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Pros and Cons of Online Computer Backup

Wednesday, January 19th

Pros and Cons of Online Computer Backup

What benefits does an online computer backup service provide? And what are some potential challenges that you should prepare for?

Pros

  • Remote location of digital copies.
    This is the main reason for considering a backup service in the first place. Files from your computer (you get to decide which files) are kept at a safe and secure location, perhaps at a considerable distance from you and your computer.
  • The system is automatic, requiring no intervention after initial setup.
    Review this process before selecting a service. How easy is the interface to use? How many steps are there to make changes? Is it easy to modify your subscription as your storage needs change?
  • Some services provide automatic encryption.
    This is an important security consideration. Also, if the encryption is built into the software and is automatic, it will save you the time and trouble of having to do it manually.
  • Unlimited storage space (scalable, for a fee).
    Most companies offer virtually unlimited storage space.

Cons

  • Slow transfer speeds, both uploading and restoring.
    Even if your Internet connection is fast, ensure that the company you are considering provides for speedy uploads and downloads.
  • No guarantee of privacy.
    Review the provider's policy on encryption and privacy.
  • The provider could go out of business.
    Unfortunately, when an Internet company goes out of business, they might just disappear. And if it happens to be your online backup provider, your data could disappear as well.
  • A lost password or encryption key could prevent recovery.
    Check to see if the provider has a method in place to help you recover your data if you happen to lose or forget your password or encryption key.
  • Some IPS providers limit data.
    Do you know if your Internet service provider has limits on the amount of data you can upload or download? Or penalties for going over a set amount? Be sure to find out before you sign up for an online backup service.
  • Limited retention periods.
    Review an online backup service provider's policy on keeping "old" data. If they offer to backup multiple versions of a file, how many iterations do they keep, and for how long?

As usual when shopping for any important purchase, you must read descriptions of each service's features carefully; it might be that the disadvantages of a service do not apply to your situation. Also, a service's advantages might not meet any of your needs.

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Online Backup Service FAQ

Online backup services give customers the ability to back up, secure and restore their files. In the event of data theft, hard drive failure or other loss, clients can easily get their information back from the service's cloud storage facilities.
Definitely not. Anyone can benefit from having their computers backed up to a secure cloud, whether the data contains sensitive financial data or treasured digital photos.
For the average personal user, the monthly fee starts at around $5. Business pricing begins around $30/month. Fees vary by the number of users and the amount of desired offsite storage space.
Free services are handy, but they're not designed to give you automated backup and seamless restoration of your files. If you're not on top of saving absolutely everything on your computer, your free storage is going to be incomplete. Using an online backup service with regularly scheduled backups is the best way to ensure that none of your files are lost.
At least once a week. Your online backup service may allow you to have continuous backups; your system is monitored constantly for any files that have been deleted, modified, created or moved and it updates accordingly in the background with no effort on your part.
If you use a reputable, reliable provider, your files are extremely secure. Be sure to choose a service that encrypts the data not only as it's being transferred but also as it's stored in their cloud. You should also check to see how your encryption key is stored; if you've got serious concerns, pick a service that allows you to create your own private key (and don't lose it, because the service won't be able to recover your data if you don't have the key!). Finally, it's worth asking where your provider's data centers are located; ones in the EU and US are preferred.
That will depend on how much you're backing up and your internet speed. It could take as little as an hour or as long as a week!
That's a frequent complaint among users of online backup services: difficulty in accessing support at all stages of the relationship (e.g. questions prior to signing up, during the initial backup process, several months into the service). Some providers have a better track record than others in this regard, so if you expect it to be less than smooth sailing because you're not tech-savvy, you should carefully choose an online backup service with a reputation for helpful, reliable customer support.
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