Monday, July 31, 2006

Backup to go forward

Like most computer users, I haven't been very good at backing-up my hard drive. Actually, I've been just plain lousy--I think the last time I did it was several months ago. And if my office burns up it wouldn't matter, because the backup disks are here in the same room anyway.

So when I read an AP article (later published here) about online, automatic, fairly cheap backup services it sounded just right for me. The Carbonite service seemed the best, and I decided to give it a try--especially since they give a free, 15-day trial, without even asking for a credit card number. If I decided to continue it would be $50 for a year (they haven't implemented their $5/month subscription yet, but I don't think I would have chosen that even if it were available).

I downloaded their software, and chose a "full" backup--not just documents and such. "Full" doesn't include the operating system, which isn't really necessary. The Carbonite program scanned my hard drive, and found nearly 5 gigabytes to back-up. This would require about three days to backup, according to their estimate formula--three 24-hour days. This is the biggest drawback of online, internet-based backup--even using a broadband connection, upload speeds are pretty slow, and the initial backup can take a very long time (other, more expensive services give you the option of mailing it to them on disks).

It actually took closer to four days. (UPDATE: I got an e-mail from Carbonite, apologizing for the slow upload times. They said the response from the article has been huge. They are adding bandwidth, and things should be back to normal by Thursday.) I tested it out restoring a file--it was easy. Meanwhile, Carbonite was running in the background, periodically scanning for new or modified files to backup, and then automatically uploading them. I decided to go for the one year subscription--and got an extra 2 months bonus.

There is no particular limit to the amount of data they will store for you, and you can even backup more than one computer--it's backing-up my wife's computer right now, at no additional fee. UPDATE: I was misled by their poorly worded FAQ. You can only backup one computer per fee. I'll have to pay another $50/year for my wife's computer--it's still a good deal.

It's all one less thing to worry about. And even if I never have to restore anything, sooner or I'll be replacing my computer. With Carbonite I can download all my files to the new one--I shouldn't have to use PC Replicator or anything like it.

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