Two Cloud Backup Options: Mozy and LiveDrive Mozy, which has been owned by storage giant EMC for a couple of years, offers a lot of what I want in online storage. It's cheap, automated, secure on a couple of levels, and offers remote access when you don't have your regular machine in hand. The downside? It can be slow.
Like customers of most online storage services, Mozy users download an application (it supports both Windows and Macs) that automates backup chores once configured. You'll probably start by backing up all of your data and digital media files, and that will take a while. It will, for example, take as long as a week to upload 20GB of data, the company told me. Most of that lag probably has more to do with your ISP than with Mozy. Upload speeds are generally much slower than download speeds and there's not much you can do about that.
If you like, you can set the software to perform that monster backup during hours the computer is normally idle, which will lessen the inconvenience of working on a burdened system, but add some days to the process.
Once you're past that stage, subsequent backups are much quicker. That's because most users will only backup files that have been changed or added since the initial upload, or you can opt for continuous backup.
Security: Mozy encrypts files on your computer as it uploads them, a good strategy, though it probably slows your system a bit. If you like, you can use an encryption key that Mozy employees can not access. Your data is stored in a Mozy datacenter, and spread out over a number of drives and servers to keep it safe.
Cost: Up to 2GBs free; unlimited storage for $4.95 a month or $54.95 a year; $103 for three years.
Disaster recovery: If you lose a directory or two, or just some files, simply download the ones you need. But if your entire hard drive is toast, Mozy offers a very good option. The company will transfer all of your stored material to a new hard drive or DVDs and mail them to you.
Remote Access: You can log in to the Mozy Web site from a public computer and get what you need. However, you've got to know the actual names of the files or directories you need. There's no provision for browsing.
LiveDrive is a new entry to the online storage market and it's a good one. It's more expensive than Mozy, but has some features the older product lacks. One downside: It's a startup without much of a track record, but it boasts more than 500,000 users already and has gotten very good reviews around the Web.
The basics: Store as much as you want. $6.95 per month or $69.50 per year for the basic, service. Backup is automated and continuous. You can see (but not edit) your files on a secure page via a browser, and view as many as 30 older versions of the same file, a nice feature when working or collaborating on a complex project.
The extras: $16.95 per month or $169.50 per year adds Livedrive Briefcase, which appears as a new drive on your PC. The Briefcase allows you to edit files that are online. You can also drag and drop pictures from a social networking site to files in the cloud, share files with others, and upload and download using FTP.
Security: Data is encrypted and stored in what the company calls carrier-grade data centers.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. He welcomes your comments and suggestions. Reach him at email@example.com.
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This story, "Why the Cloud Should Have Your Back-Up" was originally published by CIO.