This is a short post outlining our research and decision on which online backup service to use. It comes with thanks to those who shared their suggestions with us, and to Alan for doing the legwork and sharing his knowledge.
Part of my job is to sort out the IT for the Transition Network office in Totnes as well as our roving staff. This ranges from policies on computers and email use to ‘why isn’t the internet working?’ and other delightful details. Handily for me, the worst crises seem to happen when I’m in Bristol and Ben has to leap to the occasion (sorry Ben).
Also handily for me, there is this most excellent chap in the South West called Alan Lewis of Calm IT who can basically do anything a small charity is likely to ask for when it comes to IT – so all of the report you read below is his work. We call him ‘magic fingers’, but don’t tell him that.
One of the big things we’ve been discussing is (online) back up. We had a Network Address Server which did the job, but the staff avoided it like a bad smell in a dank dark room miles underground with growling noises in it. According to them, it is really fiddly/mysterious/exasperating/terrifying/weird etc. and they wouldn’t back up. For sure, it required being directly plugged into (we don’t have a local network in the office) which added another layer of ‘cognitive dissonance‘, and a script had to be run, so it was inconvenient, but, well.. well what can I say? Sometimes things just don’t get used.
On top of this adoption issue, we work with people around the country, who need to be able to back up to a shared space, for whom a neat black box in Totnes isn’t much use.
So we have to go for some online back up. We are aware of the use of energy and how cloud computing exacerbates our consumption of energy, but, short of nation-wide psychic experiments, could not think of another way to ensure that we don’t lose all our information if our computers crash.
So I asked Alan to review a selection of online back up services and he produced this very handy, neutral review which has been excellent. We’re going for Jungle Disk, so we’ll see how that pans out. Please note that any opinions mentioned below are our opinions only and following conversations we have had.
Online Backup for Transition Town Totnes
Alan Lewis – 26 Apr 2010
When I first looked at Online Backup Services in 2007, this was a new kind of service, being offered by a few providers at widely varying rates. Storage charges varied anywhere from .15c per GB per month to $10 per GB per month.
Fast forward to 2010 and the picture is very different. Broadband is now ubiquitous, and speeds are higher. And there are now more than 100 providers offering Online Backup services, with the average price being around $5 a month for a decent amount of storage.
There are a number of different approaches taken to backing up. Some providers offer a completely automatic service – which backs up the all your personal and is non user-configurable (Carbonite). Others have no scheduling – the backup just runs in the background (Dropbox). All services offer incremental back up changed files (just the changed parts of a file, are uploaded rather than uploading a completely new copy – which cuts down on time and bandwidth usage). Some offer “unlimited” storage (usually with limitations specified in the small print)
The needs of TTN are modest, and it makes sense to be able to manage all the computers under one Administrator account, rather than set up several individual accounts (each with its own billing and administrative tasks). With centralised control it will be possible to keep an eye on what is being backed up where and by whom.
I have looked many services listed in various places:
- Computer Websites like http://www.pcworld.com/ – reviews quite detailed, but often out of date, and tend to be home-user focussed
- Comparison websites – e.g http://online-data-backup-review.toptenreviews.com/ and http://www.backupreview.info/2010/04/01/top-75-online-backup-companies-for-april-2010/
- User-facing productivity blogs like www.lifehacker.com – these are good sources of information, although much of it anecdotal – see http://lifehacker.com/5405041/five-best-online-backup-tools, http://lifehacker.com/180556/ask-lifehacker-readers–best-online-backup-service#comments
|Service||Comment||Annual price for 10 users|
|Memopal||Expensive, storage limit||£420 for 100gb storage|
|Sugarsync||Expensive & questionable reputation||£750 for 100gb storage|
|Mozy||Popular good reputation||£400 plus .50 per gb per month|
|Jungle Disk||Popular, versatile, pay as you go||£312 for 10gb each user plus small charge for data transfer|
|Daily online back up||Size limits, no group account, expensive|
|Carbonite||Not very configurable, no mac option||£390 for up to 100gb|
|IBackUp||£650 for 100gb|
|Data Deposit Box||Enterprise-level backup||£1560 for 100gb|
From this it is possible to narrow the choice down to two – Mozy and Jungledisk
Mozy Pro http://mozy.co.uk/pro
- Desktop Licenses: £3.99 per user + £0.50 /GB storage per month (incidentally the US price is $3.99 + $0.50 /GB per month)
- Mozy is well known for ease of use – can choose what you want backed up
- Automatic or scheduled backup
- Bandwidth throttling to avoid disturbing work in progress
- No sharing between users
- No support forums – therefore support is company-centric
- Further information: http://support.mozy.com/docs/en-user-pro-win
Cheap, but pricing plan is complex, so it is difficult to anticipate what the actual charges will be. However you only pay for what you use, so with modest needs prices should remain low
- $4 per user per month, 10gb per user storage free,
- Thereafter storage = $0.15 per GB-Month (Storage with Amazon S3)
- Data Transfer: $0.10 per GB of data uploaded $0.15 per GB of data downloaded
- Data Request: $0.01 per 1000 upload requests, $0.01 per 10,000 download requests
- Highly configurable and versatile
- Small footprint backup applet
- Well-established service with good reputation
- Folder sharing between users – this is potentially a very useful feature – you could create repositories of shared reference information accessible by all or some staff, and have shared folders where users can be working on and contributing to the same set of documents, without the risk of duplication and version divergence.
- Good support forums – http://support.jungledisk.com/forums/
- Manual see: http://support.jungledisk.com/forums/77417-user-guide-jungle-disk-workgroup-edition