Info & Answers
Online Backup Services: Necessity or Accessory?
Pictures, music, emails... valuable files like these can be lost in seconds. Online data backup services offer one method of secure backup, at a price.
online backup services
March 27, 2008 by Arlen Schweiger

The purchase of a digital camera four years ago changed the frequency at which I take photos. The birth of my daughter a year and a half ago changed the picture-taking rate a lot. Like many who own digital cameras, my computer hard drive is filled with a couple thousand photos.

It’s bursting with music and movie files, too, thanks to a combination of CD and DVD ripping and peer-to-peer downloading. And it all can go poof in the blink of an eye—fire, laptop theft, hard drive crash. I’ve steadily burned plenty of CDs and DVDs as backup, but it’s not like they’re in a safe deposit box. If those discs went up in flames … I shudder to think.

New computer hard drives will only grow larger, and the number of files we store will continue to surge. Rather than stocking up on more CD-Rs, DVD-Rs and external hard drives, online storage will be a viable option. So much so that David Friend, CEO and founder of online storage provider Carbonite, anticipates that the type of service his company and others offer will soon become virtually standard on computers.

“It’s like buying an insurance policy,” he says. “When you buy a computer, you just count on spending $30, $40, $50 a year on firewall and antivirus protection, and so people will just spend another $40 or $50 for online backup. I’m guessing that in five years, 70 percent [of PC users] will be connected.”

Carbonite and chief competitor Mozy offer unlimited online backup storage space for a subscription—whether you want to store 10 to 15 gigabytes, like the average Carbonite customer, or 10 to 15 terabytes. It’s always working, as long as you’re hooked up to the Internet, so whatever vacation pics you load at the WiFi-connected Caribbean resort are backed up too. “If you have 20 GB on your PC and are trying to burn them to DVDs, you’re certainly not going to do it every day or maybe even once a month,” Friend says. “You forget how much time it takes, and it’s a real patchwork progress.”

Friend assures me that files are encrypted before being transmitted to Carbonite, and security is akin to what you’d find for online banking or shopping. That and $3.75 to $4.95 a month, depending on the company and subscription plan, isn’t bad for peace of mind that my files are safer in cyberspace than in my CD rack space.

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com and Electronic House magazine.

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