When it comes to technology, there’s one law every computer user encounters whether they know it or not. Murphy’s Law which states that if something can go wrong, it will. Whether it’s malware, hardware failure, theft or something else – you are bound to experience data loss at least once in your life. Despite this common fact, few people have proper backup systems in place.
Due to the high chances of something happening to your systems, having multiple reliable backup platforms in place is vital to the success of your company. Cloud backups are a great solution for many users, as they are simple to use, cost effective, and more reliable than storing your data on-site in an unsecured manner.
Data Loss is Hard to Predict
SMART Technology isn’t too Smart
One of the most notable technologies in hard drives today are SMART sensors – short for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology – which as the name implies, allows the computer and users to monitor the condition of hard drives and send alerts when trouble is spotted. While this technology sounds great in theory, hard drives still fail without warning all the time, which is why even with SMART technology many companies simply replace their hard drives every 3-5 years depending on usage.
While there aren’t many published studies on hard drive failure, Backblaze, a major cloud backup company has done research into the topic by analyzing failure rates by hard drive brand. According to the Backblaze study of over 25,000 hard drives, over 36 months Hitachi drives had a survival rate of 96.9%. Western Digital had a survival rate of 94.8% while Seagate had a failure rate of 73.5%.
Don’t Count on Recovering Your Stolen Laptop
Next to hard drive failure, theft is one of the biggest reasons computer users lose their data without warning. According to a 2010 study by the Ponemon Institute, put the average value of a lost laptop at $49,246. Much of this cost is due to lost data theft and lost productivity – the latter of which can be reduced by having a proper backup system in place. In the study, participating organizations stated that in a 12 month period, their companies had 86,455 laptops lost or missing. This comes to an average of 263 laptops per organization. Out of the 263 laptops which went missing, only 12 laptops were recovered.
Continuous Backups Thanks to the Cloud
Although online backups aren’t practical for all professionals in regulated industries such as law, finance or medicine, for many, online backup solutions are a cost effective and convenient way for professionals to have a “set it and forget it” approach to backing up data. While the internet is filled with plenty of providers claiming to offer quality internet backup services, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind before making a final decision.
How to Evaluate a Cloud Backup Vendor
Below is a breakdown of a few key points which you should expect from any vendor:
- Military grade encryption with support for custom encryption keys: Although many cloud providers promise tight encryption, the systems often have backdoors within the company for various functionality (such as enabling mobile access for users). By using your own encryption key, you can be sure that only you are able to access your files. Keep in mind that custom encryption keys often break the ability to access your files via web and mobile interfaces.
- Does the service have a stellar reputation: Since almost anyone running a server can claim to run a cloud backup service, before making a purchasing decision you need to ensure that the company you go with has a reputation for quality. One of the most important features of a stable backup company is that they house their hard drives in fortified data centers so that you can be sure that your data is always available even after the worst disaster.
- Does the provider throttle customer backups: While many cloud providers harp on providing astronomical amounts of storage. As a way to reduce bandwidth costs, some cloud providers have limits on the amounts of data which can be backed up and restored daily. For most residential users, these limits usually don’t impact backups, however corporate users will want to look at a business grade plan to ensure reliability.
- How fast can you get your backups: Even the greatest backup system is worthless if you can’t access your data when it is needed. Since downloading your entire backup can take days on a standard internet connection, many online backup providers will now overnight you a hard drive of your data so you can access everything immediately. While this service typically is extra, having this option can help to preserve efficiency even after a disaster.
- What is their policy on versioning: With online backups, typically only the last 30 days of your revisions and changes are saved to your account. This means that for any long term archiving of data, you likely should investigate a dedicated archival service such as Amazon Glacier.
Leading Cloud Backup Providers
Although online backup providers are fairly common, there are a couple of vendors which stand out from the crowd. Below are a few providers which stand out from the crowd:
Carbonite is one of the biggest names in the industry thanks to their hefty advertising budget, but regardless, they are a powerhouse when it comes to cloud backup solutions. With annual pricing for personal accounts starting at $59.99 and small business plans (which are HIPAA compliant) starting at $269.99, Carbonite is an affordable option for virtually anyone looking for a quality backup solution. One of the most notable features of the service is the ability in some packages for users to back up their data to an external hard drive.
This is a vital feature because as mentioned earlier, most online systems only keep a limited number of revisions on their servers. By using offline backups in conjunction with online solutions, you can routinely permanently archive data while still having a real time record.
Aside from providing a backup solution, Carbonite also provides users with an application which allows users to share their files with other users and collaborate with ease. As this feature can spare you from needing a Dropbox or similar service, Carbonite is a great backup solution for users who often need to share files with clients. For corporate clients who need server backups, Carbonite offers a $999.99 annual plan which provides 500GB to be shared among unlimited servers, computers and external drives within your company. Additional storage can be bought in buckets of 100GB for $99.99/year.
The one downside to Carbonite is that they only offer pricing per year, rather than in monthly installments. Another major caveat to the service is that for personal users, videos aren’t backed up automatically unless you subscribe to the Prime tier – which costs $149.99/year. Technically you can back up your videos on the lower level plans, but you have to manually select the videos which need to be backed up.
Mozy is one of the earliest entrants into the online backup space however they remain one of the biggest names in the industry. Their most notable feature is their tier which offers 2GB of free storage to users, plus they have affordable monthly plans for users which need more space. Although Mozy does not offer unlimited storage, the 50GB and 125GB personal plans are likely more than enough space for the average user. If you run a company, Mozy also offers business grade services, with 1TB of storage.
Just like Carbonite, Mozy also offers corporate plans which support unlimited servers, however the pricing is a tad more expensive. Monthly plans for 500GB are sold at $209.98 per month while an annual plan is $2,309.78. Despite being slightly more expensive, Mozy also offers companies 1TB plans which can be beneficial to companies which have significant storage needs.
One of the biggest benefits of using Mozy over other services is their ‘Data Shuttle’ service which starts with 1.8TB of capacity for $275. This service allows you to take your initial backup and letting you send in an external drive instead of waiting days for your upload to complete via a standard upload. The most important feature of this service is that when using a data shuttle, your data is first encrypted using the standard Mozy methods. Then a second encryption key is generated before your data is loaded to the drive. This ensures that your data is always secure, while in transit and also while on site with Mozy.
CrashPlan is one of the lesser known vendors mentioned in this article, however it has recently been picking up steam due to a few innovative features and policies not found through other companies. The most unique feature of CrashPlan is the ability to create ‘backup sets’ for your data. This feature means that you have the ability to determine where your files should go and how often they should be backed up. Another major feature of CrashPlan is that there are no limits on revisions of data you back up. CrashPlan even takes this feature a step further by providing users with fine grained controls to set archival settings based on how old a revision set is.
For US customers who have over 300GB of data, and customers in Australia and New Zealand with 150GB of data, CrashPlan offers a seeded backup service which allows you to expedite your backup by sending in your data by mail. This is an optional service available on the CrashPlan for Home subscription and is limited to data from a single computer and costs $124.99. CrashPlan customers can also have their data sent to them on a hard drive for $164.99.
Although CrashPlan has many positives, the service has a significant caveat worth noting. When using the CrashPlan website to restore files on the Home plan, you are limited to restores of 500 MB or smaller. Larger files require you to download the CrashPlan software which can be a hassle if you are on the road and don’t have access to your own computer. CrashPlan Pro users have their web restores limited to 250MB.
Always have a Fallback Option
Although putting your data in the cloud can be intimidating, for most business professionals, online backups are the only way to have a real-time offsite backup of your data. By choosing a reputable backup vendor, you can be sure that your data will always be available even when disaster strikes. If you are really concerned about data security, you also can opt to only backup non-sensitive data online, or you can even encrypt your data before it is uploaded.
Keep in mind that you never should put all your eggs in one basket. Although online backups are highly effective, you still should have a local backup of your data because you never know what can happen to your information. Sometimes you won’t have an internet connection, and there’s always a chance your cloud backup provider will have a major failure. As reliable as cloud backups are, you still should have a fallback plan because once your digital files are lost, it is almost impossible to get them back.
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