Online Backup Services

Question: Is anyone out there using an online backup service? If yes, which one, what does it cost, and how do you like it? While I will continue to use my local backup process (outlined briefly below), I am so frustrated with dealing with backup hardware (just had to replace my DVD drive), software (sometimes seems to flake out), and media (not sure of storage life), that I need a backup (pun intended) method.

I’ve been looking at, because they were rated highly and had good prices in a recent article at (,aid,121970,00.asp). Xdrive charges $9.95 a month for 5 GB, but I need more than that and would likely go for their 10 GB service at $199.50 per year or $19.90 per month.

I’m not really interested in the ability to share files (though it *may* be handy). I really just want another place to store my backups in the event I need them.

I’m also concerned about my long-term storage of my archives of old projects. I currently store them on a hard drive of an old PC and on two CD-R discs (one in my office, the other in my safe deposit box). I had someone telling me that CD-Rs degrade in a short time (he didn’t specify and I was too frustrated with my DVD drive at the time to ask). I store my shorter term backups (current files that back up daily) on DVD-RW discs.

Anyone have any knowledge about the storage life? I did some research and found that CD-Rs should have a good storage life (10+ years), but didn’t do extensive research. I’d used tape for years, but it’s such a pain (slow and expensive per cartridge) and switched to DVD nearly two years ago. Both, at times, flake out for either software or hardware reasons (usually don’t know which), but at least DVD is fast and has worked more consistently.
Final Decision

Based on the responses to the question, I’ll likely try’s trial and see how that goes. I’ll continue my DVD backups, but I also bought a 120 GB external hard drive, to be another backup to my backup. I like the DVDs because I can easily store one (or more) off-site in my safe deposit box. I also keep daily incremental backups (only files that changed) on DVD, and I keep those for several months.

I may someday copy my archives to CD-R gold discs, but I’m not rushing out to do that right now. I am going to stop using the sleeves for CDs and use only jewel cases (thin ones), because of some things I’d read about storing discs (can’t seem to find that article again, though).

Here are some responses to this question:

I had a hard drive scare a few months ago and looked into backing up my files. I actually decided to save everything to a USB stick ($80) and do it once a week or so, or whenever I think of it. It works fine and I can transfer data to my laptop easily from the stick too.
I’m quite satisfied with Connected, which I’ve used since 2000: They were recently purchased by Iron Mountain but I haven’t noticed any degradation. I imagine their prices will rise faster.

I need to look at, however, because their pricing at 10GB, which is my service level at Connected, is lower by about $5/month.

DVD/CD: It’s a hassle, but you can refresh the media once per year. Just go back to the bank to retrieve the oldies, copy to fresh media, and deposit those. I think DVD will eventually replace CD, so you’re probably right there.

Regarding hardware, you’re probably doing as well as anyone. I had bad luck with tape and dumped it.

Hard drives are so cheap you might want to consider a removable backup drive in a drawer. You push the image button and wait 15 minutes, then you pull the newly imaged drive from the drawer and put it in the trunk of your car. This gets you some “offsite backup” (and potentially a bootable drive) in case your system blinks. I’ve been pondering the question of fail-over for a while – thus my question about “backup” copy of WWP — and I’ll make a decision about it by CYE
One thing you might consider, at least for short term backup, would be a USB portable hard drive. With rebate, Office Depot (I don’t work for them) has the IOMagic 40 GB Gigabank for $130. I just bought one myself. I’m looking for mostly portability personally, but they would make a great short term backup.
For routine backup use, I’ve switched to using external hard drives, which are dirt cheap these days. I’ve picked up three 80-160 GB hard drives for about $39.95 each (on sale, after rebates). With either USB 2.0 or FireWire plug-and-play convenience, these are a cheap and easy way to do regular backups. I keep a couple of these attached to my computers, and have another off-site in case of disaster.

I continue to use CDs or DVDs for offline storage, such as archives of past client projects or extra photos. I burn one for me, and another for the client. I try to use good quality, brand name media for any important discs. The Taiyo Yuden discs now seem to get the highest reviews, but I haven’t yet tried them.
I use Datadepositbox which charges by the amount you store each month. Currently I’m paying about $21 for a little under 5 GB. I do use their file sharing ability frequently and you can have them back up multiple machines. I recommend Web backup services because the backups are done continuously (at least they are with Datadepositbox) which means that every time you step away from your machine, things get backed up.

When my hard drive went south a few months ago, I was happy to have the service, because my personal backups were out of date.

For archiving projects, I burn regular read-only CDs.
Check out It works very well for groups of writers and file exchanges, so it may not be what you need.
I’ve been doing the bulk of my daily backups on Zip 250 MB and old Zip 100 MB discs. They have been close to 100 percent reliable, but I realize that I’ll need to switch backup technologies when I get a new computer.

I have been doing some archiving on CD-R discs, and I haven’t had any problems yet. I should undoubtedly do more, but the concept of throwing out discs on a daily basis bothers me from a recycling standpoint.

I haven’t heard that straight backups on CD-R discs pose any sort of problem. I have music CDs that I purchased back in the mid ’80s. I haven’t run into any that I can no longer play. I think the CD-R technology is fairly close to regular CD burning.

If you are using “session” backups, that IS a potential problem. Here is a forum entry I was just reading on MacWorld this morning:

What you’re talking about is multi-session format. I was burning and reading multi-session CDs back in the mid-1990s on my Mac in OS 8.1 using Toast 3.x and Adaptec DirectCD. The problem with multi-session CDs is they are more prone to catastrophic data failure. Each ‘session’ adds new data to the CD, essentially updating a few files and adding a new directory that points at the added files plus the older unmodified files. The earlier files aren’t overwritten, as on a hard drive — they’re merely harder to find (unless you know how to dig into the old directory structure). So, with multi-session the original data remains on the CD though it’s no longer accessible without using special recovery tools, or unless you’re a real expert in reading B-trees and catalog structures.”

In order to protect one of these multi-session CDs from data loss, you have to “close the session.” That’s where trouble can happen. Write errors during closing occur not uncommonly, resulting in total data loss. What’s different from ordinary burn failures is this problem may occur months or years after the original multi-session CD was started. The original files may well have been deleted from a person’s hard drive by someone who wasn’t savvy about the shortcomings of multi-session format. After enough people had bad experiences with multi-session format, and as media prices dropped through the floor, multi-session CDs began to lose favor on the Mac. There just wasn’t the same motivation for people to squeeze every last megabyte out of a CD that costs 10 cents, versus 1x nonrewritable CDs that were $15 to $25 each.

For some reason not totally clear to me, multi-session CDs remain popular in the Windows world. Sure, they have some advantages. But the potential for catastrophic data loss remains a serious problem. I hope everyone who works with multi-session format knows the risks they are taking with their data, but I fear that’s not the case. While it may be OK for “quick and dirty” CD creation, it’s really not reliable enough for archiving critical data.
I have been suspicious of multi-session disc archiving; this fellow knows enough to explain why it’s risky. I think regular, closed- session CD-R backups should be fine. No computer medium is forever, but by the time your CD backups fail, your client data will probably be worthless.

I haven’t been using DVD backups, but as far as I know, there aren’t any major problems with closed-session DVDs.
Maybe you’ve already considered or used this method. I tend to back up onto my external zip drive, which I can take to an office if necessary and plug into their USB port. For backup, I copy to the drive disk. For archiving, I place zip files on the zip disk. This has worked for me, and it’s what I did to save files when I had to get my older PC reformatted (the kids use it now).

You can check out X-drive with a free two-week trial period, which I did just to see what it was like. Seems like a good way to get extra space for storage and backup. I may use it in the future.
I’ve heard that written CDs are good for about five years, for what that’s worth.
I use Backup Solutions, and pay $250 a year I believe. Love the service. It’s fantastic. Easy to use. Can go back to any point in time and download all files or just specific files. In addition to my data files, it keeps all my software and settings and preferences backed up. Very intuitive, good customer support. It automatically backs up at the same time each day and gives me a report. I was just telling a client about it tonight. I don’t worry about my data any more!

Highly recommended. 5 stars out of 5.