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Lifestream Backup archives your online life

You use a lot of social services, but what if one of them goes down? Lifestream Backup covers you by automatically backing up your data from a handful of popular services.

Lifestream Backup is a new service that backs up your data from a handful of popular online services including Flickr, Twitter, BaseCamp, Google Docs, and WordPress. You just provide it with your log-in credentials (or give it permission through authentication), and it quietly makes a daily or weekly backup of all your data from each site. It can then be viewed and downloaded if one of those places suffers an outage or data loss.

For $30 a year you get 20GB of storage, which is shared across all of the different services and hosted on Amazon's S3. If you have your own S3 account it's only $15 for the whole year, and it does not impose any storage limits since you're paying for that separately through Amazon. (Note: The prices are slightly lower than these for the next 10 days as part of the site's launch.)

You pick which services you want to hook it up to, and it will back them up automatically. CNET

To give it a good test drive I tried it on my Flickr and Twitter accounts, as well as my Delicious bookmarks and Google documents. It took a little under a day to pull everything in, although the length of time it takes depends both on when it begins its backup, and how much you have on each service. The only exception was Delicious, which was never imported despite me providing the correct credentials.

For Twitter it saved all of my past tweets in an XML file which could not be viewed in Firefox, IE, or Chrome. Instead I had to open it up in Windows Notepad and parse through coding wrappers to get to each tweet. They were all there though, going all the way back to 2007. Not a bad start, but the presentation left something to be desired; a spreadsheet would have been nicer.

As for Google Docs, what's nice is that it can grab documents from multiple Google accounts. I had it hooked up to two of mine. It pulled them in just fine, although it did not mark which account was which. It also does not tell you what type of document each saved item is. If they're text files this isn't a problem since they display right in your browser. If they're spreadsheets or presentations though, you have to save them to your hard drive and open them in something like Excel.

Of all of the services I tested, Flickr took the longest, and with good reason--photos are big. I've got more than 3,200 photos stored on Flickr. For size reasons, it does not download the full-quality version of each photo, which admittedly would fill up your 20GB quite quickly (my 12 megapixel shots run around 3MB to 4MB a pop). Nonetheless, I found this to be a major shortcoming, especially for pixel-peeping snobs like me who like to zoom into the details of large photos. It also did not keep any of the categorization I had worked so hard on back over on Flickr. Sets, tags, descriptions--none of that gets backed up.

Lifestream Backup's archive pages are not much to look at, but they do save your data, and let you download it in case one of those sites is down. CNET

I'd also like to see it do a better job at presenting the files. For instance, it shows when the files were backed up, but does not let you see when they were originally created. You also cannot download your files in bulk. Instead it must be done one at a time. For retrieving single files this obviously isn't a problem, but if you're trying to re-archive an entire gallery of photos, or folder full of documents it can be time-consuming.

Faults aside, I think Lifestream Backup is really on to something, and has big potential. Many of the services it backs up have very comprehensive backup systems of their own. That doesn't mean diddly when they go down though. If you're using any of them for business and want a surefire way to access your content, Lifestream Backup provides that. The one weak point there is if the source service is also using Amazon S3, which is what powers Lifestream Backup, then you really are out of luck until S3 comes back online.