Choosing an Online Backup Provider

Handshake 2.0 thanks Eric Nagel of for tweeting to the rescue when we tweeted our distress about having multiple computers inaccessible to the other, each with mission critical data.  We were grateful for the recommendations we received from Jeremy Hart, Dan Burdi and Ronald Bruintjes, but which option to choose?  With help for all who have the same question, Eric Nagel has written this guest post for Handshake 2.0.

Hopefully it's not too late. Maybe you're one of the lucky ones: one of the 57% of computer users who hasn't lost a file this year. Or maybe you've already lost a file, or an entire hard drive, and you're rebuilding your digital life, and deciding this time you're going to back it up.

Which online data backup provider should I choose?But when you start looking for an online backup provider (one who can keep your files securely backed up, off-site), you may be overwhelmed with choices. Why do some limit how much data you can store, while others give you unlimited backups for less than $5 / month?

The answer typically boils down to features. If you need to share files with others, or you want to backup multiple computers on one account, you'll typically be limited in how much you can store. However, if you've got a simple set-up and just want to backup one computer to an online backup provider, you can find a few solutions for just $5 / month.

Starting with the most basic scenario, if you have a PC that you'd like to backup online, check out Mozy. They offer unlimited backups for under $5 / month. If you're on a Mac, you can also try Mozy, but Mac users tend to like Backblaze more (they're also $5 / month).

Dropbox is another popular service which claims to offer online backup, but it's not quite as simple as that. "Any file you put into your Dropbox folder is automatically backed up to [the Dropbox] servers." However, it's only going to backup the files you save in those folders, not necessarily the default location that your application saves them to. Much of the popularity of Dropbox comes thanks to their generous referral service: you can get up to 10GB free by referring your friends (or strangers) to Dropbox.

Another tool to help you backup online is Jungle Disk. With Jungle Disk, your data is saved to Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3). However, what this means is that you'll pay every time to upload or download a file, and you'll pay for the amount of storage space you use. It's not easy to figure this out, but generally speaking, if you have more than 30 GB to backup, look at one of the unlimited providers for a cheaper solution.

If you have 2-5 PCs to backup, and under 500GB of data, IDrivehas a Family Pack which lets you backup all of them for $14.95 / month. IDrive also has an external hard drive called the IDrive Portable, so you can have both on- and off-site backups being handled by one provider.

Last, look for a deal! There are always discount codes to help you save a buck – or sometimes, much more! If you use a Mozy promotional code when buying 2 years, you'll be paying less than $4 / month for unlimited online backup.

Look at the files saved on your computer: the photos, mp3s, emails, school and work documents. Isn't it worth $4 / month to back them up safely?


Eric Nagel manages where he reviews online backup services and reports on the latest industry news.  You're invited to follow on Twitter @BackupsReview.

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