How to Choose a Home PC Backup Method
It's not only mission-critical business information that should be backed up. The data on your home PC needs to be backed up as well. But how should you choose between the traditional method of saving files on storage media yourself and a newer method of storing your data offsite with an online service provider? We talked to two experts about the security, management and cost benefits of both methods.
Factor 1: Security
From a disaster recovery perspective, the risks of keeping backup data and original data in the same place are obvious. "Any event that is going to take out your PC or server, like a fire, is also going to take out your backup," says Adam Couture, principal research analyst at Gartner. Having that data at a remote location ensures that it remains safe, even if the original data is lost.
Another benefit: encryption. Gary Chen, senior analyst at the Yankee Group, says encryption is mandatory with online backups. Encryption of USB keys, external hard drives and other methods of backup is an option, but it's not something that many people choose to enable, he says, which leaves stolen or misplaced external media vulnerable.
Factor 2: Ease of Management
Online data backup is also easier to maintain than a traditional backup because it's fully automated, says Couture. While traditional methods can be easy to manage if you're diligent, you have to be motivated to stay on top of things. "There isn't a sound strategy for what to back up and when to back it up," he says.
The online process is built around a software program that runs on a particular schedule (once a day or once a week, depending on your needs). The data you want to back up (which could be classified by folder or file type, again, according to your needs) is collected, compressed and encrypted, and then automatically transferred back to the remote servers of the provider, eliminating the need for intervention.
Backing up online, however, does require you to have a constant and reliable Internet connection at all times, and it can be stressful on bandwidth. Typically, an initial backup is conducted when you sign up for the service and is followed by incremental backups from then on. Chen says that if the initial data transfer proves to be unmanageable for the connection, some providers will allow you to send them a backup on a portable storage device. They will store the original data on their server, and from then on perform incremental backups, which are less bandwidth-intensive, remotely.
Factor 3: Cost
The main difference in pricing is whether you want to pay more up front for a storage device and media, or pay a smaller amount on a monthly basis for an online service. If you go the online route, Couture says that some providers base pricing on the amount of data they're protecting, others base it on the number of machines they're backing up, and still others base it on the number of versions of each file being backed up.
EVault and Mozy are two of the high-end service providers, says Chen, while IBackup and Carbonite provide services typically geared toward consumers and small office/home office users. Prices vary. IBackup has plans that start at $9.95 per month for 10 gigabytes, and Carbonite advertises a price of $49.95 per year for any size backup. Symantec also has integrated its traditional legacy product, Backup Exec, with an online storage service. A separate online backup service is also available. Prices start at just under $10 per month for 10 gigabytes, with one year of version retention.