Online backup solutions

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The Contestants

After initially looking at seven online backup service providers I found that only three of them met my selection criteria. Those providers where MediaMax, iDrive and Carbonite.

MediaMax

While MediaMax had by far the largest free offering at 25GB and also had the best account scalability which went all the way up to 1TB, I found the performance and client software lacking. The backup client is still in beta so I must give it some slack, however I still did not find the interface intuitive or as well laid out as it perhaps could have been.

Even so the software (for me at least) was still not in anyway unusable and certainly would not put me off using MediaMax's services. The extremely slow transfer speeds on the other hand would. I never saw the transfer speed from the MediaMax software climb much higher than 25Kbytes/sec which when trying to backup many gigabytes of data presents a major problem. In fact at the transfer speeds I was getting it would not be possible to realistically service a 1TB account as it would take well over a year to upload that amount of data.

iDrive

While iDrive may only offer 2GB when using their free plan, it is more than enough to properly evaluate their service. Everything about iDrive felt like quality to me, from the client software through to the performance of their service. The iDrive software is well presented and laid out and was the only client software to officially support Windows Server operating systems (including 64 bit). It had some very useful features such as bandwidth throttling and backup only on idle so backups are never taking your computer or bandwidth resources while you are using it.

Then there were also other valuable additions on the server side of the iDrive service which seem to be unique to them, such as file versioning (up to 30 versions of each file), continuous backups were file changes are detected and backed up every 10 minutes and the fact that they never delete files from backups unless you specify (others online backup providers tend to delete files 30 days after they have been removed from your local file system).

Most importantly though was the upload speeds to iDrive where the fastest of any service. Using the bandwidth test built into the iDrive client and through testing I found that I was always getting 100 Kbytes/sec, which I assume was capped at the iDrive side as my connection still had some room to breath. Though not breaking any speed records it was still on average around four times faster than any other service enabling you to backup 8GB a day, which is a just as well as iDrive offers accounts which scaled right up to a 500GB.

Carbonite

Carbonite was actually the first service I tried, and although they don't offer any free plans they do offer a 15 day trial. The backup software that comes with Carbinite is rather minimalist which I like, however it didn't have the same straight forward interface that I found with the iDrive software. Carbonite also offered the continuous backup feature which I think is really great.

The big let down for me with Carbonite was the transfer speed which averaged around the 25Kbyte/sec speed which just isn't enough for backing up large amounts of data, especially data that is frequently added to or changing. Carbonite also only offer the one plan which is claims unlimited storage just like the iDrive personal account.

Conclusion

All three of the online backup solutions reviewed in this article have their strong point. MediaMax offers a massive 25GB for free with no strings attached and whose plans offer the largest file store reaching right up to 1TB. Then there is iDrive whose offerings include the best software and the best network performance for file uploads, and Carbonite who offer a very simple no fuss service.

For me though the offerings from iDrive win hands down. If not for the array of features unique to their service or the fact they are the only provider tested to officially support Windows Server operating systems, then it would be simply for their network performance. At the end of the day it doesn't matter what an online backup solution provider offers in terns of features and storage, if the transfer speeds they offer could result in it initially taking two months to backup 100GB of data (assuming your computer and internet are left running 24/7) then you are still exposed to a risk of data loss. This becomes particularly prudent if large amounts of data is added or changed on your file system in one hit.