Data Backup – Part 2

In part one of my two part article on backups I submitted an old post on backups. In this post, part 2, I will discuss my research on online backup services, like Dropbox, Carbonite and others. I will also discuss my final choice of service and why I chose it.

First, lets start with an old favorite I was using for a couple of years, Box.net. I believe this is one of the few first online backup service that offered the option to upload your files for data storage and data sharing. I first tried their 1 GB free service almost three years ago, mainly to share files with friends and family, and for times I needed to post videos and such to this blog (before I discovered Vimeo). But then I found out that their free service only allowed a 10 MB file upload limit – they have since changed that to 25 MB. Due to that limitation I decided to sign up for their 5 GB storage for $5 a month; I used that service up until a month ago, for over two years. To keep this article relatively short, I will only post the key features of Box.net and the other services I researched.

Box.net

  • Good: Web link to private files for sharing; files accessible from anywhere via web; online drag and drop files; 1 GB free
  • Moderate: folder sharing, but only with another Box.net user
  • Bad: No desktop client synchronization; no security for personal edition (business edition only); $5/month for 5 Gb; $10/month for 10 GB with 1 GB file limit

One of the few reasons I left Box.net was because they do not have a desktop client for easy uploading and synchronization. I’ve contacted their customer service about this and they stated that there is no plan in the near future to offer a desktop client.

Microsoft Live Mesh

  • Good: 5 GB free; desktop client; files accessible from anywhere via the web
  • Moderate: N/A
  • Bad: Adds Live Desktop remote desktop (mirror drivers installed) without the option to deselect; no security; No web link to private shared files

I was using Live Mesh for close to a year until I ran into an issue with the mirrored drivers that are installed when you install the Live Mesh client. As mentioned above, these drivers are used for the remote desktop feature that allows you the ability to remote into your computer from anywhere you have an internet connection. I believe the service is still in beta so I hope in the future they change this so that you have the choice to install the remote desktop client when you install the Live Mesh Client. Also, since I use Logmein Free to access my computers remotely, there was no need to continue using Live Mesh.

Microsoft Skydrive

  • Good: 25 GB free; folder sharing; online drag and drop files; files accessible from anywhere via web
  • Moderate: Desktop client synchronization via third party tools  (SDExplorer)
  • Bad: no security; No web link to private files

Dropbox

  • Good: 2 GB free with the ability to gain extra storage with every referral; desktop client; files accessible from anywhere via web; sync files of any size; secure transfer and online encryption; use on unlimited devices; works on Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Moderate: folder sharing, but only with another Dropbox user; Public folder with web link to files; $10/month for 50 GB
  • Bad: No web link to private files

For most people who want online storage and have less that 2 GB of data, I would highly recommend Dropbox. The ease of use alone is one of the main reasons I would recommend. For someone like my Dad who only has a few documents but has more than a 100 MB of photos, this was the perfect choice for him. I’ve used it (and still use it from time to time), mainly, for purposes of sharing files with my family.

Spideroak

  • Good: 2 GB free; folder sharing; desktop client as a Windows Explorer view; $10/month for 100 GB; sync files of any size; use on unlimited devices;  works on Windows, Mac and Linux; secure transfer and online encryption
  • Moderate: sharing folders is a little difficult to setup
  • Bad: No web link to private files

Before a friend’s recommendation, I had never heard of Spideroak. I first signed up with Spideroak’s free service to check out their desktop client and was immediately impressed. With services like Live Mesh and Dropbox, their client is a predetermined folder that is installed on your computer. To backup files you have to dump your data into this folder. However with Spideroak’s desktop client you have a explorer-like interface that will show you the folder structure. If you want to backup a folder or file all you need to do is make a checked selection on that folder or file for it to be backed up. Very simple.

Carbonite

  • Good: desktop client that encompasses the entire computer; $55/year unlimited; works on Windows and Mac; sync files of any size
  • Moderate: N/A
  • Bad: only sync one machine; no web access to files; no sharing of files or folders

With Carbonite, its only function is to backup your computer, at that’s it. Once you install the client all you need to do is right click on a folder or file and enable Carbonite to back it up to the “cloud“. Its really straight forward and nothing fancy about the service.

Dell DataSafe

  • Good: $60/year for 100 GB
  • Moderate: N/A
  • Bad: client – after installing I couldn’t create the free 2 GB account they advertised because it would not allow me to choose a storage package. Also, it minimizes to the system tray but has no option to close without killing the process in Task Manager; works only on Windows

After trying all of these services, I finally chose Spideroak, mainly, because of the desktop client, but the pricing wasn’t too bad either. This past Monday, after trying their free service for a day or so, I signed up for their $10 a month for 100 GB plan as I have about 65 GB of data to backup. I started the backup process that night before I went to bed and by Friday night the backup finished. This time rate is based on my 1.9 Mps upload speed through my internet service provider. Overall, I am happy with the choice I made. Based on the $5 a month for 5 GB I use to pay through Box.net I am getting a much better deal now with Spideroak. The only thing I have found so far about Spideroak that I can’t forget, or those of you that decide on Spideroak, that if you delete a file or folder on your computer that is being backed up to their service don’t expect it to automatically get deleted from their servers, which isn’t a bad thing. You just have to remember to log into their site to manually delete that folder or file or your storage could fill up over time. But the good thing about this is that if you lose it on your computer and can’t retrieve it for some reason, at least you will have it backed up to your Spideroak storage to retrieve.

At the end of it all, I highly recommend giving Spideroak a try. Again, they have a free service with 2 GB so there is always the option to try before you make a decision. No matter what you do, or how you do it, backup your data. Do it now rather than later because, for all you know, your computer may be getting ready to die on you right now while you are reading this. And if you don’t have your data on a second hard drive or backed up using one of these online services you will lose your data forever.

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