of setup, Mozy and Carbonite were quite comparable, although quite different as well.

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File Types
by danzigman / February 20, 2010 1:18 AM PST

What files type will it not handle?

I am a bookkeeper and am having problems finding a program that will automatically back-up Quickbooks Data files - the exact files I need to protect.

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about Online backup services
by prshuman / February 5, 2010 10:28 AM PST

My girlfriend does much with ancestry searches using the internet. She would hate to lose her ancestry information and her many pictures. She uses Carbonite service. She likes it very much. When she changed computers, she found it easy to download all backup information from Carbonite.

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Perfect example
by GalvanicCorrosion / March 14, 2010 9:27 AM PDT

I was trying to think of data types that would benefit from online storage when I landed on this comment. This comment about ancestry information is a perfect example of a reason to use offsite storage. Basically, if you would have to jump through impossible hoops to recover the data, offsite storage is your ace in the hole.

The naysayers? Well, hacking someone's data isn't some magical phenomenon. It is a scientific, and measurable, action. Just because a user makes data go from their house to an offsite data silo doesn't mean they are going to get mysteriously hacked.

It's similar to a phone call. If someone wants to wiretap, they have to physically splice in between the the phones involved. What are the odds that someone is going to be spliced in between a person's computer and, for example, the Carbonite storage facility? Next to none. Furthermore, if Carbonite did demonstrate a real flaw in security, even once, their entire business would literally collapse overnight. Not even a mediocre investor would put their money in that kind of risk.

I suspect that people with concerns about getting "hacked" are really more concerned about getting "caught" with illegally acquired digital contraband. While there's no reasoning with that level of paranoia, the risk is still ridiculously low.

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I think you have underestimated the risks ...
by Bill Osler / March 14, 2010 9:59 AM PDT
In reply to: Perfect example

Different providers have different methods for handling data, and there are risks to all of the methods.
If the data is sent unencrypted over the Internet then it is possible that it will be examined by 'sniffer' programs that exist on the Internet and look at data that comes through their location.
If the data is weakly encrypted then it can be compromised by any number of hackers.
If the data is strongly encrypted but the archive company holds the key then there is always a risk that somebody will hack the archive company's systems (with or without inside help). You have to suspect that hackers will attack some of these online backup providers.
If the data is strongly encrypted but the user holds the key then it should be relatively safe from hacking. OTOH there is a risk to loss of the encryption key if the user is the only entity holding the key. It's not like you can safely archive the key at the off site archive - it needs to be safely and securely stored somewhere else.
Also, I think you have underestimated the extent to which users legitimately value their privacy. I would NOT consider allowing my Quicken files to live off site without a high level of confidence in the security of the information. Identity theft and other fraud are REAL issues, as various fairly recent news reports have confirmed.
None of the high security issues apply to relatively non-sensitive data (eg: genealogy information) but they are very definitely relevant to financial records and other legitimate information that could be misused.
Am I saying I won't use off site backup services? No. I have done so to a limited degree and I will do so in the future. But I will be very careful about the security issues.

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