Checkout the follow up post, comparing Dropbox vs SugarSync.

why you need online backupMillions of people lose personal and sensitive data every year due to hardware failure, viruses, and simple negligence. The easiest way to protect your data is to develop a backup system.

Backing up your own data can prove to be complicated for novice and experienced computer users alike. Even if you implement a backup service, you’re still at risk if your backup and source are in the same physical location. The easiest way to make a secure backup of your data is to use an online backup service. Your data will be encrypted and uploaded to a server that is maintained by professionals, and you will be able to restore your data to your computer at any time.

When you choose an online backup service, there is a lot to consider. The average computer user may not have an enormous amount of data, so the basic free offering from any backup service may be enough. Some users may need vast amounts of storage to backup their multimedia files and applications, which will result in enormous backups that could cost a lot. Not every backup service offers software for multiple operating systems. Some backup services can also backup items from other web services you use including Facebook and Google Docs. Before you start shopping for a backup service, make a list of your requirements, so that you don’t choose a service that is insufficient. It would also be advantageous to try out the free offerings before making a financial commitment to any particular service.

There are dozens of online backup services around, but a few of them have risen to the top for various reasons including ease of use, software quality, cost, and storage. Here is a list of a few of the online backup providers that are recognized for providing quality services.

Mozy

mozy online backup
Mozy has been around for a few years, and it is one of the more well-known online backup services. When you sign up for Mozy Home, you will automatically receive 2GB of free backup space. The software, which is available for Windows and OS X, is extremely easy to configure with the wizard, and you can start backing up your files immediately. If you have a lot of large files, it doesn’t cost much for additional space. For $4.95/mo you can get unlimited backup storage, and it is even cheaper if you pay annually or biannually. Mozy is a good solution for anyone who wants a simple backup system.

If you require additional functionality, you might want to check out the Mozy Pro accounts. The pricing is still relatively cheap at $3.50 + $0.50/GB per month, but you get all of the features of Mozy Home along with incremental backups, additional operating system support (Windows and Mac Server OSs). You also get the ability to backup files from mounted drives and network storage.

iDrive

idrive online backup
iDrive is another popular online backup solution that has a relatively large user base. Like Mozy, iDrive offers a basic account with 2GB of space for free. iDrive offers a much more advanced list of features to their basic users on Windows or OS X. The backups/synchronizations are incremental and done over time. iDrive also keeps up to 30 versions of a file which allows you to restore a previous version if necessary, but they only charge you to store the current version of the file, while the previous versions are stored for free. The iDrive Explorer allows you to browse through files and folders individually, to either download them or to drag and drop additional files to the folders, which will be synchronized to your computer(s) automatically. iDrive also allows you to backup files from mounted and network drives without upgrading to the a Pro account.

The Pro account pricing is very reasonable. For $4.95/mo or $49.50/yr you can get up to 150GB of storage for personal use. The pricing tiers for business customers are higher, but still very reasonable. If you don’t have more than 150GB of information to backup, iDrive is a very solid solution, and provides more than enough features to accommodate even the pickiest of users. This service is definitely worth checking out if you need granular control over your backups.

Syncplicity

syncplicity online backup
Syncplicity offers a very unique backup service for Windows and OS X. In addition to the normal types of backup functionality, Syncplicity allows you to back up files and data from Facebook, Google Docs, Zoho, Picnik, and Scribd. Once you allow Syncplicity to access each of these services, it will backup your photos, documents, and various other files. If you upload a lot of photos to Facebook, this is an excellent way to archive them automatically. Syncplicity also allows you to view all of your files online, so you can access them anywhere, and share them with friends, family, or coworkers. Like many of the other services, a basic account comes with 2GB of storage, but you can upgrade to 50GB for $9.99/mo or 100GB for $99/year (limited time offer). This is a very good service to run (for free) in addition to a more traditional backup service, because it will save you the time and trouble of backing up files other online services.

Carbonite

carbonite online backup
Carbonite has received quite a bit of media buzz lately. Their business strategy is very simple. They offer unlimited backup storage for $54.95 a year, and the pricing is slightly lower when you purchase multiple years of service. Unfortunately, you are only allowed a 15 day free trial. Carbonite may be the most unobtrusive to your normal working patterns. Once you install the Carbonite software, which is available for both Windows and OS X, and configure it to back up your files, it will backup your files in the background while your computer is idle. This is great for people who have a difficult time remembering to manually perform backups, and it takes advantage of the time when you are not actively working on your computer. If you want a simple solution that doesn’t get in the way, Carbonite is the way to go. If you need additional control of your backups, or if you need to backup files on network shares or mounted drives, this is not the solution for you.

iBackup

ibackup online backup
iBackup is a backup service that seems to cater to slightly more advanced users. It lacks the simplicity of Carbonite and Mozy, but includes an advanced list of features for people who need more control. It bears more than a passing resemblance to iDrive, but the web site is less user friendly, and the pricing is significantly higher. iBackup gives you a 15 day trial with 5GB of storage, but limits your ability to share, your bandwidth usage, and your number of logins per day. The pricing is not as attractive as some of the previously discussed services, but they allow you to create sub-accounts, while other services do not. The lowest pricing tier is $9.99/mo for 10GB of storage, but this includes backing up Exchange Servers and MySQL servers as well as providing services to Linux users in addition to Windows and OS X users.

On a personal note, I’ve only used Mozy and have had a mixed experience. For more, check out my mozy review and a follow up here.