Online Backup Services: Store With Caution

The number of online backup services that are designed to replace your desktop external hard drive, which also are called cloud-based backup services, increased dramatically recently. They deliver more capacity at a lower price compared with previous versions, experts say. At press time, we identified at least 40 companies that allow you to back up your data exclusively to a cloud-based service and that provide backup software that helps you to manage the service via your computer.

The majority of services allow you to choose either monthly or annual access, and annual access typically delivers a savings benefit over 12 months. For instance, Code42’s CrashPlan charges $5.99 per month for unlimited storage, or $60 per year. The primary benefit of a monthly subscription is that you can take the service for a test-drive.

Unfortunately, no guarantee exists that you won’t lose your data if your online-backup-service company or the third-party data-storage company that the online-backup-service company uses goes out of business. The best case in such a scenario is that you’ll receive notice ahead of time and get, say, 2 weeks to remove your data from the online server. You’d lose any data that isn’t removed, says data-storage consultant Thomas Coughlin.

As a result, Coughlin believes that online backup services should be used as a secondary storage system to your desktop or portable external hard drive rather than as your primary backup system.