Here it is the end of another year of backups—almost time to make those special year-end copies of your important data to store with your tax records. I thought I’d do something a bit different for today’s column, so I put a question out to my LinkedIn network asking the people I know what they do for backups. (And no, this is not what “networked backups” means.)
Most of the answers came as private messages, so I won’t quote them in their entirety here, but I’ll list the different tools people are using and write a bit about each, so you can decide which ones might be good for you.
- Amazon S3. The person who mentioned this isn’t using it yet; he’s got a couple of 250 GB external drives. S3 stands for “Simple Storage Service.” It’s fairly inexpensive: $0.15 per GB per month for storage, plus similar rates for data transfer in and out. Jeremy Zawdny has made a list of S3-compatible backup software, since otherwise S3 isn’t really a backup solution, just a storage solution.
- Buffalo TeraStation. This is network storage for people who have serious data to back up. It supports full RAID 5 configuration, which offers protection from disk failure (unless something kills off all the disks at once), and comes in capacities up to 4 TB. It’s big, solid, and expensive: about $700 for the 1 TB version. The TeraStation comes with automated backup software called Memeo AutoBackup, about which I know nothing, but will try to find out more. If you’re a photographer, musician, or videographer, or just run an office that generates masses of data, this could be the product for you.
- Carbonite got two recommendations—or was it three? It’s been around longer than Mozy, and costs $50/year for unlimited online backup. They’re working on a Mac version, but it’s not available yet. Instead of backing up on a schedule, it backs up files as they change. That’s known as “continuous data protection” and has advantages and disadvantages. One potential disadvantage is slowing down your computer; another is backing up changes that you didn’t want to make. The advantage is that you’ll never lose a whole day’s data. Also, unless you’re working on several large files simultaneously, you won’t have to wait through endless uploads after the first backup is finished.
- Cobian Backup. This was a new one on me, but it turns out it’s been around for a long time. Cobian is free open-source backup software for Windows. It allows scheduling, encryption, and backup online via FTP. The user interface looks fairly similar to that for SyncBack SE and for Backup4All. I guess there are only so many ways to configure setting up a backup program. There’s a tutorial for version 7 online. (You need Internet Explorer to view it, though.)
- EMC Retrospect for tape backup. Retrospect comes in a lot of flavors and is compatible with both Vista and Leopard—or so their website claims. The Express version that used to come bundled with external drives is easy enough to use, but stores your data in a proprietary format and doesn’t let you browse through the backed up files. (Norton Ghost stores files in a proprietary format, but at least there’s the Ghost Explorer to let you retrieve individual files.) The Professional version supports tape drives, which most consumer backup products don’t. I’m not a huge fan of tape, but it does provide a way to get your data off-site, and it’s still common in enterprises.
- Genie Backup Manager comes with two recommendations, one from the owner of the TeraStation and one from a respected IT colleague. It comes in Home and Pro versions. Both of them seem to be pretty comprehensive tools for backing up everything on your computer to just about any medium you could imagine. The site also features a backup encyclopedia. The Home version is $50; the Pro version is $70, and the server version is $400—which is probably a good deal if you have 50 computers to back up. Windows only.
- Karen’s Replicator. Yes, there is someone besides me in the world who’s a big fan of this free program for Windows file backup and synchronization. I suppose I might be slightly biased in its favor because it was created by a woman, but it’s been doing a great job of backing up my files for years now, and it’s easy to use. Very handy for copying files onto one of those USB external drives mentioned above. It’s less sophisticated than Cobian, so which you use depends on your needs.
- Mozy. I’ve written about this online backup service before, and it seems it, too, has other fans out there. The free version gives you 2 GB of storage and is available for Vista, XP, Windows 2000, and Mac OS X. The Pro version is available for all flavors of Windows (including servers), but not for Mac. Pro licenses are $3.95/month plus a $0.50/GB/month charge.
- USB External Drive. Given all I’ve written about such drives already, I don’t think that needs a lot of explaining. But if you have an older machine with USB 1.1, consider getting an XHD with a FireWire connection instead. (Assuming you have a FireWire port, that is. You can use an external drive for manual drag-and-drop backups or with automated backup software.
- Windows Home Server. This is network storage and then some. I have read good things about WHS, and the person who uses it says it rocks. In addition to doing automatic backups of multiple computers, it acts as a media server. (Sort of like my Maxtor Shared Storage II, but more so; the interface on the MSS-II is designed for simplicity rather than flexibility.) You can install it on a not-too-old computer yourself, if you’re on the geeky side, or you can buy it pre-installed on something like the HP MediaSmart Server. The software costs about $189; the full rig about $600. There’s a good description with screenshots over at Tiger Direct. Best for those with multiple computers and lots of audio and video files.
If you use a backup service or program not listed here, feel free to post it in the comments to the blog or e-mail it to me. I’ll be happy to produce a second list. Indeed, I might try to twist the arms of my Mac-using friends to get a list of different Mac-compatible backup products that people actually use.
Meanwhile, try not to spill champagne on your hard drive when celebrating the New Year, and I’ll see you again in 2008.