Online backup is my preferred method of backup. I love hands-free automatic backups and the fact that my data is stored in a different geographical location. It’s simple, secure and fast. Having said that, I must admit that there are several shortcomings to online backup. The good news is that there are easy ways to overcome these shortcomings.
Large Backups Hog Bandwidth
Problem: One of the primary disadvantages of using an online backup solution is that you have to upload your data via the internet. If you have a large backup set, this hogs bandwidth and it can take forever to complete your initial backup.
Solution #1: There are a couple things you can do to get over this shortcoming. First, you can find a backup provider that offers incremental backups. Incremental backups work by only backing up data that is new and data that has changed since the last backup. If you can just deal with the first large backup, your subsequent backups will be much smaller and faster.
Solution #2: If you have an extraordinarily large backup, you can also look for a data backup provider that offers a data shuffle service. For example, Mozy offers a data shuffle service in which they mail a large external drive to your home or office.
All you have to do is connect the drive to your computer and transfer the files over. When you’re finished, you can ship the drive back to Mozy and they will move your data over to their own servers.
Security is Out of Your Hands
Problem: When you use a third party to back up your data, you simply have to trust that they will do a good job. Security is out of your hands in this case. If the backup provider implements lax security standards, your data could be at risk.
Solution #1: Do your research and find backup providers with clean reputations. Take a look at a few of the largest backup providers and use Google to look for customer complaints and news reports of data loss episodes.
You can also visit the websites of backup providers to read about their security standards. Look for backup companies that provide encryption-on-transfer, encryption-on-storage and a zero-knowledge approach to backup.
A zero-knowledge approach is the most important because it means the backup company implements such great security standards that even the employees of the company have no way to access or view your files.
Solution #2: Encrypt your files before you upload. You can take security back into your own hands by encrypting your data before you back it up online. Even if your company is hacked or a bunch of employees go rogue, they have zero access to your data. You can visit TrueCrypt.org for a simple and free encryption solution.
Storage Space can be Expensive
Problem: Storage space itself isn’t terribly expensive, but the costs can skyrocket if you have large backup sets. Individuals and businesses with large data needs can quickly end up paying more than they anticipated.
Solution: Look for an unlimited online backup provider. Backup companies such as Carbonite and Backblaze have cheap plans that give you unlimited backup space for one computer. Use these plans for your largest drives to save money.
Unlimited backup is inexpensive because each account works for one computer. Since most people don’t have large backup sets, backup companies can afford to offer unlimited space to everyone. From the backup company’s point of view, the cost of your large data set is offset by all the other people who have much smaller storage needs.
Backup Companies can go out of Business
Problem: Once again, you are trusting your data to a third party. If that company goes out of business, you will have to migrate your data over to a new backup company. Or in the worst case scenario, the company folds without a warning and you lose your backups.
Solution: Always combine online backups with offline backups. Online backups are convenient, but they are not perfect. It is a good idea to back up your data to an external hard drive occasionally. That way, you have maximum protection from all worst case scenarios.
Image Credit: JM3