Before I did my first review on an online backup and recovery service I asked myself what my experience in online backup tells me and what is important to me. Certainly what is important to me is also important to other people, not all of them but I think there are some intersections. Also I think it is very important for to understand how I do my reviews of online backup services. Therefore I wanted to line out the most important things to consider when choosing an online backup service.
Requirements for online backup services
After a little bit of research I came down to 5 most important requirements that have to be met by the backup provider and these are reflected in my Top 10 Online Backup Services as well. So when I review online backup and recovery services I generally look at the following 5 facts:
1. Operating System
Fortunately, nowadays all the major OS are supported. That is Windows XP/Vista/7 and Mac OS X. If you are a Linux user however this can be quite tricky. But I guess if you use Linux then you can figure something out. I am a Mac user. However, I have a virtual machine with windows installed because I know the majority of you guys use Windows as a main OS. (Don’t worry I am not going to go into pro’s and con’s of each operating system). That said, when you use Windows you’re pretty much on the safe side.
2. Backup Routine
It is crucial that the online backup client provides a full initial backup and then builds upon this backup automatically without one noticing (this is called incremental backup). The backup system breaks your files into pieces (hey, don’t worry nothing is going to happend to your files, the have pretty sophisticated algorithms) and those pieces that are already on the server are then compared with what’s new on your physical hard drive. Just image your emails which can get very big as well, you’d have to store them all manually. If you want to backup huge quantities of data (and today this is not that difficult) it is a plus if an online backup service also offers me to send in and external drive or DVD with my data on it because it can take days until a backup is completed online.
Fast and inconspicuous
Also, I don’t want my computer to slow down while my backup is running. I you have a weak machine this can be very tedious. So it is important that the online backup service provider uses little resources on my system. I work from home and earn my money with my computer and I can’t afford to waste time. However even if you have a fast upspeed internet connection beyond 10Mbit/s it is going to take looooooong until you got you hundreds of gigabytes backed up. That’s why I highly recommend having a backup strategy in place, meaning first back up all the important files. You should do some sort of a priority list. That helped me a lot saving time and trouble early on.
This one is very important. I want to be able to set my backup frequency without much restrictions. Here, I couldn’t see much flexiblity with either of all those tested services. Sure you can set the date when you want to backup but for some people it would be important to set an exact time frame, for example while they are at work they can back up their home computer and viceversa.
Interface & Look and Feel
For me ease of use is very important and the aesthetics of the whole interface. I really want to be able to use it without having to spend hours reading a manual or watching tutorials. And I suppose you don’t want that either, right? I have included videos and screenshots from all the tested online backup services so you really get a nice idea how they look like from the inside.
3. Recovery process
What would be a backup without recovery? There you go. Nothing. That’s why I include in my reviews of online backup and recovery services always the recovery process as well. Is it fast? Is it hassle-free? Can I do it via a web client? And most importantly, do I have a backup history to select from? It has happended at least a couple of times to me that I wanted to get back to a backup I did weeks ago.
Another important thing is whether I can do partial backups. Sometimes I accidently delete a file off of my hard disk and couldn’t get it back if I had not the functionality to choose which data I want to backup and where I want to back my data up to. I really need to be able to select which data to back up and which data to recover.
I have long talked about secure online backups. But I can’t stress that enough how important the security factor really is. Do the online backup services provide sufficient keys for both client and server? Do they use the latest algorithms the encrypt my data? And last but not least: is there a protection against those so called “man in the middle” attacks? I review all that so that you can be sure to choose a secure online backup service. However, the most secure online backup service is only as secure as your computer. When you are not careful, you could potentially have a virus on your computer that could spy your passwords and hijack your private data.
The most important category, isn’t it? Well, not so much. Or: It depends. It really depends on your data. If you really have sensitive data then spending a couple of extra dollars is really worth it. You get better service, secure and reliable backups and a lot more. However, that doesn‘t mean that spending 5 bucks a month will give you bad backups. What is important to me is that every online backup service provider should provide a little free storage space to play around with. Then you can choose whether or not to upgrade to the paid version.
Final review of online backup and recovery services
Obviously there is also a final recommendation or a verdict if you will. Many of the other review sites out there use stars. I find that rather boring. Instead, I use clouds. So the more clouds a service provider gets the better it is in it’s overall performance.
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