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Online backups: Using the Internet as a hard drive

Monday, 14 January 2008, 12:59 Hrs
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Hamburg: Backing up data is no fun. Often, comfort wins over practicality and backups are a casualty. One way to ensure that backups are made regularly is to set up services that store the data online.

"The fact that data can be stored online is a great advantage," explains Michael Knott, senior editor at the online magazine Netzwelt.de. Users can access their stored data from any internet-connected computer.

"The danger that DVDs or hard drives back at home will become unusable through wear, fire or water damage is eliminated," adds Jaroslav Smycek, a computer expert at the Consumer Central for Lower Saxony, Germany.

No specialised technical knowledge is needed. The setup runs smoothly: the backup services generally offer software that automatically transfers the data from the home computer to the servers of the service provider. "You can specify which files should be backed up at what intervals," Knott says.

Online backups sometimes cost nothing. Xdrive, a service owned by AOL, offers five gigabytes (GB) of free storage space. Mozy offers two GB for nothing. The US-based services are available for everyone. German users who prefer service in their own language can try Azillo or the Swiss service MyDrive, which one GB each for grabs.

The free storage options are either ad financed or serve to draw attention to other services.

Some services offer more extensive choices but cost money from the start. Holland-based Carbonite charges almost $50 per year for its online backup or just under $90 for two years - although with unlimited storage space. Apple fans can buy a Mac account to receive 10 GB of web storage for backups, homepages and emails, at a cost of around $100 per year.

Storage capacity is not the only factor, however. Another key concern is how data is uploaded and downloaded. Most services include limits on transfer volumes.

Assurances of the availability of the data in the event that your home hard drive crashes should be reviewed in each service's general terms and agreements, says Marit Hansen, a technology expert at the Independent State Centre for Data Protection Schleswig-Holstein in Kiel.

She recommends trying to get a feel of the service provider before committing. Using an online backup service is an issue of trust: "Users have no way to check how securely data is stored by the provider." It's advisable to stay away from websites still in beta status, because during the test phases they cannot guarantee the security of the data.

"While there are no long-time companies in this young field, it's still generally a good idea to go for the providers who have repeatedly done well in tests," Knott recommends. That includes Xdrive, Mozy, or Carbonite.

Internet addresses of some online storage providers are http://www.xdrive.com, http://www.mozy.com and http://www.apple.com/de/dotmac/.
Source: IANS
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