How do you choose the right online backup service?
It’s important to keep an offsite backup copy of your most important files – safely stored far away from your computer in case disaster strikes. Online backup services offer a handy way to do this, but you need to weigh up your options and choose carefully before you commit yourself.
There are two main types of online storage devices. One is designed primarily with file backups in mind. The other is designed with file storage and sync in mind. They sound the same, but it’s important to appreciate the difference when choosing the right service for you. You might even find a combination of services is best, each handling different kinds of files.
Storage and sync services such as Google Drive and Dropbox create a new folder on your computer. Anything you drop into that folder is automatically copied to a secure folder on the internet. It’s also copied to a matching folder on any of your other computers which are running the software. This means you can jump between different computers, perhaps your desktop and notebook, and always have the latest versions of your documents at your fingertips.
The drawback of Google Drive and Dropbox is that you can’t just point them at your existing folders, such as your My Documents folder. You have to move everything you want synced into the new sync folder.
If you just want to backup your files and don’t care as much about syncing, you might be better off with a service designed primarily for backup. You’ll find plenty around including GeekVault, Mozy, Carbonite and Jungle Disk. One of the handy things about these options is you can tell the desktop software to backup your folders as they are, rather than having to move all your files around. They also offer a lot more flexibility in terms of what they backup, how often they backup and how fast they backup.
If you can’t throttle your backup software, you might find that it chokes your internet connection. Some backup services let you create multiple backup lists and schedule them separately to spread the load. For example you might back up the documents you’re currently working on once an hour during workdays, but only backup your photo library once a week in the evening. You might also throttle these backup jobs to different upload speeds depending on the time of day you want them to run.
Like we said, you might find that a combination of services works best. For example, Mozy might be a good option for backing up your photo library but Dropbox might be best for backing up current documents and syncing them with your other computers during the day. Take care when pointing more than one backup service at the same folder, as they can get stuck in a loop.
It’s worth checking the fine print to see which features the different services offer. For example Jungle Disk offers the best of both worlds and lets you run both backup and sync jobs side by side. You’ll also find that some backup services are restricted to one computer, while others can backup several to the one account.
It takes a long time to run your first backup to an online service, and you need to be careful if your ISP counts uploads towards your monthly limit. Considering this you don’t want to change services often. Do your research and perhaps run a few tests before you commit all your important files to an online backup service.