May 12, 2010

Is Online Backup the Way to Go?


Hostway Team

By Janet Pieterse

Small businesses today need off-site backup and a disaster recovery plan as much as big businesses do, though obviously on a different scale. After all, how would you survive without your contacts book, your email addresses, your invoices and payables and the PDFs of your brochures?

We can get almost anything online now, so why not a backup solution too? Online is definitely off-site, and you can access your online backup from any computer anywhere in the world. However, there are a number of factors to consider when answering this question, and the answer will not be the same for every business.

Backup Options

If you have your own Web site, you may have free space on your server where you can upload your backups every so often. This will require a certain amount of work and organization on your part.

You could also look at the companies offering online backup as a complete service. They usually make it much easier to upload your data, reducing the amount of work and organization you have to do. Typically you would create a folder, keep the backup in that folder, and have the online service automatically upload the contents or changes to the contents at regular intervals.

But what are the practical issues?

Amount of Data

The smaller your business, the less data you're likely to have. The less data, the more attractive an online solution will look. Gigabytes take a long time to upload as well as download, although uploading can be done in the background.

If you make a backup to a folder, the backup itself takes less space than the data you are protecting, as it compresses the files. However, you may prefer to keep the actual files online: these are easier to access and you don't need the original backup program to recreate them. The actual files will take more room.

Bandwidth Caps

Not everyone has access to unlimited bandwidth at a fixed price. If you're paying per megabyte, or have a cap on your monthly usage, a backup solution on the cloud may be impractical. Uploads contribute to the load on the cap. In normal use, uploads are minimal. When you're backing up large amounts of data regularly, you're going to use up your data limit very fast.


Security is the biggest concern when you're backing up online. Encryption is essential: you don't want a hacker or even the staff of the backup service being able to browse through your files. Very often a company uses a pass phrase that you supply as the basis for the encryption. Use the first paragraph of a favorite book, song lyrics or famous quotations in order to meet the character limit.

Online backup is a solution, but it should never be the only solution. Even big online companies go bust. Keep a regular backup on external media like a USB stick or an external drive as well, and back up your backup on the cloud.

About the Author

Janet Pieterse is a freelance writer with an external drive backing up onto a personal cloud.

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