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10 Data Backup, Storage and Sharing Solutions

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In an increasingly digital age, data backup, storage and sharing is more important than ever. However, today's data backup and storage solutions have evolved into much more feature filled services that let you share and access your data easier and from pretty much anywhere while still affordable.

In this roundup we'll take a look at 10 online data backup, storage and sharing solutions to meet everyone's needs.

Mix and Match to Fit Your Needs

For many of us, one service won't meet all our needs or our budget. Finding the right combination of services isn't always easy but is a necessary evil to protect our important and growing collection of data. Remember that you're most likely not going to find one service that does everything you need within your budget.

1. Amazon S3 + JungleDisk

Jungle Disk

Jungle Disk (the desktop application) is a desktop data backup and storage application that allows you to connect to Amazon's S3 service as a network drive. Here are some of the major features.

  • Network drive acts like a hard drive (drag, drop, copy, delete)
  • Optional data encryption using a personal key that you set
  • Supports Windows, Mac and Linux (and can run from USB drive)
  • Automatic backups

Jungle Disk also provides an online service with additional features to manage and access your data.

With Jungle Disk you'll be able to access your data via the web, view backup and usage reports and even setup additional accounts should you need for a workgroup environment.

Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service)

Amazon S3 is a pay as you go data storage service focused more towards developers than the average user but is easy enough to connect to and use that we can all take advantage of the flexibility it offers.

Not only can you use Amazon S3 as your data storage service with Jungle Disk but most FTP applications connect to the service as well. This makes it easy to store web files for cheaper (bandwidth and storage) than using a traditional, high quality web host.

Here are some other uses for it.

  • Use with Jungle Disk as a network drive with automatic backups.
  • Use as a static file web hosting service.
  • Use with the Amazon S3 WordPress plugin.
  • Use with S3Sync to make automatic web server backups.
  • Use with Amazon CloudFront CDN service.

For more information on ways to use Amazon S3, read "Using AWS S3 to Power Your Digital World".

Amazon S3 + Jungle Disk Conclusion

Jungle Disk will run you $2/mo and Amazon S3 runs $0.15 per GB/mo data stored, $0.10 per GB data transfer in, $0.17 per GB data transfer out and $0.01 for requests (all US based). See the AWS S3 pricing page for more info.

It sounds a little complicated, but it's a pretty cheap, very high quality solution. If you backed up 30GB of data using Jungle Disk, it will cost about $19.50 the first month (due to uploading the data) and about $6.50 + data upload/download each month after. Jungle Disk only backs up new and changed files so your monthly data upload/download will likely be pretty limited. Plus, you can use it to save money on web hosting costs.

Pros:

  • Only pay for what you use.
  • Infinitely expandable space and unlimited bandwidth.
  • Flexible enough to be used for backups, storage, web hosting and plenty more.
  • Multiple user workgroup options.
  • Multiple platforms and no computer limits.
  • Jungle Disk is a very good backup application with lots of features.

Cons:

  • Not the easiest solution.
  • Limited sharing capabilities.
  • No mobile access.
  • No trials.

2. SugarSync

SugarSync takes a different approach to storing and backing up data as well as offering many features that are pretty appealing. Instead of transferring your data to another location, off your computer, SugarSync copies the data you select on your computer(s) and makes it available to you where ever you are.

SugarSync Files

From the SugarSync manager application you can access synced files from your other computers, manage your sync folders and files, share files, etc. It has a "Magic Briefcase" which is like a single shared folder between all your computers.

SugarSync iPhone

Initially I didn't like SugarSync because I didn't just want to access data on my computer, I wanted most of the data off my computer. About 30 seconds later I noticed the Web Archive, which does just that. So, you can access your specified data (once synced online) on all your computers and have the ability to move that data to the online only Web Archive.

SugarSync also has mobile access including apps for the iPhone (and iPod Touch), Blackberry and Windows Mobile.

I can access all the same files on my phone that I can at my computer. You might have also noticed the "Mobile Photos" directory in the management app above. This makes it easy to upload my iPhone photos to SugarSync for storage, sharing, etc.

Of course no service like this would be complete without web access to all your files. You're given a unique domain from your username to log into your web account and do everything via the web that you can with the desktop or phone applications.

Pricing: 2 GB Free (not a trial), plans start at $4.99/mo for 30GB of space up to $24.99/mo for 250GB of space. Sign up Storage Bonus

Pros:

  • Very affordable.
  • Lots of data storage and sharing options.
  • Easy to use software and online access.
  • Multiple platforms and no computer limits (as far as I can tell).
  • Mobile access on multiple platforms.
  • Sync application works well.
  • Free 30-day trial.
  • Free 2GB storage plan.
  • Sign up storage bonus

Cons:

  • Paying for space you might not be using.
  • Sync application doesn't support bandwidth limiting.
  • Doesn't offer some of the more flexible features like Amazon S3.

3. Dropbox

Dropbox is very similar to SugarSync but with fewer features. Instead of syncing folders and data you select, you set a Dropbox folder on your computer and place your files there. It's basically the same idea as SugarSync's "Magic Briefcase" feature.

You don't have the option to select each computer Dropbox is running on and see its files. All files stored on Dropbox will be located within one main folder (optional sub-directories).

The desktop application runs in the background and doesn't actually provide any helpful features for data backup but it does allow you to set bandwidth limiting. The only real interface you have is the Dropbox folder on your computer and the online file manager.

Dropbox Online

Dropbox does support mobile access but there are no mobile apps for it. You just navigate to their website www.getdropbox.com and login.

Pricing is more limited and more expensive. They also offer a free 2GB storage account.

Pros:

  • Very simple and unobtrusive.
  • Multiple platforms and no computer limits (as far as I can tell).
  • Mobile access via web browser.
  • Free 2GB storage plan.

Cons:

  • Paying for space you might not be using.
  • More expensive.
  • Limited features online and via desktop software.
  • Limited sharing capabilities.
  • Doesn't offer some of the more flexible features like Amazon S3.

4. Syncplicity

Syncplicity is the same idea as Dropbox and allows synchronizing files between computers but not at the same level as SugarSync. Syncplicity however, adds the ability to open files in web apps such as Google docs, Scribd, etc.

Pricing is basically the same as Dropbox (2 GB free account, $19.99/mo for 50GB). Unfortunately Syncplicity is currently Windows only.

Pros:

  • Simple and easy to use.
  • Free 2GB storage plan.
  • No computer limits on $19.99/mo plan.
  • Very limited pricing plans.

Cons:

  • Paying for space you might not be using.
  • Windows only for now.
  • No mobile access (that I can tell).
  • Limited computers on free account.
  • Doesn't offer some of the more flexible features like Amazon S3.

5. Drop.io

Dropio

Drop.io is a service focused more on collaboration and sharing than providing lots of storage space. If you need to share files with other people, provide an easy place for your clients to upload files for you, etc. Drop.io is going to be your best choice.

There are so many different ways to store and share files on Drop.io it would take an article of its own to cover them all. From email, rss and Twitter to mobile, SMS and even fax (yes, you can send and receive faxes). View essentially all your media online (images, videos, documents, etc). You even get voicemail, conference calling and online chat in your "drop".

Dropio Sharing

The downside to Drop.io? The price of storage space. You can quickly and easily create free 100MB drops but it will cost $10/yr per GB of storage space up to 25GB (that's $250/yr for 25GB or almost $21/mo). Drop.io is very, very helpful but will be more of a project storage/collaboration service than backup service. Freelancers, this is definitely a service you want to check out.

Pros:

  • Unlimited free 100MB "drops".
  • An amazing array of sharing and collaboration features.
  • Multi-user options.
  • Customizable "drop" site design.
  • Google analytics integration.
  • Charge users for access ("Paywall").
  • Supports tons of media formats for online viewing.
  • iPhone App

Cons:

  • Expensive for the storage you get.
  • Limited to 25GB of storage (contact them if you need more).
  • Limited desktop integration.
  • Not a backup solution.

6. Mozy

Now we're going to take a step back from the services that integrate all the sharing and flexibility features and cover services focused on providing computer backup solutions.

Mozy is a $4.95/mo unlimited data backup service. However, I learned a long time ago to be wary of services that use the term "unlimited" as it generally means poor service quality. The first time I used Mozy was about 7 months ago to backup my iTunes library. It didn't go well. It had trouble handling my 100+GB library, was taking far too long and wasn't utilizing my internet connection as well as other applications did.

The software also wouldn't resume where it had left off if the computer was restarted. The software seems to have been greatly improved since I used it last.

The backup software supports backup scheduling, bandwidth throttling and automatic updates. You can restore files from the web (up to 20GB) or get a DVD restore via FedEx (I've read they have sent people external HDD's instead of DVD's for large backups). If you order a DVD restore, it costs extra.

Mozy Online

Mozy doesn't let you access your files except for restoration purposes–meaning Mozy is purely a backup solution, not a file storage solution. At $4.95/mo, this is probably the cheapest backup solution you're going to find that gives you unlimited storage.

Pros:

  • Very affordable backup solution.
  • Software is easy to use and setup.
  • Supports Windows and Mac
  • Optional restore via mailed DVD's
  • Free 2GB storage account.
  • Live support included.

Cons:

  • Doesn't support Linux or mobile devices.
  • $4.95 per computer.
  • Not a data storage solution.
  • Expensive for Business use.
  • No real file browsing features.
  • Limited software backup features.
  • No drive mapping/mounting.
  • No data sharing.

7. iDrive

iDrive is similar to Mozy except it isn't unlimited and uses a different pricing structure. An iDrive personal account is $4.95/mo for 150GB of storage (up to 5 accounts). They also provide Pro business accounts up to 500GB for $49.95/mo. You can get more storage if needed at a price of $0.50 per GB/mo.

For $49.95/mo you get 500GB of business data storage for 100 (or more) accounts with central administration. Mozy would cost $253.95/mo for the same amount of storage with one desktop license ($3.95 per desktop license, $6.95 per server license).

iDrive's backup software has many more features than what Mozy offers as well. For example, the iDrive application lets you browse your iDrive files, schedule backups, sync your backups with your computer, take snapshots, etc. You can also enable Continuous Data Protection which will automatically recognize changed files and back them up every 10 minutes.

One major aspect Mozy fails with is deleted files. Mozy will delete a file from your online backup if you delete it from your system and run the backup. iDrive however, will only delete files when you sync your backups with your computer. Not only that but iDrive lets you restore up to the last 30 versions of all files backed up along with a time-line restore feature (without taking up extra space).

There are also plugins for Mac and Windows to view your files within Finder or Explorer. If you're away from your computer? No problem, you have a web interface as well. iDrive isn't just a well done backup solution, it's a data storage solution as well, just without all the spiffy sharing features you get with SugarSync and Dropbox. Click the image above to see more features.

Pros:

  • The most affordable backup and storage solution.
  • Software is easy to use and setup.
  • Supports Windows and Mac.
  • Free 2GB storage account.
  • Support included.
  • Supports drive mapping/mounting.

Cons:

  • Doesn't support Linux or mobile devices.
  • No sharing features.
  • No option for DVD or HDD mailed backups.
  • No data sharing.

8. Backblaze

Backblaze is another service like Mozy that offers unlimited data backup for $5/mo. They offer restoration via web, DVD's or a USB HDD via FedEx (extra charges). Its software appears to be easy to use, includes backup reports and they provide a web management console for file viewing and restoration. It seems to be dead simple with enough features for most people (though I haven't used it).

Pros:

  • 15 day trial.
  • Very affordable backup solution.
  • Supports Windows and Mac.
  • Optional restore via DVD's or HDD.
  • Includes a web management console.

Cons:

  • No free version.
  • $5 per computer.
  • Not really a data storage solution.
  • No support for Linux or mobile devices.
  • No business plans (that I could find).
  • Doesn't include the same feature set as iDrive.
  • No data sharing.
  • No drive mapping/mounting.

9. Elephant Drive

Elephant Drive is yet another service similar to Mozy and Backblaze but still not at the level of iDrive. For $4.95/mo you get unlimited data backup for one computer with 30 day version history but with a 1GB maximum file size limit. To increase that (to 2GB) you have to move up to the $19.95/mo plan which also covers up to 4 computers and gives you no limit on version history.

Both home plans give you web access, file sharing and an optional 15 day trial. If that's not enough, you can bump it up to their pro accounts for additional computer systems, sub-accounts, etc. at an additional cost of course.

Pros:

  • 15 day trial.
  • Very affordable backup (possibly storage) solution.
  • Supports Windows and Mac.
  • Supports driving mapping/mounting.
  • Option to cover more than one system cheaper than Mozy or Backblaze.

Cons:

  • No free version.
  • No support for Linux or mobile devices.
  • Not as feature rich as iDrive.
  • Doesn't appear to be a DVD/HDD restoration option.

10. ADrive

ADrive brings some new features to the table but is last on our list for a reason–the quality level isn't on par with the services we've already covered.

ADrive offers 50GB of free data storage with limited features. Upgrade to the next level at $6.95/mo and you get FTP access, file history (and recovery), ADrive desktop for Windows, Mac and Linux, SSL encryption, WebDAV, 24/7 support and no advertisements.

The next level is $13.95/mo for 100GB, and increasing plans up to 1TB. You can contact the sales team if you need more than that though to setup a custom solution. The advantage with paid accounts being that you get FTP and WebDAV capabilities which aren't supported by services like iDrive, Mozy, etc.

ADrive web access isn't as nice or feature rich as other services covered here but if you're on a budget, 50GB of free storage is pretty nice. Or 50GB at $6.95/mo with FTP access and file sharing.

Pros:

  • 50GB free storage.
  • 14 day trial.
  • Access files via FTP/WebDAV.
  • A little cheaper depending on your needs.
  • Multiple platform support (Windows, Mac, Linux).

Cons:

  • No mobile support.
  • Not on the same level as other services here.
  • Very limited backup software and web access.
  • Limited data sharing and feature set.

Final Thoughts

While some of these services have more to offer than others, some are more affordable than others. Each service has at least a few differences from every other one so you should be able to find the right combination to fit your budget and your needs.

If you're in the market for data backup and storage services, take the time to dig a little deeper into all these services to find all they have to offer. If I reviewed every aspect of each service, each one would be a full article in length.

My Choices

Here's the combination of services I've chosen.

  1. Amazon S3 + Jungle Disk (~$7/mo)
  2. iDrive ($4.95/mo)
  3. SugarSync ($4.99/mo)
  4. Drop.io (Free 100MB drops)

Total backup costs: ~$17/mo

For about $17/mo I get a little over 30GB/mo data storage with Jungle Disk and AWS S3 which I use for my blog, clients, CDN and data storage. iDrive ensures my entire iTunes collection is safe and secure. SugarSync gives me quick access and sharing anywhere I am (via iPhone or web) to my most used files and Drop.io makes it super easy for me to provide an easy upload location for freelance clients. In total, over 210GB of data backup and storage.

I hope the article has helped and if you use or know of a great service, please let us know in the comments below. :-D

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