Online Backup Service Buyers Guide 2010

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By Charles P. Jefferies

With our increasing reliance on computers to get work done, it is more important than ever to keep a secure backup copy of your files and folders. We round up five online backup solutions and pick a winner.

Online Backup Solutions

The following online backup services are participating in this comparison:

How We Test

The five online backup solutions will be objectively and subjectively rated over four categories:

  • 1. Ease of Install and Interface
  • 2. Data Security
  • 3. Feature Support
  • 4. Pricing

Solutions will be given a number for each category; higher numbers are better. Some categories are weighted more than others.

Ease of Install and Interface

This section is broken up into two subcategories:

  • 1. (2 points) General ease of install
  • 2. (5 points) Program Interface

Solution

Ease of Install

Program Interface

TOTAL

Mozy 2.0

2

5

7

Carbonite

2

5

7

CrashPlan

2

5

7

IDrive

2

4

6

SOS

2

5

7

All of the solutions received full credit in the first category; downloading and setting up the programs was straightforward.

Mozy, Carbonite, and CrashPlan have clean and streamlined interfaces; I had no trouble navigating through the program and making changes. SOS included two interfaces; a standard view and a wizard; I personally liked the wizard as it was more intuitive. IDrive displays lots of useful information but could look cleaner.

Data Security

Given these online backup programs will be sending your personal files over the Internet to the company’s servers, data security is a big concern. This section is split into two subcategories:

  • 1. (5 points) Encryption Strength
  • 2. (2 points) SSL Link

Solution

Encryption Strength

SSL Link

TOTAL

Mozy 2.0

5

2

7

Carbonite

5

2

7

CrashPlan

5

0

5

IDrive

5

2

7

SOS

5

2

7

I like to see online backup services take three steps to securing data:

  • The data is encrypted locally before sending it to the company’s servers
  • The data is sent to the company’s servers over an SSL link
  • The data is stored in an encrypted format on the company’s servers

And naturally, the same data should also be sent across an SSL link to you in an encrypted format when you want to restore data.

Nearly all of the solutions we tested did this. For example, IDrive uses 256-bit AES encryption locally, sends it to the company’s servers via SSL, and then stores the data with 256-bit AES encryption on the company’s servers. Other solutions such as Mozy use 448-bit Blowfish encryption, which is also quite secure. CrashPlan does everything right except it does not use an SSL link while sending the data. If anyone gets a hold of the data in transit, it is highly unlikely they will be able to crack the 448-bit Blowfish encryption, but I still prefer to have the data sent over an SSL link.

Feature Support

All of the solutions we reviewed backup and restore data very well; however, some offer additional features that are worth noting. This section is divided into three subcategories:

  • 1. (1 point) Remote Access
  • 2. (1 point) Continuous Backup Support
  • 3. (2 points) Archiving/Versioning Support

Solution

Remote Access

Continuous Backup Support

Archiving/Versioning Support

TOTAL

Mozy 2.0

1

0

1

2

Carbonite

1

1

0

2

CrashPlan

1

0

0

1

IDrive

1

1

2

4

SOS

1

1

2

4

Remote access via a web browser is provided by all services; this is handy if you need to access your data while away from your computer.

Continuous backup support, where the program will monitor your data and back it up as changes are made in real time, is not offered by Mozy or CrashPlan; depending on the type of user you are, this may be a deal breaker for you. CrashPlan only allows for continuous backup if you pay $60 to upgrade to CrashPlan+; this is on top of the subscription cost.

Lastly and arguably most importantly, archiving/versioning support is something in my opinion that should be offered by all backup services. SOS and IDrive are the only two services that offer true versioning support — that is, they keep up to 30 versions of a file. Mozy only gets partial credit since it only keeps versions created in the last 30 days.

Pricing

The solutions tested each offer a number of different subscription plans, which are summarized below:

  • CrashPlan: $54/year — unlimited
  • MozyHome: $4.95/month — unlimited
  • Carbonite: $54.95/year — unlimited
  • SOS: $9.95/month or $99.95/year — 50GB
  • IDrive: $4.95-14.95/month or $49.50-149.50/year — 150GB/500GB

Going with a yearly package means you paid for a year of service; paying per month is slightly more expensive but means you are not stuck paying for a years’ worth of service at once.

Online backup is like insurance; the price is important up-front however once needed, that is less of a concern. For that reason I am not giving any of these products a value rating, though I am awarding one point to the solutions that offer unlimited storage space.

Three of the solutions — CrashPlan, Mozy, and Carbonite — offer unlimited storage space for roughly the same price. However, CrashPlan does not have the same feature support as the other solutions for that price; users must upgrade to CrashPlan+ if they want to get rid of the ads in the free version, and this is on top of the subscription cost. It loses one point in the base version feature support category because of that.

IDrive has a 150GB cap for a single user and offers a 500GB package for those wanting to back up to five computers to one account. SOS is by far the most expensive, offering the smallest amount of storage for the highest price. There is some meaning behind that high price, however; SOS has the most comprehensive feature set. One stand-out feature of the software is that though it supports versioning, it only counts the most recent version of the file against your storage limit.

Solution

Unlimited Storage?

Base Version Feature Support

TOTAL

Mozy 2.0

1

1

2

Carbonite

1

1

2

CrashPlan

1

0

1

IDrive

0

1

1

SOS

0

1

1

 

Conclusion

Solution

Install/Interface

Data Security

Feature Support

Pricing

TOTAL

Mozy 2.0

7

7

2

2

18

Carbonite

7

7

2

2

18

CrashPlan

7

5

1

1

14

IDrive

6

7

4

1

18

SOS

7

7

4

1

19

 

SOS takes first place with a one-point margin of victory; while the most expensive and offering the least amount of storage space, it has the most comprehensive feature support. I especially like its versioning/archiving support, which is second to none in this roundup.

Those that need more storage space will want to look to one of our second-place contenders: Mozy and Carbonite. Both scored equally well in all categories — make sure you read our reviews of each to pick the one that best suits you.

All of the backup solutions we tested performed well and individually received our recommendation: I would not have a problem using or recommending any of the solutions in this roundup.

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