Cloud Backup Services for Off-Site Data Synchronization

File Synchronization Services

There are several low-cost data backup solutions available that provide real-time file synchronization. Services like Box.com and Dropbox.com are primarily for file synchronization and sharing.

Having your files synchronized with these services is similar to having a real-time mirrored backup. However, the local client for these services requires that you put your synchronized files into the Box or Dropbox folder. It’s not possible to have other folders backed up. This makes setup and usage difficult if you want to continue using your default system/user folders for photos, videos, music, and documents.

Cloud Backup Services

Services like BlackBlaze, Carbonite, CrashPlan, iDrive and Mozy are primarily designed to provide cloud backup rather than file synchronization and collaborative file sharing.

The chart below (provided by BlackBlaze) compares several backup services. It offers a helpful rundown of what to look for in a backup service. Click the image for a larger view.

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Because the chart was created by BlackBlaze, it’s not surprising that the features highlighted present their backup service in a favorable light.

The Locate Lost Computer feature is a nice addition, and it’s exclusive to BlackBlaze, but it’s already included with iCloud on Apple computers, and easily available from other sources such as PREYProject.com for other platforms.

The service most similar to BlackBlaze in features and benefits seems to be CrashPlan. However, the CrashPlan client software for desktop computers runs on top of Java which potentially introduces one more layer of complexity and security vulnerability.

CrashPlan Concerns

Here are some comments from CrashPlan users. (source)

  • “They’re relying on a bundled Java 7 JRE hidden inside their app bundle. Whether or not it’s worth installing now depends on why you’re avoiding it now. If you’re concerned about security issues with a full install of Java on your Mac, this should avoid that. If you’re concerned about performance, not much is different from how things were a year or so ago.” (Jonathan, 18 April 2014)
  • “CrashPlan caused my Mac grief and performance issues on a i7 iMac with SSD. Couldn’t imagine what it would be like on older Macs.” (SCrossman, 19 April 2014)
  • “I’m also waiting for a native client. I had to add that weird Java hack a while back to increase the memory used by Crashplan’s client so it wouldn’t crash all the time with my (large) dataset, but now of course it consumes quite a bit of memory idling around. If I had to do it over again, I’d probably have gone with Backblaze.” (Brad Oliver, 21 April 2014)

CrashPlan Benefits

  • “The problem with Backblaze is, they delete any files they haven’t seen for 30 days. To my understanding, this means if you have a rarely attached external drive (a drive archiving older files, for instance), you can’t really back it up there. Crashplan doesn’t have this limitation. You can hook up an ‘archive’ drive, let it back up, and those files will be retained indefinitely.” (ZnU, 21 April 2014)
  • More benefits can be found in the Tim Fisher CrashPlan review.

Cloud Backup Limitations

  • For people with multiple terabytes of data, such as huge photo collections or videos, it can take days or weeks to get all your files backed up.
  • With large database files that are constantly being updated, such as a large Outlook PST file, the current will repeatedly be perceived as having changed and be in perpetual need of being backed up.
  • People working with video files will always be days behind on having their data backed up.
  • Cloud backups aren’t ideal for those needing a quick and complete system recovery, including all operating system files and settings.

Benefits of Local Backups

  • Local backups are fast and instantly available.
  • Large files can be quickly backed up or mirrored.

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