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Review: Five Online Backup Services Keep Your Data Safe

If you know you need to back up your data, but keep putting it off, one of these online services may help you keep your backups up-to-date.

AT&T Online Vault
AT&T Online Vault follows much the same pattern as the other products profiled here, but it’s been so ferociously dumbed-down that few except the most novice users will want to work with it. or Carbonite are just as easy to use and don’t insult the user’s intelligence.

AT&T Online Vault’s set of options are too rigid and inflexible to be useful for most of us. (Click image to enlarge.)

The basic backup plan with AT&T Online Vault costs $5.95 a month per PC, with $2 for each additional gigabyte, and a maximum fee of $17.95 per month. When I opened the program to set the backup options, I ran into the its first and most obvious limitation: You can only back up either the Documents and Settings directory, or the entire C: drive. There’s no way to specify another drive, or even to include or exclude specific directories. You can exclude four generic file types -- e-mail, images, music, and video -- but the inability to get finer-grained control over what’s backed up and from where is really irritating. AT&T’s only suggestion for working around these limitations is to move files out of the Documents and Settings directory (which is dumb, to put it mildly).

Five Backup Services

•  Introduction

•  AT&T Online Vault

•  Carbonite

•  eSureIT

•  iBackup

•  Mozy

•  Conclusions

It gets worse. Scheduled backups take place every day from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. (i.e., whenever the system is running and connected to the network during that time period), but there’s no way to change this schedule. You can trigger backups manually, but you can’t change the time window or set backups to happen on a specific day -- in fact, there are no controls for the schedule at all. Finally, there’s no control over the encryption key (AT&T has the keys to everything, presumably, which isn’t very reassuring), but by this point, that’s merely adding insult to injury. At least the backup process didn't slow down my system to any noticeable degree.

The restore process has its own share of frustrations. When you want to restore a file, you first have to choose the date you want to restore from. Not a problem, unless you don’t remember the exact date, and just want to pick a file and work from there.

Once you pick the date, you’re presented with a directory tree that you can dig through to select folders or files to restore. However, the restored files are not restored to their original location, but to a folder on the desktop labeled "My Restores." The files are stored in directories that are labeled with their backup date and time.

This part actually makes a fair amount of sense, since it prevents multiple restores from potentially overwriting each other. But the competition, all of whom do far better, makes Online Vault look too brain-dead to even bother with.

AT&T Online Vault
AT&T Knowledge Ventures
Price: $5.95 per month for first 2GB
Summary: Far too dumbed-down for all but the most novice users, Online Vault is outstripped by the other products in this review.

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