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This article will give a quick breakdown of cloud backup services, as based on my experience in researching and implementing them for clients. The primary remit has been a fire and forget service that is cost effective.

Backup can be a minefield. Most don't do enough of it, and many services fail to work consistently or reliably. The ideal system is one the user doesn't have to think about, and isn't too expensive. I have tried a number over the years, and if you're after the simple and quick answer: Crashplan for overall backup, Dropbox with packrat for basic backup and reliable sharing, and Sitevault for website backup (yep, don't rely on your hosts for backups!)

One of the problems is that many products come and go. When selecting solutions, as well as costs, I try and get a feel for how long the product has been around, how good the support is, and how long it is likely to remain around. If you are going to invest time and effort in setting something up, then you don't want to do it only to find in a year's time the company does away with half it's support staff, or just folds altogether.

So on to the choices:



OVERALL BACKUP:

Crashplan (crashplan.com) is a product that provides a service that backs your data up to online storage with unlimited capacity. The backups happen as you work, so no need to remember to start it off. Most business owners have good intentions, and forget very readily. Backup for one computer is $60/year, and up to 10 computers is $150/year. There is a business option of $10/computer/month. They also have a free product that can backup to a local drive like a portable hard drive or memory stick on a schedule. I don't really suggest local backups much as they get lost, left in the office (there could be a fire).

Cloud backup does require a reasonable speed internet connection, though that depends on the amount of data you have to backup. If you need a rapid restoration, you can order a drive containing all your data to be shipped from the US. Prices start at $130 plus the price of the drive and shipping.

The other feature that is really important with backup is data retention. This means how many versions of your data are kept, and for how long. So if you deleted a document three months ago, you could still get it back. Crashplan offers unlimited retention. Crashplan also has status reports to let you know when backups fail and suceed. This is another vital feature to business owners who don't really want to be checking it too often. Though I would still suggest sticking a calendar reminder in to check every month or two. Belt 'n' braces is the name of the game with backup.



BASIC BACKUP AND SHARING:

Dropbox (dropbox.com) is one of the longest running cloud sharing services out there. Having tried a number of other ones, it's also about the only one that works. The others either have badly written clients that slow down the computer, or poor features and performance. You can have 2GB storage for free, or 100GB for $100/year. Larger storage is available at higher rates.

Basically you install the software on any device you want, and the dropbox folder is shared over the internet accross all the devices with dropbox installed and logged onto your account. This is wonderful for roaming workers, and works very well. Beware to unselect when dropbox asks you to upload the contents of your phone or digital camera, it sucks space! (Unless you want those things shared/backed up).

Dropbox free has 30 days data retention. If you have the 100GB pro account, you can add a feature called PackRat for $40, which provides infinite data retention. For one client I have both Dropbox and Crashplan installed, double-tap!



WEBSITE BACKUP:

SiteVault (site-vault.com) provides a cloud backup product for websites. This backs up all your files and databases. Web hosts usually say they back up files on a regular basis, but in my experience when asked for a recovery, their backup has been known to be corrupted, or not as frequent as promised on their website. Backups also aren't really the responsiblity of the hosts. I'm about to start a comprehensive trial of SiteVault, so will post back my findings soon.

My initial research shows them to be one of the most dominant and long running contenders in the market. Their prices look good too. They don't work on subscription, rather on one-off fees. 5 websites for $40, 15 for $60, 50 for $100. More on them soon!

So my final words are three: backup backup backup! :)