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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.

iBackup seems to be aimed at moderately advanced to expert users, and this tendency shows up in many different ways. Some of the prompts and configuration options require more tech savvy than a product like Mozy, for instance. But it also has that many more advanced features to tickle a techie like me, such as being able to automatically back up system files or data from business applications like Exchange and SQL Server. A free 15-day / 5GB trial version is available, although you need a valid credit card to try it out; pricing plans range from 5GB a month to 300GB.

Among iBackup’s pro-level features are the ability to make direct backups of Exchange and SQL Server data. (Click image to enlarge.)

Actually, the first hint that iBackup is for more advanced users comes when you run the program’s setup and are asked whether or not you want to install iBackup’s components in a standard way or as an NT service. If you know what an NT service is, you’ll probably have little trouble with iBackup; if not, the more technical bent of the program could be frustrating. I would have liked to see beginner / advanced options during setup, so that the more complex prompts could be hidden by default and exposed if needed.

Five Backup Services

•  Introduction

•  AT&T Online Vault

•  Carbonite

•  eSureIT

•  iBackup

•  Mozy

•  Conclusions

Once things are installed, there are three wizards that make the configuration process simpler: Automatic Selection, which pre-selects common file types; Restore, which steps you through the process of what you want to recover and from where; and Advanced Backup, which helps you back up things like the system state data, or SQL Server and Exchange Server data.

When you select files for backup, you can also create universal exclusion rules to screen out certain directory paths or file types. A number of common system files that don’t need to be backed up, like the hibernation file, are pre-excluded. Everything that’s backed up is encrypted locally and sent via 128-bit SSL; you cannot provide your own encryption key. At the end of the backup process, you’ll be notified via e-mail; the program also keeps its own detailed logs of everything that’s transpired.

Restoring files from the backup repository isn’t too hard. The program provides you with an Explorer-like tree view of the backed-up files, and all you need to do is check off what to restore, then pick a location (with the original file locations as a default possibility). Another way to restore files is to use the "Snapshots" window, which lets you see point-in-time versions of all your backups -- for instance, you can see the nightly or weekly versions of files, if you back up very frequently. (I should point out that the economy-level plans available through iBackup don’t support snapshots; the cost difference for snapshots is typically $5 a month extra.) Finally, backup sets can also be deleted manually from the server.

The program’s bandwidth or CPU usage can’t be set manually (at least, there’s no public interface for that), but I didn’t experience any noticeable system lag when running a backup.

Pro Softnet Corp.
Price: 5GB for $9.95 monthly; other plans available
Summary: Aimed at moderately experienced to expert users, iBackup includes some professional-level features like backing up Exchange and SQL Server data.

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