When I put out my request for backup stories on HARO, two of the first respondents were eager to tell me about Spare Backup. Maria-Christina Zajac of Avalanche Strategic Communications offered to set up an interview with Spare Backup CEO Cery Perle, and Heather Schroeder at Corporate Advocates wrote to me about the new Spare Mobile service.
Spare just announced last week its Spare Mobile service that may be of particular interest to your readers. The new service provides users with the benefits of real-time mobile access to their content without the risk of lost data due to a malfunctioning device. In addition, Spare users can remotely access photos, music and podcasts from their home computers anytime, anywhere from their mobile device.
Just in case I wasn’t sufficiently convinced of Spare Backup’s wonderfulness, she added:
Spare Backup doesn’t just back up your data, it can actually help you transfer all of your data from your old computer to your new one in 3 easy steps. I switched from a desktop to a notebook about a year ago and I still have things on CD because I didn’t know how else to transfer my files! It’s so easy my mom can do it. 🙂
“Easy,” as I discovered when I interviewed Cery Perle on July 15th, has always been a priority for Spare Backup. Cery was motivated to get into the backup business after experiencing a data loss catastrophe. The company he worked for at the time did have a backup system, but someone had forgotten to insert the backup tape for the day he needed. (Shades of the Institute for Backup Trauma’s 2005 video with John Cleese, except that Spare Backup has actually went public in 2003.) Cery wanted a product easy enough for him to use, and the options available at the time didn’t fit that description.
The product I downloaded definitely does. Spare Backup has an attractive interface, dominated by a big green “Click here to Backup” button. (Pedant’s point of contention: “back up” as a verb should be two words.) A sidebar on the right offers tips for changing what to back up and where to store your backup. The default location is online, where you get 50 GB of storage space, but Spare Backup will also work with CDs and DVDs, external drives, and network drives.
The user interface is fairly self-explanatory, but there are detailed user guides with screenshots available, too. I did notice a few slightly odd things. Under “Settings,” you have the following options:
- Select files for online backup
- Online backup schedule
- Select Files for local backup
- Manually include/exclude files
- Account Information
Having the “manually include/exclude” separate from both the offline and online backup options seemed strange to me. Isn’t that part of selecting files for backup?
The default option for either online or offline backup is to back up everything. Since I didn’t want to wait all day for files to transfer, I instead opted to back up just my Microsoft Publisher files online. I then discovered that unlike many backup programs, which back up only your C drive unless you tell them otherwise (and are sometimes configured only to back up one internal drive no matter how many you have), Spare Backup automatically backs up all your internal and external drives, though not your network drives. So it went searching through my C drive, then the D drive where I keep fairly-recent data that isn’t part of current projects, then the F drive (my Free Agent Go). It didn’t copy anything from the M or P drive, but then again, the P drive wasn’t connected properly and the M drive only has a Safety Drill image on it right now, and no individual Publisher files.
Because I back up data from the C drive to both the D drive and the F drive automatically, there are now several duplicates in my Spare Backup storage area. (I’m not too worried: I’ve only used 1.26% of my online storage capacity.) If I adjusted this backup job to exclude the D and F drives (or at least one of them), then I could solve the duplication problem.
Spare Backup automatically pauses when it detects mouse or keyboard activity. The idea is to keep from slowing down your computer, but that can slow down your backup job instead. If your priority is finishing the backup job, you can adjust this under the advanced settings.
One feature Cery mentioned to me, which I haven’t tested, is the ability to restore individual e-mail messages to Outlook, and not just the whole PST file. I meant to test it, but since all my PST files are large, and you can’t back up individual e-mail messages (at least, I didn’t see that option), I decided to do the Outlook backup onto one of my external hard drives.
And so I discovered that while recovering files from online backups is fairly intuitive and done right through the regular Spare Backup interface, recovering from offline backups requires you to run a program called Local Launcher that gets put into the same location as your offline backup.
On the one hand, this makes sense. It means you can restore the data from the external drive even if all you have is the drive, and not the computer you installed Spare Backup on. But it’s a pretty crude interface by comparison with the main program, and it doesn’t let you restore individual messages.
Spare Backup’s best features are clearly reserved for the online backup service. And speaking of online backup, Cery told me that the Spare Key you get when you download the program (and which you need in order to recover your data; I had to enter it in Local Launcher) Is housed at a third company. That means none of Spare Backup’s employees can get to your data, and neither can anyone at the company holding the keys, because the only person with all the pieces is you.
Spare Backup does a private label business for bigger brands. For instance, if you buy a new Sony Vaio, the backup program you’ll find pre-installed on the machine is really Spare Backup. Offering online backup services helps hardware companies retain customers. If you have the customer’s data, you keep the customer. (Spare Backup has a 93% retention rate.) This is why the big enterprise backup companies like EMC and Symantec are buying small online backup companies like Mozy right and left.
Spare Backup is also working on an enterprise product for up to 500 users. (Disclosure: I may be writing a white paper about this for them, which would make them a client, which would at least potentially bias my opinion.)
Next week we’ll have another guest columnist for you.