Unlimited Online Backup

I have seen a few online backup providers offering "unlimited" storage. Sounds like a great deal. But how can they do this? Obviously, they really can't if their customers are backing up large amounts of data. I guess you have to dig into the definition of the word "unlimited". I thought I new the meaning, but just to make sure, I looked it up on dictionary.com. There are 6 different results and they all are like this:

un·lim·it·ed –adjective
1. not limited; unrestricted; unconfined: unlimited trade.
2. boundless; infinite; vast: the unlimited skies.
3. without any qualification or exception; unconditional.

My understanding of the meaning was perfectly accurate according to the definitions established in the dictionary. However, some online backup vendors have come up with their own definitions of the word. I think this may root back to the time when US President Bill Clinton explained what appeared to be false statements about his sexual encounters with an intern by defining the meaning of the word "is". When you get into the definition of the word "unlimited" according to online backup providers, you will find that there are in fact limitations, restrictions, bounds, and qualifications; which are in direct conflict with the definition according to the dictionary and our common understanding of the word. I will say however, that they don't exactly state the limits clearly. It is usually something like a "fair-use" policy that says you can't use an unfair amount of storage in relationship to the other users on the system. Isn't that nice; if you want to store lots of stuff then you have to hope that everyone else stores lots of stuff, and you have no idea what the other users are storing. And then, I have to wonder, at what point is everyone storing so much stuff that the online backup provider is losing money and has to shut down or start sticking the customers with higher fees?

Here's the dirty little secret. Online backup providers that offer plans with unlimited storage are more profitable if you don't use a lot of their storage. That's common sense, so they don't want you to stuff their storage systems with your files. Hopefully, you will sign up and only backup a few gigs of data. They have a vested interest in keeping your storage usage down. They have their methods to achieving that result. You may find that your bandwidth gets severely restricted after you have backed up a certain amount of data and your backups get incredibly slow. Or, you may find that certain types of files, are not getting backed up at all. You will almost certainly find that they only retain your backup data for a limited amount of time.

Online backup service providers that charge a fee according the amount of backup storage that you require work on an entirely different model. They want to make it easy for you to backup as much data as you want to, and they want you to be able set the retention for as long as you want. They don't want to restrict you because the more storage you use the more you pay them and the more profitable they are. They actually want you to backup and store more data off site, as opposed to the unlimited offers that want you to backup and store less data.

So here's the trade off: You can control the cost by using an unlimited plan, but you will lose some control over what is backed up and how long it is retained and possibly how fast your back ups will run. Or, you use a pay as you go plan and you have more control over what gets backed up and how long it is retained, but you will not have a fixed cost. I personally prefer the online backup providers where you pay for what you need. The more you backup the more they like you. As opposed to unlimited vendors, where the more you backup the more they don't like you. Can you imagine a bank that prefers that their customers don't deposit much money? I would be uncomfortable putting my money in that bank. I want a bank that wants me to deposit a lot of money, and I want an online backup provider that wants me to deposit a lot of backup data!

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