How On-line Backup Systems Work

On-line backup systems have developed to the point where they are an affordable, easy-to-use, secure solution for backing up your computer systems. They offer the benefit of backing up your data continuously and storing it in a remote location so that your data is protected even in the event of a major catastrophe at your place of business. If your office burns down, your computers are stolen or an earthquake swallows up your home office, your data will be safely sitting on a server in another city far away from harm. Here's how our two selected solutions work.

The Process

Subscribe to a service

First, you need to subscribe to the selected service. Both Data Deposit Box and Carbonite give you the essential functionality, so check out our brief summary on the Backup Solutions page to select the service that's best for you.

Install software

Once you've subscribed, you need to install a small piece of software on your computer. After the software is installed, you're pretty much done. By default, each of the clients backs up some common user directories on your computer such as "My Documents".

Let the software do its work

Now that you've subscribed and installed the software, the software runs in the background all the time that your computer is up and running. It keeps an eye on the directories that you've said you want backed up and when it sees a new file or that an existing file has been updated, it copies the file up to the storage server across the Internet.

Restore files if necessary

If you something happens to a file on your system, simply go to a special Web site. Enter your user ID and password then select the file you want to restore.

A little fine tuning

If you store files in folders other than the default "My Documents", you probably want to fine-tune the settings so that you get everything important backed up.

To fine-tune the backup settings, you have to go into the software application on your system and select the directories on your computer that you want the backup software to back up. The software displays a folder tree that is the same as your hard drive. From there, you put check boxes beside the folders that you want backed up.

If you're trying to keep your cost down, you may want to be selective about which directories get backed up. If you have videos, music files or a lot of high resolution pictures, these files can take up a lot of space, so you may want to exclude them from the backups. Some backup software allows you to specify which types of files you want the backup software to ignore. So even if it's configured to back up a particular directory, it will exclude the specific file types you've told the software to ignore. This will help you save money in the long run by keeping the number of stored megabytes down.


What about security?

For security purposes, the files are encrypted before they are transmitted and they are stored in an encrypted format on the servers so your data is kept secure.

Can I go back to a previous version of a file?

Most backup solutions allow you to do this. They actually store multiple versions of each file that they back up so it's possible to restore a previous version of a file. This is great if a file has gotten corrupted or if you accidentally deleted a huge amount of text and then saved the file before realizing the mistake you'd made. In some cases, the number of versions of a file that can be saved is configurable.

Won't my backup cost grow over time?

Most backup solutions only charge for the space that the largest version of a file is taking. So, even if the archive contains 3 copies of a file that is 1GB in size, you are only billed for 1GB of storage even though you are technically using up 3 GB of disk space.

Of course, the more files you create, the more storage space your backup will require and once you start backing stuff up, it's easy to get carried away and start backing up everything.

Should I back up my whole system?

While this seems like a good idea, I'm not really sure how it would handle the whole system and you'd be running into a fair expense to store the whole operating system and all of your programs. A full system backup and restore is likely outside the scope of the expected use for these backup solutions but if you try it out and it works, be sure to let us know how it goes.