Answers You Need about Online Backup Services

The recent agreement for HP to provide a free trial of Norton’s Symantec Backup on new consumer PCs demonstrates the growing acceptance of online backup solutions. When looking at online backup, please remember the following.

Backup is Easy; Recovery is the Challenge

If you keep this in mind, the focus of your comparison shifts from price to how well the service will help you recover from a lost file, failed disk, or system catastrophe. Having answers to the following questions will help you make a better choice.

1. How many generations does the backup provide?

Many of the low cost services only provide a single generation of each file. Even if the retention period is 30 days before deleted files are removed from the backup set, only the most recent version of the file is available. This type of service fails when you need a version of a file from Tuesday that you also edited on Wednesday.

Look for services that keep multiple generations, at least daily, of your data.

2. How long is the retention period?

Some of the most popular online backup services limit retention to 30, or as few as 7, days. In doing so, recovering a files may not be possible if you are unaware they were deleted more than 30, or even 7, days prior to the attempted restore.

Look for services that let you select the retention period you need for each type of data you need to protect.

3. What restore methods are available?

Every online backup service offers online restores. Even with broadband, FiOS, or other high speed connections, restoring large amounts of data over the Internet takes time. Some services limit the size of each restore, requiring multiple iterations to restore a full system. While some services will ship DVDs for an added fee, restoring from multiple DVDs is time consuming and requires constant monitoring.

Look for services that offer services like MobileVault, which will deliver a full copy of your data vault by courier or FedEx. Restores run computer-to-computer over the local network in a fraction of the time required for restores over the Internet.

4. How secure is your data?

Nearly all services provide advanced encryption to standards such as AES128 and AES256. If the service, however, offers a back-door for restores should you forget your encryption keys, your data may not be truly secure.

Look for services using one-way encryption methods that do not allow the service’s employees to access your data.

Taking these considerations into effect, the number of online backup services from which to choose narrows greatly. And when you look at price, you will see the “enterprise” class services are not much more expensive than “consumer” and “cheap” solutions. When looking at online backup services, you get what you pay for.