Online Backup Solutions

I’m in favor of the idea of backing up data offsite to avoid disasters and their effects. Living in California, where we overdo it in both earthquakes and fires, data safety is essential. While I was working on my dissertation research and the dissertation itself, I would back all of it up on a CD every few months and mail the CD to my wife’s relatives living across the country.

These days, it should be easier to do offsite backup, but our data is much bigger, too. Companies like Mozy and Carbonite offer unlimited online backup for reasonable monthly fees. Jungle Disk is a pay-as-you go plan that uses Amazon S3 or RackSpace Cloud for storage (since those commercial services charge by the GB, that cost is passed on to the customer).

I use Mozy on my Windows PC and it mostly works (on the PC, I’ll talk about Mac in a minute). The biggest problem with Mozy (and if you read all the complaints on the web, Carbonite too) is that it is so slow. I use the PC in a building and on a campus that has gigabit speeds all the way to the internet provider, yet the upload speed was always kilobits per second or maybe 1 mpbs. And there were long periods of time where the upload rate was 0, yet the internet connection was fine. Clearly Mozy throttles bandwidth and sometimes even stops uploads. This is apparently a really big problem if you need to restore a few hundred GB of data. Mozy and the others don’t really have a good solution to this. At least the services, such as Jungle Disk, based on commercial storage clouds can’t do as much bandwidth throttling, because the cloud owners manage the networks and it is in their best interest to make access fast (and they likely don’t know or care what data is being stored there).

While Mozy is tolerable on my PC, it was completely worthless on my Mac. I designated a few hundred MB of files, including my Quicken file and other documents that I couldn’t afford to lose. Mozy claimed it was done backing up for months, yet when I checked into it, it had apparently only backed up a single 42KB file. So I had a false sense of security, but really was completely unprotected, which is intolerable. Therefore, I deleted Mozy forever from my Mac and will delete it from my PC when my subscription expires in a couple months.

I have recently been trying CrashPlan on my Mac, which is pretty nifty. It manages both online backup and backup to local storage. It seems to have a family plan for a very reasonable rate, but for the moment, I’m using the 30 day free trial, and the online backup has been fast (my cable modem’s full upload rate). The backups to local storage also work fine, though it seems to have a bit of trouble remembering to be able to use a disk image on a network file server as a backup destination. But overall, CrashPlan seems like a pretty good solution to backup, plus would make restoration from local backup fast and easy while remote restores would obviously be slower, but available in case of disaster.

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