Disaster-Proof Your Data with Online Backup

"Online backup" is a perennial top search term at PCMag.com. Clearly, you, our readers, are interested in this cost-effective way to protect their irreplaceable documents, photos, music, and video files. Since online backup services securely store your files away from your premises at off-site server locations, your data will stay intact and available even if your local disks are stolen or your premises suffer some disaster. Given the catastrophes in Japan (and growing acceptance of cloud computing) it seems likely that the demand for these services will only grow. We've taken a close look at ten of the most popular services to help you choose the one that's right for your backup needs.
Pricing Changes
The online backup space continues to evolve. The largest supplier of online backup, Mozy recently made news by announcing that it would no longer offer an unlimited storage option, due to excessive storage demands by a small percentage of users. Carbonite still offers an unlimited plan for $54.95 a year and IDrive recently announced a very affordable unlimited plan at $49.99 a year. "Unlimited" isn't exactly infinite, though. These plans limit you to the amount of storage on the covered computer's hard disk, and both of them slow your transfer speed if you exceed 200GB or 150GB respectively.

Perhaps of more interest is a plans ability to cover more than one computer. A common scenario I use when comparing the pricing of different online backup services is to consider how much it would cost to back up 50GB of data on three machines for a year. Here's a table of how the services pan out in this scenario:
Online Backup ServiceStated PricePrice for 3 PCs and 50GB Data for 1 YearFree Plan
Carbonite$54.95/year/1 PC$164.8515-day trial
CrashPlan$49.99/yr/1 PC unlimited$12030 day, and free local, friend
IDrive$99.50/year/50GB/5 PCs$99.505GB free account
Jungle Disk$3/month plus storage fees$81None.
KineticD$2/GB/unlimited PCs$100.0014-day trial
MiMedia$99/year/100GB/Unlimited PCs$99.0030-day trial
MozyHome$4.95/mo/1 PC$163.352GB free account
Nomadesk$50/year$50 (subject to fair use policy)30-day free trial
Norton Online Backup$49.99/25GB/5 PCs$99.9830-day 5GB trial
SOS Online Backup$79.95/year/5 PCs$79.9514-day trial

Mobile Access
Pricing isn't the only thing changing, either. The services are adding mobile apps for devices like iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. Some, like SOS Online Backup offer not only access to your online backed-up files, but also the ability to send links to files downloads to your contacts. IDrive offers a separate iPhone app that doesn't offer that capability, but does let you back up your phone's contacts and photos—for free. KineticD has added a remote control capability to its iPhone and Web versions, which makes sense, since you're likely to have the backup app running on your main PC all the time.

Folder Syncing
Another pairing with online backup is folder syncing, which services like MiMedia and Nomadesk offer. These let you designate folders on multiple systems that will automatically be updated whenever you add or change a file in either. But perhaps the most fascinating twist on online backup comes from CrashPlan, which actually lets you specify a friend's computer as your online backup target, saving you from paying for sever storage.

Whether you're looking for whizz-bang new features or just want a safe place to keep your valuable documents and media, our reviews below will help you make the choice that best fits your needs—and your budget.


Carbonite is a mature online backup service, but it lacks many desirable features you'll find in the competition.
CrashPlan 3.0CrashPlan 3.0

CrashPlan offers unique capabilities, like multiple backup sets and backing up to friends' computers. We like its unlimited storage in the $50-a-year plan, the ability to back up attached devices, and multiplatform compatibility. Multiple computer accounts are expensive, however, and you don't get file sharing or mobile clients.
IDrive (2011)IDrive (2011)

$4.95/month per PC with 150GB
IDrive offers generous storage plans and a powerful Web interface, but it still doesn't let you mix Macs and PCs in one account, the mobile app doesn't give access to your backed up files, and there's no sharing via secure download links.
Jungle Disk 3.1Jungle Disk 3.1

$3/month plus storage fee
Jungle Disk offers a lot, with scheduled online backups, folder syncing, and a shared drive, but it's a bit more confusing and complicated than it needs to be.

KineticD offers most of what I look for in an online backup product, including constant monitoring for changed or added files, version saving, open-file backup, and multiple PC support. For its relatively high price, however, I expect a slicker, more capable interface.

$10/month for 50GB on unlimited PCs
Already-impressive beta service MiMedia offers hands-off, automated backup, the ability to play media files online, and a cloud-based disk drive. For more control over the upload process and backup set, SOS has it beat, and for simple syncing, DropBox is a better bet. But if you want anywhere access to your digital media, you could do a lot worse than the reasonably priced and well-designed MiMedia.
MozyHome 2.0MozyHome 2.0

Mozy improves ease of use and setup, but still supports just one computer per account and doesn't let you back up network or removable drives. That keeps it a step behind the competition.
Nomadesk 4.0Nomadesk 4.0

Nomadesk goes beyond other syncing and file-sharing services, creating a complete virtual disk. But it doesn't automate the process or automatically save versions the way "traditional" online backup services do. If you just want a virtual drive synced to your PCs and the cloud, Nomadesk is worth a look.
Norton Online Backup 2.0Norton Online Backup 2.0

$50 for 25GB on up to 5 PCs
With this release, Norton has brought its online backup service's features into the mainstream. Support for multiple PCs, including Macs, in one account and a slick Web-based user interface make this a Norton Online Backup 2.0 a real contender.
SOS Online Backup Home Edition 4.7.4SOS Online Backup Home Edition 4.7.4
$9.95 a month for five PCs and up to 50GB
SOS still offers more than other online backup providers: multiple PC coverage, external and network drive backup, a local backup app, and an excellent iPhone app. Its Live Protect that watches folders for file changes and backs up immediately. In sum, SOS delivers more than any other online backup service.


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