6, 8 and 16 free, not-free, and online-backup solutions.

A backup of your information is only good if it is stored in a separate place, such your office.  Or stored with a web Online Backup service.  This list last updated August 2014.

Local Backup, aka You Store It

Free
Cobian Backup
Fling 
Karen’s Replicator
Microsoft SyncToy v2
SyncBack Freeware Edition
Unison

Not-free
AllSync
BounceBack Ultimate
EMC Replistor
FileBack PC
Second Copy
SynchronEX
Super Flexible File Synchronizer
SyncBackSE

Online Backup aka they store it

Name Free service? Plans from Free trial? Paid for space Maximum Limit?
BackBlaze No $5 Yes Unlimited Unlimited
Carbonite No $59.95 (year) Yes Unlimited Unlimited
Comodo Cloud No $80 (year) Yes 100GB 500GB
CrashPlan Yes $3.96 Yes Unlimited
CrashPlan Pro No $396 (year) Yes Unlimited
DropBox Yes, 2 GB $10.99 100 GB 500 GB
Egnyte No $96 (year) Yes 1 TB Unlimited
Final-Byte No $7.95 Yes 5 GB 100 GB
Gmail Sync Yes, Unlimited
iDrive Yes, 5GB $37.12 (yearly) No 300 GB 300 GB
Iron Mountain No <unknown> No <unknown> <unknown>
Jungle Disk No $4 No 5 GB Unlimited
Microsoft OneDrive Yes, 15 GB $1.99 100 GB 1 TB
Mozy Yes, 2 GB $5.95 50 GB ?
SOS Online Backup No $7.99 No Unlimited Unlimited
SpiderOak Yes, 2GB $10 100 GB Unlimited

Me?  I use SyncBackSE with a collection of Western Digital and Seagate external hard drives.

Some notes, as of August 2014:

  • I last updated this list in January 2010, and the thing I’m impressed with is that all “Online Backup” providers are still around.
  • A number of Online Backup providers offer mobile device backup as well, which is useful for Smartphones and Tablets.

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What my 3-2-1 backup looks like.

There are people who do backups, and there are those who have not lost data yet.

I use the 3-2-1 Backup strategy, which is:

  • 3 copies of anything I want to keep
  • 2 different backup media types
  • 1 (at least) offsite storage location

In practice, it looks like this:

Wisefaq 3-2-1 Backup

Yes, it’s a bit complicated.  If could be less complicated:

  • if I used “the cloud” for my backup.
    Cost / limited bandwidth rules that out.
    (I backup 100’s of GB, so the cloud would get expensive fast).
  • if I used Windows Home Server.
    The backup software in WHS is image based.
    Image based backups would use Terabytes of space.
    To save space/cost, I’d need a file based backup.

My ideal solution?  Something like a DROBO-like device, which has built in disk encryption.

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Dealt with a “backup” problem today.

SpinRite 6 is really worth the moneyI’d like to say it was a backup problem, but see if you can spot the flaw in the customer’s “I make backups” argument, which I’ve condensed down to the essential points of what happened.

  1. I copy “My Documents” to my external hard drive.
  2. To free up space of my computer, I delete files off my computer, including “My Documents”.
  3. I’m getting some disk errors on my external drive.

The sharp-eyed amongst you, or those who have read “Backups with the 3-2-1 rule”, will have realised that at point 2, the customer no longer had a backup.  They now had an original. To explain it in simple words, the only copy they now had was sitting on the external drive, which had faults on it.  I was able to fix the external drive with SpinRite.  And I left the customer much better educated about backups.

If you only have ONE of something, it’s not backed up.

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“It is better to have and not need, than need and not have.”

As I said to the boss the other day when he asked if we wanted a final backup of the Windows 2000 Server we were decommissioning.  Now where I first heard this saying, is lost in the mists of time.  If pressed, I’d say some sort of security briefing.

Regardless, it expresses what I think about backups very well.  And I was reminded of it the other day.  I was copying some files from one backup drive to another, and McAfee chirped in with
McAfee - fake av

“Potentially Unwanted Program??” What the ???

Windows Enabler was a utility I used some years ago, which I’d forgotten about.  I tend to hoard these utilities in case I ever need them again.  I was greatly annoyed that McAfee decided to delete this utility for the reason “Potentially Unwanted Program”.

I ended up recovering the deleted files from CD backup.

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Windows Mobile backup program – Sprite Backup

Sprite Backup - what it backs upThere are “free” backup programs, if you have a search around XDA Developers.  Sometimes “free” is a code word for pirated.  I much prefer to purchase my software.  So I  purchased Sprite Backup.  Which is want I’ve done.  Sprite Backup is one of the few programs I’ve found which  backs up phone call and SMS logs.

Sprite Backup - warning If you select an item which is being sync’d to another device, such as a PC with Outlook, Sprite Backup will warn you.

After you’ve selected the backup location, Sprite Backup will ask you to restart your Windows PDA.  This is so Sprite Backup can backup files in use by the operating system.

Sprite Backup - Backup progressOn the loan iMate 9502 I had, it backed up 30.51MB.

Now I handed over $29.95 for this program, so I am happy with it.  I like that fact that it creates self-extracting backups.  Handy for when you are moving to a new device.

What I didn’t like, was that I wasn’t able to take a Windows Mobile 6.5 backup, and restore it to a Windows Mobile 6.1 device.

I should have known better of course.

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7, 8 & 13. Free, not-free and online backup solutions

A backup of your information is only good if it is stored in a separate place, such your office.  Or stored with a web Online Backup service.

Local Backup, aka You Store It

Free
Cobian Backup
Comodo Backup
Fling 
Karen’s Replicator
Microsoft SyncToy v2
SyncBack Freeware Edition
Unison

Not-free
AllSync
BounceBack Ultimate
EMC Replistor
FileBack PC
Second Copy
SynchronEX
Super Flexible File Synchronizer
SyncBackSE

Online Backup aka they store it

Name Free service? Plans from Free trial? Paid for space Maximum Limit?
BackBlaze No $5 Yes Unlimited Unlimited
Carbonite No $54.95 (year) Yes Unlimited Unlimited
CrashPlan Yes $3.50 Unlimited
CrashPlan Pro No $350 Yes Unlimited
DropBox Yes, 2 GB $9.99 50 GB 100 GB
Egnyte No $162 (year) Yes 20 GB 20 GB
Gmail Sync Yes, Unlimited
iDrive Yes, 2GB $4.95 No 150 GB 500 GB
Iron Mountain No $8.95 Yes 2 GB 50 GB
Jungle Disk No $2 No 5 GB Unlimited
Live Mesh Yes, 5 GB
Mozy Yes, 2 GB $4.95 Unlimited Unlimited
SpiderOak Yes, 2GB $10 Unlimited Unlimited

Me?  I use SyncBackSE with a collection of Western Digital and Seagate external hard drives.

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Backup mistakes I’ve made.

Confessions can be good.  Here are mine around backup mistakes I’ve made.

  1. Copy “new” backup disk over the “old” backup disk.
    The “new” disk was blank!
    I (almost) “lost” 5 years of irreplaceable photos.  Fortunately I found an “old old” backup.
    What it cost me: 100+ photos / 4 hours.
  2. Production server: Disk to Disk backup.
    Setup a nightly backup of SOELAB1 server, so it copies all the changes to SOELAB1BUP.
    Some time later, try and recover a file from SOELAB1BUP.  It’s not there.
    Ask co-worker:
    ”Oh, we were running out of backup space so we don’t backup ISO files anymore.”
    What it cost me: Operating system install disk needed for fault investigation.
  3. CTOS FAQ website.
    GeoCities was shutting down on 26th October 2009.  I thought it was the 31st October.
    What it cost me: complete website and Google Pagerank of 1 for CTOS.  3 files gone forever & 15 hours recovery time (had a 10 year backup).
  4. Forget to backup the backup file.
    wingdings-tick-box Make a backup of the Wisefaq web server.
    wingdings-cross-box Download it, and store the backup locally.
    Yes, I forgot to download the backup.  I did several WordPress upgrades before I realised.
    What it cost me: nothing (phew!).  Potential lost, everything.

If you can learn something from my mistakes, more power to you.

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Backups with the 3-2-1 rule

A simple rule I’ve learnt over time, with backups.

3 Backup copies of anything you want to keep.
2 different storage media.
1 offsite storage site.

3
There have been times when I’ve gone to grab a file from backup, and “Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”, it’s missing/corrupted.
With 3 copies, you greatly improve your chances of recovery.  You’re going to make 2 copies anyway, because …

2
Different storage media types means CD/DVD and/or Disk and/or Tape Online Backup and/or Online Backup.
Because.
Because one of those media types will fail on you.

  • CD/DVD – I’ve seen “archival” quality CD/DVD media “bubble”., rendering the disc unreadable.
  • Disk to Disk – my favourite method, but hard drives have been known to fail regularly, aka the IBM “Deathstar” saga.
  • Tape – Does anyone use tape for home backup anymore?  I’ve detailed my experiences with tape backups here.
  • Online Backup – I can’t see any of these failing.  Unless you have not backed ALL your files up to the online service.

So pick two different media types to backup to.  I use Disk to Disk and CD/DVD.

1
If you have a fire, and you’ve stored your backups next to your (now melted) computer, then your backups are of no use to you.
Keep a copy of your backups at a relatives house.
Or a bank deposit box.
Or even better, use an online backup service.  You can find a list of them here.

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Tape backup, reliable? Never ever!

The Dilbert Disaster Recovery Plan  Or how tape backups have failed my customers over the years, and wasted our collective time, because of customer stupidity.

  1. Melted tapes
    The school which stored their entire backup tape set next to their server.
    One office fire later, “No, we can’t restore your melted tapes.”
  2. Old tapes
    The schools which refused to buy replacement tapes, because they were too expensive.
    And wondered why, after a server hard disk failure, we couldn’t restore data off their 4 year old tapes.
  3. Dirty tape drives
    The office locations which never ever cleaned their tape drives.
    The tape drives would gum up, and make the tapes un-readable.
  4. “Not my job”
    It wasn’t a difficult task to change the backup tapes every day, but it was always “someone else” responsible for it.
    Net result: continual backup failure, and lost data.
  5. Slowing down with age.
    Tape drives, being mechanical devices, slow down with age.  So you get Tape Drive A (the old drive) creating tapes that Tape Drive B (the new drive) couldn’t read.

Sony DAT Tape drive and Unisys QIC Tape DriveSo what did we do to encourage the customers to be concerned about their backups?

Melted tapes:
Showed them what a fire-damaged tape looked like.  “Oh!” was the most common comment.

Old tapes:
Try and grab a copy of the “critical” data when we could, via over-the-network backups.

Dirty tape drives:
Cleaned the drive when we visited once a year.  Little else we could do.

“Not my job”:
Nothing we could do about that.  A hardware failure would often change the attitude at the customer site.

Slowing down with age:
We’d only see the effect of this after a hard disk crash, where we try and read the tape, and fail.
Often involved paying a service technician *lots* of money to adjust a drive for us, so it could read the data.

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