Online backup providers – a winner at last

UPDATE:  The information in this page is out of date and although I am leaving it here for archive purposes, please do not rely on the advice.  Today, I only use Backblaze for Mac and Timemachine backups.

I’ve been using online backup services for a couple of years now – both personally and professionally.  I often find myself disappointed with one or more services and end up switching every six months or so but I think that I have finally found a keeper.

During the past couple of years, I have been using the following services:

Data Deposit Box –    This has been my mainstay for business use for a couple of years.  Its main advantage is the ability to set up and administer multiple users.  The majority of other online backup solutions seem to be aimed at individual use and are not great when you want to have a single billing account but also be able to keep your user’s backups separate and private.  Data Deposit Box does this well.

Its biggest disadvantage is cost.  As the pricing model is based on capacity.. when you have multiple users, this can start to stack up pretty quickly.  Unless their pricing structure changes, I will continue to look for a better, more cost effective solution that allows me to use multiple and separate user accounts.  No luck so far.  This is a nice service that offers a “briefcase” style of data sharing.  I have been using this in business as a simple, peer-to-peer replacement for file sharing.  Any file place in the “drop box” gets replicated to all other “sharers”.  It works well but is not ideal.

Capacity.  All the files being shared are copied onto your local computer (although this can be tweaked a little).  This means that all users need to have the available disk space to maintain all the copies of the files being shared.  This can be problematic.

Pricing.  Dropbox works on a freemium model – you get 2Gb for free, if you need more – then you need to pay.  This is fine for one or perhaps two users.. but if you have a company with 10 or more users this pricing can quickly become prohibitive (10 users @ $120 = $1200 per year).  This is especially true when you combine this pricing model with the capacity issue above – that 2Gb freemium model is the total capacity for all shared users; in today’s world, this limit can quickly be reached.

Mozy Backup –  Mozy is a decent choice for home backup.  It has a number of benefits that includes unlimited capacity for a reasonable monthly fee ($5 per month).  This price is per computer and so will raise the price if your household has a number of PC’s or you are a small business.  But for the price is fairly reasonable.  My main issue with Mozy is the performance.. it is slow to backup and so slow that I think it reduces the benefit completely – this is especially the case if you are trying to back up large amounts of data to ensure that you can take advantage of the “unlimited” offer.  This was my backup provider of choice for personal use until LiveDrive.

LiveDrive –  LiveDrive works a bit like the other two providers.. it offers online backups like Data Deposit Box (and other similar providers) and it also offers a “briefcase” model similar to DropBox.  There are a couple of key differences that make LiveDrive a clear winner for me for personal or SME use.

Unlimited Capacity.  LiveDrive costs £4 per month for backup onle and £10 per month for backup+briefcase.. but the price is not based on capacity.. you are provided with unlimited storage capacity for this fee.  This quickly becomes a clear winner when compared with most other providers.

iPhone App.  The LiveDrive iPhone app is fantastic and pretty much seals the deal.  All of your backup files are available to you on your iPhone – in a readable/playable format.  You can browse your letters and other documents and read them directly from your iPhone.   If you back up your music – you can play it on your iPhone (streamed).  If you backup your photos – you can view them and create slide shows on your iPhone.  It is truly impressive and simply trumps everything else currently on the market.

In summary, I would highly recommend that you start using an online provider for both your personal and business use.  There are many providers on the market and I have briefly reviewed a handful.  For personal use, I would highly recommend LiveDrive – especially if you are an iPhone user..

UPDATE 4-Feb-2010:  After comments to this blog, I really investigate the security of LiveDrive and was left unimpressed.  There appears to be no security on their servers – and so despite you files being stored behind “enterprise grade” firewalls, there was nothing but policy protecting your files from prying eyes of employees etc.

I love their iPhone app – and will use LiveDrive for photos and music, but any and all personal and/or confidential files have now been removed from their servers and I have moved to Carbonite to satisfy this need which appears to be an extremely secure and reliable provider.

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