When You Should Not Use an Online Backup Service

While online backup services are gaining in popularity, there are some situations where it is best to avoid them.

If you have large amounts of data that changes frequently, then online backup may not be a practical solution for you. Bandwidth available for the backup process determines how much data can practically be backed up within a given backup window. If you have a T1 Internet connection and a 12 hour backup window per day, then you are limited to backing up about 6GB per day. If your connection is DSL or Cable Modem, then you probably have much less bandwidth available for backing up data because your upstream connection speed is usually significantly slower than your downstream connection speed (the good news is that you will be able to restore much faster).

In the event of a catastrophic loss of all of your computer data, how much would it cost if you were down for a few days? There are many businesses that could tolerate this quite well; perhaps some orders would be shipped late, some payments might be delayed, or maybe manual procedures could be used to continue operation until the computers were restored. Other businesses could lose significant amounts of money and customers if they were unable to process for even a few hours. And their reputation could be irreparably damaged. Think of what would happen if an online auction site was down for a few days. If your business would suffer significant irrecoverable damage from a failure that last more than a day, then you may want to consider a disaster recover plan that includes an entire hot backup site, not just backup data. For example; Orasi Software, Inc., provides a hosted customer feedback solution called IdeaScope. In the event that the entire Orasi data center becomes inoperable, they have the equipment, connectivity and data available to run the entire IdeaScope system from an alternate site. Other companies take this to the next level by using replication and automatic failover technology to switch traffic to an alternate site within seconds of a failure in the primary site. These are clearly situations where online backup cannot provide the speed of recovery needed.

There are still a lot of people who are concerned about the security of online backup. Actually, this is not a real problem if you choose an online backup service provider carefully. Data backed up to a secure online backup service, is actually just as secure, if not more secure, than data backed up to tapes and transported to off-site facilities. You want to make sure that the online backup service provider stores your data encrypted with the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and uses an encryption key that is only known by you. It is extremely important that the data is encrypted with an encryption key on your computers, that is never sent to, or known by, the backup service provider. If the online backup service provider provides this level of security for your data, then your data is as safe as it can possibly be anywhere, including your own tape vault. Employees at the data center, nor hackers, nor anyone else, have any way to get to the contents of your backup files. See SSL is Not Enough Security for Online Backup for more on this subject and some online backup services that have been verified to provide this level of security. On the other hand, never, ever, use an online backup service that falls short of this level of security because there are countless ways that your data could be exposed to the world.

While online backup services are not the best choice for all situations, they are a great choice for most small business and home computers. Even in situations where a hot backup site is needed, good online backup services offer valuable backup capabilities for retaining historical data in an off-site location. But all online backup services are not the same. Many of them don't provide the kind of security that is absolutely necessary for most business or personal data. And the cheap and free services fall short when it comes to control over your backup data and retention. Be careful and select a data backup service that provides proper security and control over retention of older versions of files, a robust and secure online backup service is worth a few extra bucks per month.

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