Best Online Backups

5 Best Online Backup for Linux – 2014 Edition

Time was when Linux was only reserved for geeks who were super bright- and for good reason. One had to be very familiar with the OS. You had to compile the kernel, hardware drives and modules you’d want to use. These included those that the system required and difficult to remember names and terms. Important, too, was a good knowledge of command line commands. Not an easy task.

That was the history. But Linux is not just meant for the few who can deal with the complicated. In fact, it is one of the most important operating systems that most end users aren’t familiar with. Why? Because most of the internet is running on Linux or a derivative thereof. It  matters little that Windows and Mac OS X are successful ,reliable and good for end users and companies. It is Linux that is running the show as it relates to the infrastructure behind the internet and telecom worldwide.

Linux For Desktop

Fast forward to the present. Today, Linux is not just for geeks and servers. Indeed, Linux has moved into desktops. Before Ubuntu there were Linux distributors like Fedora, CentOS and SuSE Linux for desktop users. They didn’t exactly rewrite history in the industry as Canonical did with Ubuntu even though they were good distributors. Creators of Ubuntu concentrated on easy usability for desktop users. They also were interested in compatibility with most hardware. This included drivers of all popular hardware. Important, too, were initial system support and good marketing.

As a result, Linux desktops have grown in popularity. There are alternatives to Ubuntu.  A host of Linux distributions based on Ubuntu or other distributions exist; but they’re created for the desktop experience.

Does Linux Need Backup?

How many sysadmins know about backup and use it effectively? You’d be surprised. Advanced users of Linux know about the importance of backups. And they are proficient and possess the technical knowledge to perform it. However what they really do in most cases is Local Backup. That is to say they backup to NAS external hard drives or some other home office file servers.

But it really depends a lot on individual experience for desktop Linux users. Some Linux users are not as competent as sysadmins. While their knowledge may be increasing, they may not know about the importance of having proper backups. Even so, they are probably doing local backups we think.

Local Backups Ain’t Enough?

In a word, no! We can’t emphasize enough that local backups are not the definitive answer for protecting your data.  We reiterate our previous posts: local backups can be good solutions except that they almost always use hard drives. According to Google, 6% of hard drives can fail without warning in their first year. Not so safe.

A real fool proof and fail-proof solution is to use what we refer to as a “3-2-1 backup plan”. It is a strategy everyone should use. How effective is it? It can endure any kind of apocalypse including zombie outbreaks. And that’s good!

We won’t reprise the whole plan but part of it includes using online backups or cloud backups. But without further discussion, here are our 5 best cloud backup services.


Summary

Rank Provider Starting
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1


$2.5/mo Read Review Visit Site

2

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3

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4

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5

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Winner – CrashPlan – From $2.5/mo

Hands down, CrashPlan is the best in this list. It has awesome software which enables you to do much more than online backups. And its cloud backup service is equally impressive.

All other cloud backup platforms’ software let you backup online only. Crashplan is different. Its desktop client software allows you to backup your files to external hard drives without any costs. This includes NAS other computers you own or your friends. That’s amazing.  Cross-platform compatibility isn’t a problem as the software runs on Mac, Windows and Linux. And it’s free. It runs on Java but it doesn’t eat much system resources. We’ve heard that their developing native applications for both Linux and Mac. Thus it’s a good way to get some off-site backup if you have remote PCs.

For added safety you can buy their cloud storage service called CrashPlan+. There are currently three plans. First, CrashPlan+10GB will give you 10GB storage for $2.50/month per computer. Then ther is CrashPlan+ Unlimited which permits backup data without any limit on the number of gigabytes you can store. The cost for limitless storage is $5 a month per computer. Next is CrashPlan+ Family Unlimited which is the best among its offers if you have more than one computer. For only $10 a month you can backup between 2 and 10 computers. And there’s no limit on storage. So even if you have 5TB worth of data on each you are protected. Buying the plan for 4 years will enable you to the lowest price for all three plans.

CrashPlan also stands out for its versioning system. Some providers keep your files’ previous versions for 30 days or 90 days. But unless you specify the duration for them, CrashPlan will keep them forever. You can set purging parameters, too.  What’s really super is even if you’re subscribed to the 10GB plan, old versions will not count against your quota.

This is not the only reason Crashplan is outstanding. Its fine-tuned controls on bandwidth usage and CPU utilization will astound you. Most online backup providers offer certain amounts of such control, but CrashPlan outdoes them.  It allows you to set precise usage maximums for bandwidth over WAN,LAN and CPU utilization. You control how much to use whether your computer is in use or is idle.

The software interface is very tidy and attractive. Settings, configuration and all are accessible. You don’t have to fiddle, fret or use Google for answers. Some other features are neat as well. There’s advanced scheduling and multiple backup destination. This is for your own off-site remote backup as well as CrashPlan storage.

When it’s time to restore you can do it either via the software or by request for hard drive with your data. Expect to pay $125-$165 based on how fast you need it.

Visit CrashPlan


2. JungleDisk – From $2/mo

You’ll flip over JungleDisk if you like ala carte pricing. Their software will process all that needs to be backed up. This includes encryption and navigation through their infrastructure. But JD doesn’t touch the storage part. All data storage will be on either AmazonS3 or Rackspace Cloud. For complete control you can choose where you want your data stored. In fact, JungleDisk is a subsidiary of Rackspace.

For a personal user, you can select the pretty good Simply Backup Plan for $2 a month. But it doesn’t do anything but backup your files. On the other hand, the Desktop Edition for $3 a month will provide features similar to Dropbox. This option will mount your online storage as a virtual drive on your computer. This is okay if settle for a traditional backup plan plus a form of online storage similar to a drive. However, the fees cover just 5GB of free storage and use of the desktop client software.. Above the initial 5GB free storage you will have to pay for what you use. It costs 14 cents per GB for AmazonS3 and 15 cents per GB for storage space at Rackspace. But before choosing, be aware that AmazoS3 charges for bandwidth and data requests too. And at a few cents per 1000 requests it can be a hassle to just calculate your true cost. Rackspace doesn’t charge for those things so their storage is actually cheaper.

Platform compatibility is not an issue as JD will work with Windows, Mac and Linux. There is also an app for iOS.

Another good thing about JungleDisk is you can back up unlimited numbers of computers. And if versioning is critical for you, you can even determine how long you want to keep older files. Naturally you will have to pay for that.

Visit JungleDisk


3. Dropbox – From Free

Everyone knows Dropbox. It’s one of the best online data storage and syncing services around. It is the essence of ease and simplicity. That and its awesome syncing features make it one of the best, if not the best backup choice. DB client software operates across platforms and is available for Linux, Mac and Windows. Dropbox ‘s client software has similar features across all platforms- unlike some of the other contenders on our list.

Notable is that with Dropbox you get 2GB for free. By inviting friends/referrals through links to your account you get an additional 500MB per invitee. You can also acquire additional bonus space by doing things like downloading a mobile app and linking it to your account. In total, you can accumulate up to 16GB of free space from referrals and completing DB “quests”.  Or you can purchase space. 50GB will cost you $9.99 and 100GB will set you back $19.99 per month.

Upon installation Dropbox will create sort of a “magic folder” in your computer. Simply drop files into it and it will upload and sync to all other devices you own and have linked to the same DB account. Another thing, the cross-platform option doesn’t stop with computers. Native applications for several mobile platforms such as Android, iOS, BlackBerry and even Windows Phone are available. Thus you can access your files on your mobile devices as well as through its web-based client.

Visit Dropbox


4. Ubuntu One – From Free

Ubuntu One is Ubuntu’s answer to Dropbox. If you are a Linux user you will be familiar with them. Similar to Dropbox as it contains all of the syncing functions, it also features a music streaming service if you are a paying user.

Originally only developed for Ubuntu, now it can be used on Windows, too. It also can be used on any Linux distributions that are based on Ubuntu- such as Linux mint. If you want your Ubuntu One data to be available on mobile, there are apps on Android and iOS. Both of them also have music streaming capabilities. Presently you can get 5GB of storage with the free account.  With that come most of the standard features you’d expect from an online syncing service like Dropbox. For just $3.99 per month you can get 20GB storage and music streaming capability. The music will be cached to your mobile which allows for offline listening enjoyment. Additional service is available for $2.99 a month for each 20GB block. And you can add as many as you want. What’s more, if you buy any songs from the Ubuntu Music Store, you will be entitled to 20GB storage and free music streaming for 6 months. Pretty cool!

Ubuntu One like Dropbox is not a complete backup solution. However it is a darn good data syncing service. It could be a lifesaver should you need it as it will protect your important data from all the devices you use.

Visit Ubuntu One


5. SpiderOak – From Free

We treasure our privacy yet on the web we are giving away a lot of our private information to corporations and governments. Online backup doesn’t except us from this as companies and governments can have access to our data. The only way to protect ourselves from prying eyes is to encrypt data before backing up. And, of course, not let anyone have the key for decryption. This requires much work and many folks don’t want to go to the trouble. Plus, it doesn’t make for very smooth backup workflow. So it’s less than ideal in our opinion.

If you identify with this scenario, then you will love SpiderOak. Their motto is “zero knowledge privacy”. This basically means that no one from SO or anyone else apart from you can have access to your data. Even if a government agency came to SpiderOak with a warrant asking for your data, they wouldn’t be able to decrypt it. The reason is because SO is unlike other cloud storage and backup solutions. They will not store the key to decrypting the data- your password. It never leaves your computer. All your data gets encrypted even before it is uploaded. There is double security as your data gets encrypted again once it’s on their servers.

SpiderOak offers a free 2GB account forever. There’s no issue with using it on Linux as its desktop app will work on Mac OS X, windows and Linux. While it may seem to be syncing software, it is in fact a bundle of syncing and backup. There are also apps for iOS, Android and Nokia N900 Macmo!

Personal plans are either the free 2GB plan or Plus+ which offers 100GB storage for $10 per month. Each 100GB increment will cost an additional $10. And you can backup unlimited computers and hard drives.

Visit SpiderOak


Conclusion

Linux is superb OS.  And chances of you losing data because of system error are slim. But you should always have an appropriate backup setup for hardware issues. Hard drives can still crash. But you can rest easy if you’ve a good backup solution in place.

Summary

Rank Provider Starting
Price
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1


$2.5/mo Read Review Visit Site

2

$2/mo Read Review Visit Site

3

Free Read Review Visit Site

4

Free Read Review Visit Site

5

Free Read Review Visit Site

Carbonite Review – 2014

Summary

Well established business with a good reputation. Price and space are reasonable, however support for Mac OSX leaves a little to be desired. You can read a detailed review below or sign up now.

Carbonite has been around for a long time now and is likely the best know cloud backup service around. It is also one of the most heavily advertised, if you go to any tech blog, it’s highly likely at least one of the ads on display will be for Carbonite. They focus primarily on  providing simplicity and unlimited backup space for Personal Plan users, and well supported premium backup features for Pro Plan and Server users. In our experience, their software and web interface have been very intuitive and among of the easiest to use. Alongside the web interface, Carbonite offers a desktop client, as well as apps for your smartphone (Android and iOS), which allow you to access your files on the go.

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5 Best Cloud Backups for your NAS 2014

Despite being huge advocates of online backups, there is no single failsafe solution for your backup data. Although it’s miles ahead of randomly backing up files to an external hard drive, you need to add at least one more layer of protection. Because if your single point of backup fails, your data will be gone for good.

Wait, are you saying the cloud can fail?

Well, not exactly.

Most reputable backup companies will use either Amazon S3, Rackspace, or have their own data centers. All of the backup providers we have reviewed here have redundancy layers, as well as strict protocols in place to prevent any of their employees tampering with your precious data.

Of course it’s not impossible that your data could become corrupt on the cloud, but the chances of that are next to none. Your local data is at much greater risk.

The only real problem with using only cloud backups is restoration speed.

In the event of a data disaster, restoring a terabyte of data through an internet connection could take days, in some cases even longer. Do you really want to be at the mercy of your ISP when it comes to recovering those irreplaceable files? Or do you want immediate access? The difference of a few days for data restoration could mean significant financial damage in a business environment too. This is where local backups come into play.

You might argue that internet speed has significantly increased over the last few years, and in many way’s you would be right. But, unless you live in Japan or Korea, it’s highly unlikely that you have a fiber optic internet connection. Heck, in the Western world there are still many ISPs that impose bandwidth restrictions.

Even if you are one of the lucky people who does happen to have fiber to the door, or even just really good unlimited bandwidth ADSL, it’s still going to be significantly slower to restore your data from a cloud service than from local media.

But here’s the thing, cloud backups are not really designed for restoring from. The whole point of cloud backups is as an extra offsite layer of protection in case the absolute worst happens and you not only lose your data but your local backup too. Then the cloud is there to save you.

Ok, so which local backup media should I use?

Right now, hard drives are the most common back up media. Hard drives are cheap, fast, and easily accessible. Unlike tape backups, hard drives require little to no extra hardware and are much easier to use. Unless you are some huge corporation, tapes are only really used for archiving. For local constant backups, hard drives are the media of choice.

Of course, we’re not saying to ONLY rely on hard drives, that would be foolish. But as a component of a full backup plan, they are excellent.

When it comes to employing hard drives in your backup plan, there are two main options: external hard drives, or NAS devices. Which one you choose will largely depend on the amount of data you have. If you only have a laptop with a small amount of personal data on it, an external hard drive may work for you. But if you require more storage, or are running a small company, then a NAS device starts to make a lot of sense.

Sure, NAS devices still use hard drives, but they have a lot more features to offer than standard external drives. Depending on how you configure them, they can have several layers of redundancy, a lot faster speed, and much larger storage volumes compared to using single drives.

3 – 2 – 1 Backup Plan

You’ve heard us talk a lot about the failsafe 3-2-1 backup plan, so we won’t go into that. But in case you don’t know what it’s all about, it’s basically a setup that has 3 copies of data, 2 different kinds of storage media and 1 offsite location.

That’s 2 different media for local backups. But the question often arises as to what to use. Hard drives are always one of those media. In terms of accessibility, speed and price, nothing beats them. For the other media, the choices vary depending on your needs. For that, read our article on 3 – 2 -1 where it’s explained in detail.

Image courtesy of Drobo.com

Like we touched on before, using NAS with mirrored RAID significantly reduces the risk of losing data from hard drive failure. NAS being an acronym for “Network Attached Storage”, means that the device connects to your network through either LAN or WiFi. Depending on the NAS device you use, you can install anywhere from one to a large number of hard drives inside. Of course the amount of drives the device takes will be reflected in the price. NAS devices are made specifically for the purpose of file handling, which means that you get a lot of extra features that you wouldn’t have if you used normal external hard drives.

One of the primary advantages of a NAS device is in its RAID capability. Basically, this is software or hardware based configuration that dictates how the NAS will use the installed hard drives. There are a few different kinds of RAID configurations, but the main two are: striping and mirroring. Striping multiple disks will allow you to use several hard drives as a single volume. The advantage of this is not only in storage capability, but in vastly increased read/write speed too. Mirroring, on the other hand, does exactly as the name implies. It takes your data and makes copies of it across all of the allocated disks so that if one drive fails, you can swap in another and the system will rebuild that part of the backup without interrupting your usage. For more information, check out the wikipedia page for NAS.

However, backing up to NAS is not as simple as copy and paste. You still need to set up scheduled automated backups to really harness the power of it. Otherwise your data is going to be a right mess. Maybe if you were very meticulous you could do it manually, but it’s painstakingly time consuming, and we’re sure you have better things you’d like to do with your time. This is what backup software is for, after all.

Backing Up The NAS

So, now that you are backing up to your NAS device, does it still make sense to backup to the cloud from your computer? You could do that, but there is a better way. Because the cloud serves as redundancy for your backup, and your NAS holds the copy of your backup, why not send the data from your NAS directly to the cloud? It’s a really effective solution, and saves you from running two simultaneous backup streams from your computer.

So, lets get started. Here are the 5 best cloud backup providers that you can use to backup your NAS device. Check them out in detail after the summary.

 

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5 Best Online Backups For Windows (Vista, Win 7, Win 8) – 2014 Edition

Imagine this: in an hours time you have to give a presentation to a big potential client to secure a new contract worth millions of dollars for your company over the coming years, and a big promotion for you. You’ve been working on this for weeks, and as you add the final touches to your powerpoint presentation… Click.. Click.. Click… your hard drive dies. You made a backup to a usb drive two weeks ago, but you’ve been working around the clock since, so… it’s useless. Your competitor comes in, well prepared, and wins the contract.

Surely disasters like this can be avoided?

Well, they can, and it’s easy too. What you need is software that automatically backs up all of your data straight to the cloud. Software like this runs in the background, and if a disaster strikes, you can simply log into your account through any web browser and access the files you need. You can even choose from versions of the file spanning weeks back.

For between $5-10 a month, you can have this ultimate security and peace of mind. That’s about the price of two cups of coffee. Not expensive right? Especially when we look at what it could save us in the long run.

But which provider should I go for?

So far we have reviewed 62 backup providers, below I will list the top 5 backup providers for windows and explain why we like them.

Difference Between Online Backup and Online Storage – 2014 Edition

When the “cloud” became popular, there were questions all around. “What the heck is the cloud?”, “What does it mean by putting it on the cloud?” and so forth. Fact of the matter is terminologies and acronyms actually confuse people a lot. When it first started, we knew those online services as “SaaS”, which is an acronym of Software as a Service. However, later the term “cloud” became more popular and widely used.

With cloud technologies becoming cheaper and a lot more accessible, companies are coming up with really clever ways of using these new technologies to provide and create values for customers. The data storage industry is no different. In fact, cloud technologies and infrastructure give to mass consumers what was once a luxury only major corporations could enjoy – online remote storage and backup.

Again here, there are three 3 leading technologies within this “cloud storage” space, and the names sound so darn similar that normal users can easily get confused. Although their names seem similar, they are in fact quite different in mechanics and the value they provide to customers.

Among them, I will be explaining about the differences between “online backup” and “online storage”. The differences may be just a word for you, but how things work, and how useful they are will vary. Here is one thing common for both of them: they store data on the cloud.

Online Backup

Online backup involves storing data online, sure, but it is not merely data storage. There are several key differences in the technologies between “online storage” and “online backup”. Online backup actually allows users to create multiple copies of their data from different points in time – we call this versioning. Basically, you will have one file which you have modified over the course of 14 days. With online backup, you can access previous versions of the same files, as long as the online backup provider allows. Many providers allow for at least 30-days versioning and some like CrashPlan even allow unlimited versioning.

This process of creating “versions” of your files gives you the option to roll back to an older version whenever you need, so that you won’t be overwriting bad data over good data. Additionally, online backups enjoy more security features such as encryption in both the transfer and storage of data. Another benefit is automated backup functions. Basically, files are backed up according to a schedule or continuously without any user’s interventions.

Online Storage

Then what about “online storage”? Think of online storage as an external hard drive, but one that exists on the cloud, for which you can purchase additional storage easily. In layman’s terms, online storage is using rented server space like an external hard drive. Of course, this is simplifying everything so behind-the-scenes is a lot more complex than you can imagine. These storage space are located in a data center somewhere.

You can access your online storage using an Internet connection anywhere, and if the provider allows, mobile apps as well. Then you can transfer files and folders between your computer and your online storage drive by simply dragging-and-dropping. So basically, online storage is designed to make things easy for regular access, share and syncing your files across multiple devices. Syncing is really useful for people who work on multiple computers and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. With syncing capabilities, you get access to your up-to-date data no matter where you are

What should you use?

It definitely depends on what you really need. Personally, I need and use both. I always backup all of my important files in case a technology catastrophe or natural disaster were to strike. I also have online storage services like Dropbox and Spideroak so that all my documents and files that need to be regularly accessed are always at hand. So depending on your useage, what you need to use will be different. If you want online storage, then go after Dropbox, Spideroak andSugarSync. If you are looking for a good online backup, then check out Carbonite and CrashPlan.

Online Backup vs. Offline Backup – Differences, Pros and Cons – 2014 Edition

When we talk about backups, people will immediately see having DVDs, tapes, or external hard drives with copies of our important data on them. Many will also think about offsite remote backups such as backing up to a cloud storage provider.

For both personal and and business uses, a good backup strategy always involves having redundancy in case of the failure of one backup copy. Unfortunately, many don’t practice it. The common misconception is that if you have one external backup locally, it’s good enough. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Disasters can end your business

In 2010, Nashville, TN got hit by a violent storm. At first it was just a thunderstorm but then it turned into a fully-fledged disaster with floods and lightning. Many houses and business were flooded. Fresh water was a luxury at that time. With the flood, all local backups were damaged and gone. What happened next? Business disasters ensued.

Very recently, a friend of mine in Vietnam had a fire in his office building. Thank god it didn’t burn everything down to ashes but several offices were burned, along with his data backups. He is running a professional HR consultancy and headhunting business. So you can guess what kind of consequences he had to go through after that. Loss of information contributed to his eventual loss of business. Scary, isn’t it?

What about personal users?

A legit question. If any disaster strikes, personal users won’t lose their businesses. But our lives are becoming more and more dependent on computers. Huge chunks of memories are stored on your computers and mobiles. Those hundreds of photos from last trip to Europe? They are on your computer. What about your 3 hour long wedding video? It’s also on your computer and maybe on a Bluray disc. If you are a student, then pretty sure you will have your assignments and coursework on your computer too. So imagine losing all of that data. Yeah, sure your revenue stream may not be gone. But it’s still pretty darn painful.

But all is not lost. With proper backup strategy, we can safely make digital copies of your life and your business data. Multiple copies, at multiple locations. When it comes to data safety, never assume the lowest risk. That’s the rule of thumb.

Options at your fingertip

There are two main options for backup. Onsite, offline backup, and remote, online backup. People are already familiar with both, but remain bewildered with the question of why the heck they have to use both. The answers are already clear and given above. So I will skip that part. Let’s move on to available options.

Offline Backup

Basically, offline backup refers to using any local and offline data storage such as DVDs, CDs (who uses CDs nowadays anyway?), Bluray discs, external hard drives, tape drives, memory cards, USB thumb drives and whatnot. So what are the main advantages and disadvantages?

Pros

Fast backup and restore. If you have tons of data, you will know exactly what this means. Even with a really fast Internet connection, backing up and restoring 200GB of data isn’t always that fast. Even at small data storage amount such as 3GB, having a local backup at hand is always much faster for both purposes.

Easily accessible. Another advantage of local offline backups is that they are readily available at your office or home. You just need to plug them in and start backing up, or do the restoring if necessary.

Better safety. This one is in fact quite ambiguous. If you let everybody in your office or household have access to your offline backup media, then it won’t be safe. Not at all. However, offline backup media do enjoy protection from cyber security breaches (provided that they are not networked drives with an internet connection, of course).

Mobility. All of these offline backup media also let you carry them around. This is not really a good idea if we are talking about external hard drives, but still, you can easily move them around and store them at other locations, or just carry them with you for safety purposes.

Cons

Natural disasters can kill them. It’s true. Even if you buy the world’s best and most protected external hard drive or Bluray discs, they are still prone to disasters like fire, tornadoes, thunderstorms (seriously, a power surge due to thunderstorms can fry all of your hard drives), floods and whatnot. Those vulnerabilities just make offline data backup less desirable to use exclusively.

Prone to theft. There are always going to be cases of theft, and the thieves won’t think about you losing thousands of irreplaceable photos, they’re just interested in how much they can sell the drive for on the black market. What if you are away from home or the office one day and get all of your valuable items including offline backup media stolen? Or worse, what if the thief opens your backup and finds valuable pieces of information which they can use to blackmail you, steal your identity, steal your bank account information and such? Then you are practically doomed.

Hard drive failures. Seeing that external hard drives are the most common media used for local offline backups, this is one legit worry. Hard drives fail. All the time. Even the best drives do fail. Reasons? They vary, and if I have to list them down here, the list will be endless so I will skip the boring part for you. So if your setup is only using hard drives, then it can bite you back one day. I have had 5 hard drives failure in the past 3 years. It is not a pleasant experience, I tell you.

Tape backup failures. Even tapes, one of the most durable offline backup media, can fail. Most common reason is magnetic. Any kind of magnetic field can destroy tape backups. Someone once recounted on Reddit about a backup disaster. He had tape backups at his office and home for redundancy, but the ones at office failed due to humidity. Then the ones at home also failed since his wife placed magnetic stickers on the box where he stored the tapes. Heartbreaking!

Online Backup

Online backups are the most convenient form of offsite remote backups nowadays. It used to be a thing only viable for major corporations with deep pockets, but now many providers in this space have changed the game and opened the luxury of having remote offsite backups to small businesses and personal users alike.

Pros

Encryption. If you go with a good online backup provider, then your data will be encrypted using high-level encryption algorithms such as 256-bit AES or 448-bit Blowfish encryption. The data transmission and storage will be encrypted.

Access everywhere. This is very handy. All you need is Internet access, and you have access to your backed up files using web-based interfaces, client software and mobile apps. So restoring your data or downloading a particularly important file won’t require you to carry your external hard drives everywhere.

Protection against acts of god and theft. Natural disasters? Pffft… Theft? What’s there to steal when all your data is on the cloud?! Okay, about natural disasters though, you will have to find a company with data centers that have protections against natural disasters, as well as their own data redundancy by mirroring data in multiple locations.

Advanced setup. Unless you hire an advanced IT team and spend tons of money on setting up infrastructures, you won’t have the same security and data replication infrastructures of most online backup providers. The cost of setting up such infrastructures yourself is massive, so why not just enjoy what is already on the market?

Cons

No direct control. Once the data is backed up onto servers, then you lose direct control over your data. Sure, you can still access it via Web and client software, but the control you have is not as much as with external hard drives or other offline backup media.

Takes time. If you have tons of data, then you are at the mercy of your Internet connection. It can take a lot of time to upload and backup your initial data, and also a long time to download it for restoration. This is a real problem for the majority of users.

100% reliance on an Internet connection. Yup, this is a major bummer. If your Internet connection goes down, so does your ability to backup and restore your data. If your Internet connection is slow, then your backup or restore process will be slow as hell too.

The Differences

So what are the main differences? Online backups give you access anywhere with better data safety, while offline backups will give you easier access with faster backup/restores. The differences are already pretty clear, but what’s better?

The answer is neither. Yes, neither is better than the other. For the best backup strategy which will ensure your data safety and ease of access, you must use both. I will be posting a good backup strategy, structure and workflow for multiple use case scenarios soon. So stay tuned!

Is it legal to upload my music to an online backup site? – 2014 Edition

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Image courtesy of FanPop.com

It doesn’t take an audiophile to accumulate thousands of songs on their computer overtime. We change our computers, but our music collection will move over from old to new devices. And as we discover new music day by day, our collection grows. This is just for regular people who love to listen to music. Oh and they will be perfectly content with having 128kbps or 160kbps encoding. Some will insist on 256kbps, and that’s what you get when you purchase music from iTunes too.

For an audiophile, the scale is definitely much bigger. They will have many CDs that they rip to their computers. When it comes to music quality, even 320kbps encoding is frowned upon by true audiophiles. Many of them prefer lossless FLAC format over MP3, and those FLACs take up a lot of space. From 20MB to 50MB just for an average 3:30 minutes song. Some might suck it up and use 320kbps encoding (and if their audio gears aren’t too high end, they won’t notice the difference anyway), but that’s still 8MB to 9MB per song, on average.

With that many songs, for an average music collection, the music library will take up about 5GB of space minimum. That’s calculating with just over 500 songs, encoded in 320kbps MP3 format. And it is pretty normal for any average person to accumulate 500 songs easily within a year or two. So with that music collection, a need to back it up arises. This is for the same reasons that are common as to why all computers need a backup: theft, natural disaster, hard drive failure, accidental deletion, or zombie apocalypse. But, is it legal? Read our answer after the break.

The problem is that unlike other files on your computer, the music tracks you own have licenses associated with them. The artists and the record labels own the rights to those music tracks. And with all those RIAA lawsuits on online file sharing platforms for sharing and storing music online, one has to seriously question if uploading her music online for backing up is even legal. Perfectly legit question, and the concern is real too. We don’t really want RIAA or any law enforcement agency to come knocking our door now, do we?

Several different backup services will have different policies, terms and conditions regarding what you can and can’t upload to their services. But then, an honest and serious question here: Who reads the darn user agreement that comes with whatever web services or software they are using? Anyone? C’mon, there’s gotta be at least one person. Zilch? Fine.

So what gives? Nobody really reads the user agreements or terms & conditions, and many of those services don’t really have an agreement among them to have the same terms of use. Plus, all of those online backup companies have the right to change their terms of use anytime they want, without notification.

So it’s time to use some common sense here to know what’s legal and what’s not. For all those confused souls, we’ll will help you out with that here.

Is your music purchased online?

This includes iTunes, Amazon and anywhere else that sells you digital music. It can be whole album or just singles. If this is how you got your music, then you are pretty safe. You legally own these songs. But wait, before you go ahead and upload your songs, read on.

Is your music ripped from CDs?

This is actually a gray area. If you have purchased the CDs, you technically own the music. But ripping them and encoding MP3s puts them into a grey area. Some say it’s allowed, some say it’s not. Regardless of what people say, it’s generally accepted that if you are ripping for your personal consumption, then you have no problem with the law.

Is your music from questionable origins?

That includes copying from friends and family, or downloading online. Regardless of the origins, if you didn’t purchase any of those songs or ripped them from CDs you own, then this is considered illegal. It can be considered that you don’t legally own those songs. But still, for personal consumption, you will get away with it in many countries, especially in Asia. And as long as you are not downloading from torrents or other sites, it’s a fat chance any law enforcement agency will come knocking on your door.

Now that we are clear about the origin of your music files, it’s time to ask why you want to upload them online.

Is it purely for backup purposes?

If your answer is yes, then you are out of the woods. You don’t have to worry about anything. Whether you are storing your music online or offline, the purpose is just for storage, and personal consumption. So for music that you purchased online, you don’t have any problems there. It’s perfectly legal. For music you ripped from CDs and from questionable origins, as long as you are uploading them online for private storage as a backup, you will still be fine.

The problem starts once you are uploading them for sharing purpose. Whether you use a syncing service like Dropbox or SugarSync, or file sharing service like Mediafire or FilesAnywhere, if you share your music files publicly, then it is breaking the law, whether you purchased those uploaded music files or not. We won’t go into great length here about the law, but at the very least, your file sharing account will be suspended. And you will get a notice letter from RIAA or a local authorities, probably a warning. If you are in the States and RIAA is on a “lawsuit binge” then best of luck dealing with that.

Zero-Knowledge Storage Services

So when you are going to backup your music collection for personal consumption, and if some of those songs are from questionable origins, you might want to consider online backup service providers that promise “zero-knowledge privacy”. It is basically a promise from companies that they have no mean to access your data, nor law enforcement agencies. That’s because they don’t hold the encryption key to your files, and encryption happens on your PC and only you have the key, which is based on your password, and only you will know that password. The password won’t be even stored on the company’s servers. One drawback is that if you lose your password, there is no way you can retrieve your files. On the bright side, no law enforcement agencies nor the online backup service company itself can access your files.

If you want such services, then consider the two following companies

SpiderOak – From Free

You get 2GB free and can gain up to 10GB free storage through referrals. For additional storage, it is just $10 per month for every 100GB, and you can get as many 100GB storage packs as you want. Your password is used for the encryption key and it will never leave your computer, so SpiderOak employees have no way of knowing what’s in your account.

Visit SpiderOak

Wuala – From Free

Wuala is from LaCie, a Swiss storage device manufacturer. It comes with 5GB free account and you can get an additional 3GB storage through referral, but it will expire after a year. 20GB of storage will cost you $3.84 a month (2.99 Euro), and 100GB will cost 9.99 Euro (which is US$12.86). Wuala will store the encryption key on your computer based on your password, and so your files can never be decrypted without your password, which will never leave your brain or computer. So it’s pretty much the same as SpiderOak.

Visit Wuala

Myth Buster – 5 Myths of Cloud Backups Debunked – 2014 Edition

myth_busters_lWhile cloud computing and cloud backup are no longer new, the fact remains that majority of people always have a lot of misconceptions. From available features to legal implications, many people we have talked to, except those who are in the industry or proficient in IT, don’t have a full comprehension of what they are using. Some of them will mistake one feature for another, while others will make incorrect assumptions.

Those misconceptions and assumptions come mostly from hearsay. Someone heard a person talking about something and then boom, an ill-conceived opinion is passed on. Overtime, those misconceptions keep perpetuating, leading people to stay away from or have really clouded opinions (no pun intended) about cloud backup and cloud storage.

This article intends to debunk the common myths we have encountered about cloud backup and storage. Here is a list of the top 5 myths that we have debunked.

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3 Things You Should Keep In Mind When It Comes To Pricing – 2014 Update

Want to backup your entire life to the cloud? Drink one less cup of Starbucks a month.

Online backups these days are a dime a dozen. A quick Google search on “online backup services” yielded 64.3 million search results. A little bit more digging will get you all sorts of reviews, lists and customers’ stories about different vendors. I tried counting the providers but stopped somewhere after 67 as the list seems to go on and on.
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Important Features To Look For When You Shop Online Backup Services – 2014 update

If you have decided to entrust your data to a third party backup provider, then it is likely that you will be with that provider for quite some time. Possibly years. Backup is not something you can easily switch. Once you commit, you are looking at the long term. So you better get the one with the right features for you.

The only problem is that there are a huge number of available choices in online backup services. The choice can be so overwhelming that you won’t know what to look for. There are features you can see across multiple providers, and there are features which are unique and exclusive to particular providers too. Regardless of all of the overwhelming choices, this guide is actually meant to guide you (no pun intended) in getting the provider with the right features for you.

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Security: Things You Need To Know Before Choosing An Online Backup Provider – 2014 Update

I lost 20,000 of my photos in both RAW and TIFF formats last summer.

Before you ask, they were all backed up. Online. I am a backup freak. Being in the photography business means that I have to store a lot of photos, from client works, from my own portfolio pieces and everything in between. RAW image files are not small, nor are TIFFs. At first, I was doing fine with backing them up onto an external hard drive until one day, that hard drive began to fail.

Then it hit me. Online backups were the way to go. They are offsite. They offer tons of storage. Heck, I can even get unlimited for the price of an espresso from Starbucks!

I found many providers and chose one . Unlimited storage, check! Monthly payment equivalent to a cup of Starbucks, check! Easy to use software, check! What more can I ask for?

For about 5 months, I was quite happy with what I had found. Then, one fine morning last summer, I woke up to see that I couldn’t connect to my online backup server from the software. Panicked, I logged into the web portal and saw that my files were gone. What’s going on here?
A quick check in Twitterville and blogosphere revealed that the provider had a security breach. And at least 40% of all customers’ data was gone. I tried to call but then I realized they don’t provide any telephone support. Emails are the only way to go.

I’ll make the long story short, after a series of angry emails and tweets, the result was… nothing. I didn’t get back my data. Their service-level agreements (SLA) are almost non-existent. And their security practices are pretty much unknown, except the vague description on their site that they use SSL to encrypt the data. My data? All gone. The backup provider followed suit a month later.

Here is the lesson, folks. Never trust a backup provider when they can’t even reveal their security measures in place and have a decent SLA. I’d learned my lesson the hard way. Now when I look for an online backup provider, first thing I look for is security.

Is SSL Encryption Used?

SSL stands for Secured Socket Layer which is a standard type of encryption in web communications and data transfers, and it is pretty reliable. But you need to know what type of SSL encryption is being used. Is it 128-bit or 256-bit? Is it AES encryption or Blowfish? You also need to know if the encryption takes place only locally (on your PC before your files are transmitted), or also during the transmission (when data is being sent over the Internet to the servers) as well as on the server. In brief, you need AT LEAST local encryption. If you get secured and encrypted transmission, then it’s better. If your data is encrypted again on the storage servers, then it’ll be so much better still. If your online backup provider can’t provide this information, move on.

Pro tip: AES is more secured than Blowfish, although Blowfish encryption itself is pretty secure already. And 256-bit is, naturally, more secure than 128-bit. If you see 448-bit Blowfish, don’t get dazed by the numbers. AES is still better (unless they are using 128-bit encryption).

Compliance with Government Regulations

Government regulations exist for a reason. There are industry regulations for online storage companies, as well as other regulations that your backup provider should comply with for clients from different industries. Small businesses like mine don’t need all those regulations, but yours might. If you are just looking for personal storage backup, then you will only want to look for online storage and security related regulations.

Locations of Data Centers

Either the backup provider owns their own data centers, or they will be grouping their network at a third party’s data center. Either one is fine. But you will need to know whether they are relying on one data center, or multiple. It’s better to have in multiple locations, for simple purpose of redundancy. Without redundancy, if anything happens to the only one data center, your data will be gone. So having geo-redundant data centers will increase the safety and integrity of your data.

Data Center Security

The security is not just about cyber security. If the physical location where your data are stored isn’t secured, then you could get royally screwed too. The data center should be secured with 24/7 security, keycard access, protection from natural disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes, uninterruptible power supply units, backup generators, security protocols which don’t allow employees to run amok, and all that. This is the information you need. This is the kind of security you will need to ensure that data centers of your backup provider have. If your backup provider is using a third party service for network or storage, then head on over to their site and check out their security details. Any good providers will have such information readily available on their site.

What Else?

If you have any questions about security, you should email the backup provider or call them up to ask. They should be able to provide you with decent answers. Don’t just go for the price or storage space. You can also search around on the Web and forums for feedback and stories from existing customers about their customer service and service-level agreements.

Making Your Data Immune To Zombie Apocalypse: As Easy As “3 – 2 – 1″ – 2014 Update

Once upon a time, businesses and people had to rely on CDs, DVDs, and tape drives to backup their data. Hard drive storage space was not as affordable as today, nor was it as reliable or durable either. But today, you can get a good 1TB or 2TB hard drive for around $100 ~ $150. Price per GB has become dirt cheap, and hard drive manufacturers are producing a lot more durable external hard drives now. This has resulted in the vast increase of using external hard drives for backup purposes.

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5 Best Online Backup for Mac 2014

Backups are something that a lot of people only think about when it’s too late, although luckily this is changing, especially with the advent of online backup companies. These companies really do make it easy to keep a copy of your files everywhere, it’s a no hassle way of keeping things safe.

How big is the risk?

If this happens to your Mac, make sure you have your data saved!

broken-macbook-pro

Google did a test on hard drives that they operate (100k of them to be exact, which I’m pretty sure is “statistically significant!), and found that 6% of them experienced data loss in one year. So that means if there are 20 people in a coffee shop, at least 1 of them will have problems with their data in a year. It could be you!

Human error

Let’s not forget about human error either, this is probably more significant than anything else. Your hard drive might fail yes, but what’s more likely is you accidentally deleting a file, or what’s even worse, accidentally saving over a file. This has happened to my so many times and in that case it really is impossible to get your file back. Unless you have online backups of course!!

Mac Backups – Time Machine

Time Machine? Good but not enough!

Timemachine_gallery_windowsquicklook20070611

So, let’s talk about online backups for Macs. Apple already offers backup with Time Machine. But ultimately Time Machine is just another hard disk drive. A power surge, or a spilt coffee can destroy it. And it is very expensive like all Apple products. We will look at it later, but time machine isn’t really 100% secure and redundant for backing up your data.

It’s also very common for Mac users to work outside of home on their Macs, and what if you don’t have your Time Machine physically present? No backups…

3-2-1 System

We’ve written a detailed article here about a 3-2-1 backup system. What this means is:

  • Keep 3 copies of your data
  • Keep it in 2 different locations
  • Keep 1 copy at a secure site

This system pretty much guarantees that even in a “Zombie apocalypse”, your data will survive. So, enough about backup options and systems, what about online backups for Mac? Well, we’ve tested over 50 companies who offer online backup services, and now are listing the top 5. These companies vary in terms of storage price, quality and so on. It’s hard to choose, but we’ve done the work for you!

How we evaluate companies

For this article, we looked at the following things to come up with the list:

  • The pricing of the service
  • It works on OSX, and even iOS possibly
  • The background of the companies
  • The space and features offered by the software
  • Where the data is stored

Here’s a quick summary:

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2013 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals!

Behold, the glorious Black Friday is dawning near!

Okay, that was a real bad attempt at trying to glorify it. Game of Thrones must have gotten to us.

But really, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just days away now. Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving and while it is not official public holiday, somehow it has become “The Day” for retailers to slash prices at ridiculous discounts. And Cyber Monday is the Monday after Black Friday where a lot of online retailers slash their prices. That two goes in duo and things can get pretty crazy around those days.

Sure, it only happens in the US but it doesn’t limit just US citizens from purchasing things as long as whatever you are purchasing online are available for international orders. Cloud backup and storage services are no different. Plus, the good news is that many of them are now preparing for amazing deals for both Black Friday and Cyber Monday!

So we have gathered quite a few of them here. Some of the deals haven’t started yet, but some are already starting. Unlike physical goods retailers, these coupons will be usable until December 2nd or so. We will also tell you when they are expiring.

So let’s check them out.

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No More Throttling at Carbonite

We have a fantastic news for our Carbonite lovers.

Since November 8th, Carbonite have removed the practice of throttling. Previously, Carbonite throttled bandwidth of a user when he has uploaded more than 200GB. They didn’t really publish the specifics but we noticed that due to the throttling, after 200GB, you can only upload about 1GB of data a day.

What a bummer.

That combined with lack of features for Mac OS X were the reasons why our team here at BestBackups has always been a bit hesitant to fully recommend Carbonite.

But this is not the case anymore. While Mac users still cannot enjoy full features that Windows users are taking for granted, Windows users will now be able to backup all of their data to unlimited storage on Carbonite’s servers.

Not only the bandwidth throttle has been removed, Carbonite also increased bandwidth capabilities for Home Users. Finally Home Users can have same bandwidth capabilities as Business Users. On average, a small business can backup all of their emails, contacts, and calendars in about 70 minutes (assuming an average 5GB of Outlook .pst file). And by now, Carbonite Home Users can upload 2 hours of HD video file within an hour. Awesome news indeed!

This changes are effective immediately for new Carbonite Home Users as well as existing ones with backup data smaller than 200GB. Carbonite will roll out the changes in following months to existing Home customers with data more than 200GB backed up on Carbonite servers.

What does this mean?

Now that we have told you a great news, let’s take a closer look at what this all means. We will read between the lines for you.

1. Throttling never helps

This is a lesson to all online backup service providers. If they want to give us a kick ass service, they just can’t do things like limiting our bandwidth and whatnot. We are paying for a service, and we want to know exactly what we will get. There is no point in getting unlimited storage when we have to wait a year to get all our data backed up.

2. Carbonite is coming back to the top

At least in our lists, that is. Carbonite was our favorite. It has really good management team, kick ass customer support and amazing service. Sure, the software is lackluster for Mac OS X users but for all Windows users, Carbonite was like a gift from god. Then other competitors like CrashPlan came along, and Carbonite fell out of grace. You might notice that we have been putting Carbonite at around #3 or #4 most of the times. Now that the annoying bandwidth throttle is gone, you can expect to see Carbonite scoring #1 or #2 spots in relevant categories.

3. Competitors will have to up their game

It looks like Carbonite is listening to their customers. After all, many of us… okay, all of us were pretty displeased with the whole bandwidth throttle. Now that it’s gone, Carbonite has it all. Amazing customer support? Check. Really good pricing? Check. Outstanding service? Check. Unlimited storage? Check. It looks like Carbonite is sending a serious message to its competitors. We can expect to see others in the industry topping up their game. Exciting days ahead of us!