Saturday, October 16, 2010

Virtual document and data storage, part 2

Online (or remote) backup 

What is online backup?  Here is a very easy-to-understand, thorough explanation.

Some popular remote backup services: 

I would add, as well, Google Documents, for down-and-dirty, convenient storage and piecemeal backup.  No automatic backups, and uploads do not occur in bulk, but otherwise, this is a fine place to keep copies of selected documents, spreadsheets, photos, etc. Users can make individual documents or folders completely private, or open to specific invitees (with permissions for view only or editing privileges), or public to any passerby.

Here are various reviews of online backup services:

Questions to ponder:

  1. Who owns these services? 
  2. Can I trust the company? Trust the employees? 
  3. Does the company have good training, processes, oversight practices? Will the company inform customers of security breaches or cover them up? 
  4. Is there an organization that establishes business standards for online backup and storage enterprises?
  5. Is there a regulatory authority that oversees these companies? 

I can find out the answer to #1. As for the rest, I just don't know.

I haven't spent too much time looking, but I did not see any place where I can find generally-accepted standards regarding the different dimensions of online backup, such as privacy, security (from hacking, natural disasters, power outages) and data recovery. If someone tracks that down, let me know.

Ditto re: any regulations that oversee online backup.

To some extent, one is buying a pig in a poke.

User security stupidity:

See discussion about protected sex in part 1 here.

If I'm using an online backup service for storage and for privacy (in the event my laptop is stolen, for example), what good is the provider's state-of-the-art security if I don't require a password entry to see my laptop's dainties?

Or if I pick a weak password?

... and then tape it onto the laptop keyboard?
My desktop PC "remembered me" for just about every site that required a login. No need to enter passwords. It was like having an EZ Pass on a toll road.

I want my laptop to remember nothing; I re-enter a password (or swipe my fingerprint) for almost everything. This is less convenient, but it's no more onerous than locking the doors to my house or car.

So what'd I pick?

I pored over the reviews for the online backup services. Each has its unique pros and cons related to features and price. Some of the technical terms and processes were over my head, so I felt unable to make a completely informed decision. To a certain degree, I could do just fine by choosing one at random.


If I were a little more tech-savvy and if I knew I'd stay put in the U.S., I would have gone with Amazon S3 in an instant. I liked it for what appears to be an above-and-beyond security level, and that Amazon has a lot to lose if it were to compromise its customers' confidence in its service.

Instead, I went with a different service - Dropbox . It seemed to have the highest overall reviews of both the so-called professionals and the regular-Joe customers like me. Interestingly, it uses Amazon S3 to store its customers' data.

  • Easy to use right out of the virtual box. 
  • Synchronizes all docs/data amongst any computers or smart phones one has. 
  • Super-easy to access all my stuff on the web. 
  • Automatic back-up.


  • While I'm good with the automatic back-ups occurring immediately when one adds a new or revised file, I would like the ability to suspend a back-up.
  • As a universal good practice, I wish Dropbox required users to create strong passwords.
  • I'd prefer a stronger encryption than Dropbox uses, but its level is acceptable.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! We have been planning to online backup when we get a "roun-to-it" but since you have done the leg work....thanks a bunch. Terry

Mzuri said...

Yeah, that roun-to-it is a real time sucker. My next task is to find a good flash drive for backup. It'd be nice to have one that also serves as a pretty necklace. Like the cat in Men in Black.