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The Top 3 Online Backup Solutions

written by: Lee Clemmer•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 5/5/2010

You have probably heard about and seen ads for several online backup solutions by now. What does it take to provide the best online backup solution? What about free online backup? Is inexpensive best? Which has the best features and performance? This article examines and compares the top three.

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    What Makes a Great Online Backup?

    What online backup features make an online backup service the best? Most of us have far more than a few GB to back up, with new files and changes to some of our files frequently. We want a service that supports many versions of backed up files, and is affordable for many GB of data. Ease of use is important; ease in setting up backups as well as easy restores are requirements. Ease in understanding the features and how to configure them is likewise important for an online backup solution. Performance is one of the most important factors--a backup solution that is too slow or that impacts your local system's performance can be more than just impractical.

    Let's take a look at three of the top online backup solutions and compare their strengths.

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    1. SOS Online Backup

    SOS offers a very feature-rich product in their SOS Home Edition, with more perks included than the other two of our top three--but with a higher cost. The price of $49.95/year comes with a 15GB limit. Notably, local backup features are included with the subscription, allowing you to use the same product for online and local backup. Backing up the whole computer is important, and not a normal feature of online backup. Using the same software to back up online and locally simplifies things. Another great feature is the ability to send a starting backup to SOS on a DVD or a hard drive that they provide. This cuts down the initial backup time incredibly. Unlimited versioning is another powerful backup feature, as is the ability to share backed up files by email.

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    2. Mozy Online Backup

    Mozy offers MozyHome for non-business backup needs. You can back up to 2GB for free, which is a common limit for your trial of online data backup. Unlimited backup is only $4.95 per month. The capability to "set it and forget it" is one of Mozy's strong points; once you deal with the initial configuration new files and continuing backups can occur as soon as your PC is idle. Locating files you want to restore is as simple as browsing an interface that looks and feels like My Computer. For some additional information see my review of MozyHome Remote Backup or my article on how to use MozyHome.

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    3. Carbonite Online Backup

    Carbonite offers a free trial for 15 days, with a price of $54.95 per year for unlimited backup after the trial ends. Carbonite has a very easy means to determine if files have been backed up; the addition of a green dot on icons in explorer. Interestingly, Carbonite restricts backup until a subscription is purchased by preventing the backup of music files during the trial. Carbonite also does not allow the backup of system files, but program files can be backed up. Note that all of these online backup solutions are intended for the backup of user documents, files and folders primarily. Since they don't back up the system directories, registry, and boot information by default, you will still want to consider local backup as a means of backing up your system configuration and state.

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    How do You Decide?

    Since you can try some of the backup solutions for free, it makes sense to check into them and see which suits your needs better. After all, it won't cost you anything except your time and effort to set them up and try them. One point--you will want to try one of them, then uninstall and try another--attempting to run multiple concurrent backups isn't a good way to test or compare them. It will take more time, of course.

    You also will want to try the restore process, and explore the various features, and this will take time as well. The good news is that any of the three will likely work well for you, and it is simply a matter of finding out which of the best works best for you.

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    Online or On--site?

    Need some help deciding whether to choose an online or on-site solution? If so, be sure to check out our article The Pros and Cons of Online Backup vs. Local Backup.