Worry-Free Off-Site Backup for the 21st Century

Posted December 31st, 2008 by kyle

Anyone with important data on their computer needs a good backup strategy. Hard drives fail and catastrophes do occur, so both on-site and off-site backups are important. Off-site backup used to be a real pain. One way is to store a tape or DVD backup in a safe deposit box, but keeping it up-to-date is tedious. Widespread high-speed internet connectivity has made online backup much more viable, and many companies have entered the online backup space in the last few years.


Here are my requirements for online backup software:

  • 250GB storage for less than $20/mo
  • Strong encryption (transfer and storage)
  • Block-level delta (incremental) copy
  • Retain previous file versions
  • Bandwidth throttling
  • Large file support (at least 5GB)
  • Easily include all file types (.exe, .ocx, .msi, .iso, etc.)
  • Low resource (CPU, RAM) utilization
  • Responsive technical support
  • High potential for staying in business

    Nice to have but not required:

  • Automatic continuous backup
  • Backup in-use files
  • Multi-platform (Windows 2000+, Linux, Mac)
  • Multi-computer synchronization
  • Support targeting on-site / external HD as well as off-site
  • Web access / sharing

    I’ve looked at a lot of options but have found only one that handles all of my requirements. This was my journey.


    I used JungleDisk (which uses Amazon S3 for storage) for several months, and it is a very good option. Incremental backups with JungleDisk Plus greatly reduce backup times, backup options are highly configurable, and it is very reliable. It meets all requirements except for price. My backups keep growing, and it would cost over $35 per month (plus additional bandwidth fees) to store 250GB with JungleDisk. Until Amazon drops their prices substantially, it’s too expensive for backups larger than about 50GB.


    Carbonite offers unlimited backup for $50 per year. Installation and setup of their service worked reasonably well. Unfortunately, I found their configuration too simplistic. It excludes several file types by default, which can be worked around, and each file larger than 4GB must be explicitly included in the backup, which is annoying and potentially dangerous. Their support department did respond after four days indicating that they plan to update at some point to automatically includes larger files and additional file extensions, but I decided it wasn’t worth waiting to see.


    BackBlaze is a newcomer in the online backup space and also appears to meet almost all requirements (unlimited storage for $5 per month), except that they also limit file sizes to 4GB and don’t have currently plans to expand that (but their support did respond to my questions).


    CrashPlan meets almost all the requirements, and they offer unique additional options of backing up to on-site computers and/or friends’ computers (instead of or in addition to online backup on their servers). Their online backup servers cost about $25 per month for 250GB of storage, but if a friend’s computer is used, there is no monthly fee (just a one-time purchase of the client software for $60). I tried it out and it worked well, but their cost for online storage was a little too high, so I decided to keep looking.


    The last service I tried, and the one I’m currently using because it meets all my requirements, is Mozy, which offers unlimited backup for $5 per month for personal use. I had already set up my parents and mother-in-law with their 2GB free plan, which has worked well. I contacted their support department with a few questions and was pleased to receive a prompt response and promising answers (Mozy supports unlimited file sizes and plans to support Linux in the future). It has worked well; I highly recommend it.

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  • 3 Comments on “Worry-Free Off-Site Backup for the 21st Century”

    1. Devin Knighton Says:

      Hey thanks for the sharing your personal experience with the different services and for testing Mozy. Please contact me directly if you ever have any questions.

      Devin Knighton
      (801) 722-8187

    2. Eric Mangold Says:

      SpiderOak (https://spideroak.com/) is also a very compelling product… I use it over mozy primarily because it natively supports Linux, in addition to Win and Mac.

    3. Stef Robb Says:

      This is the exact same journey I went through today, and was left with a four-way fight between Mozy, Backblaze, Carbonite and Livedrive. In the end the initial backup period of about 180 24/7 maxed-out upload days put me off the ideal completely. Only one solution offered to ship out an external USB drive to complete the initial backup, and their subscription rates were out of my price range.

      Drives are so cheap that I’d be willing to buy a 0.5TB drive, fill it and mail it in with no requirement for it to be sent back if that was an option! So far though I’ll just have to keep hoping my house doesn’t burn down…