- Physical Facilities - Make sure the service is hosted in a professionally managed Internet data-center. You want your data to be stored in a secure data-center with backup power, environmental controls, fire suppression, and physical security. Some start-ups are offering cheap online backup by hosting the servers in a garage with DSL or Cable Broadband service. If the service provider does not disclose information about the facilities, then you may have reason to be concerned.
- Hardware - Your data should be stored on fault tolerant disk arrays. Anyone can afford large amounts of disk space as cheap high capacity drives are readily available.
- Terms of service - Make sure you agree with the terms and conditions of the service. I would not recommend using any online backup system that is supported by advertising. While this may reduce the cost, you are giving the provider permission to display adds on your computer. Since online backup systems require you to install software on your computer, you may be exposing yourself to forms of spy-ware.
- Security - You don't want to send your files to a server on the Internet for everyone to access. Make sure your data is encrypted before it leaves your computer. It is also just as import that your data is stored in encrypted form.
- Software - If you are satisfied that items 1, 2, 3 and 4 above meet your standards, then and only then, should you download and install any software. All online backup services require a software component to be installed on your computer. Almost all online backup service providers allow a free trial period. The best way to evaluate the quality and usefulness of the software and system is to run the trial software and backup some non-sensitive data for a few days. Be sure to try the restore before you buy.
Most professional online backup systems meet all of the above requirements. However, some of the cheap providers are cheap for a reason. It is especially important that you carefully investigate any cheap or free services before you trust your valuable data to them.
www.rhinoback.com offers low cost online backup while standing up to professional scrutiny. I will evaluate other low cost offerings and post the results here in the near future.