Thursday, January 10, 2013

Finally! A solution to my off-site backup needs!

I have been devoting much of this blog to my efforts to backup the files on my laptop to "the cloud". This is in addition to the Time Machine backup that I have on an external drive connected to my laptop. I have two reasons for wanting to do this. One is to provide a backup which is off-site so that if something disastrous happens to my laptop and/or my home, I will still have all of my files. The second is so I can get to my files using my iPad no matter where I am.

As I have noted previously, many companies provide partial solutions, especially those who advertise the ability to collaborate with others. They allow you limited storage of your "important" files. I wanted a complete backup solution.

The solution I had come up with was to use Online Storage Solution (OLS-CS) for my offsite file storage. The back-up program I chose was xTwin because they provided a good, stable, and secure uploading capability. The files created by xTwin are in a special format which required xTwin or another program to reconstitute them as regular files. This meant that in order to get to my files from my iPad, I would need to use GoToMyPC. That required keeping my laptop open and running at all times, but it did allow me to get to my files using my iPad. I therefore had a complete solution.

The solution was not the solution

However things turned out not to work as I hoped. When I went to the OLS-CS storage service and tried to recover a file, it turned out I could not recover it. To make a long story short, after many attempts to get information from the OLS-CS storage service, they could not provide a satisfactory solution or an answer as to why I could not recover the files that I had uploaded. In fact, at one point, all of my back-up files disappeared! So I had to abandon them and try to find another solution for my off-site storage. OLS-CS did provide me a refund of the $39 I had given them for a year's worth of service. Fortunately I finally have a good solution.

I went back to the spreadsheet I put together when I was shopping for a backup program in August. I also did some more research to see if there were other programs out there that I missed.

Based on the information I was looking at, I found five backup solutions that met my requirements. Some services only allow backups of documents and photos, for example, and do not allow applications to be backed up. These five services all said that you are not restricted as to the types of files you can store. They all provide for file sharing, automatic backups, and access to the files using mobile devices. They all provide web access to your files and access using a desktop application. All five of the services provide a free trial period except for OpenDrive.

OpenDrive provides 5 GB of free storage, and up to 100TB of paid storage. They have a daily upload limit of 5 GB. You can tailor your plan based on your needs. They provide a tool on their website which you can use to calculate what your anticipated costs will be based on how much storage you think you will need.

LiveDrive provides up 5 TB of paid storage. The cost is $79.95 per year for limited file types. If you want to store other file types, the cost is an additional $96 per year.

MyPCBackup provides unlimited storage. The cost is $95.40 per year for limited file types. If you want to store other file types, the cost is an additional $100 per year.

ZipCloud and JustCloud both provide unlimited storage. The cost is $83.40 per year for limited file types. If you want to store other file types, the cost is an additional $100 per year.


I decided to go with LiveDrive because they were slightly less expensive than the other services and I didn't think I would need more than 5 TB of storage since my laptop has a 1 TB hard drive. They only charged me the $79.95 per year fee. I have not been charged extra for backing up unusual file types. Apparently the information I got while doing my research was incorrect. They will charge you an extra $17.95 per year for backing up additional computers.

Installing LiveDrive and getting it up and running was very simple. You just go to their website, There are four packages to choose from, "Backup", "Briefcase", "Pro Suite", and "Business". For my purposes, I chose "Backup". The other solutions are for businesses and people with more requirements than I have. You fill out a web form to sign up and create an account. You then have 14 days to give it a trial run.

You will want to download the application which runs on your computer (both Windows and Mac OS are supported). Once you are up and running, you also have the ability to work from within your web browser. I also downloaded the app for my iPad.

When you run the application on your computer, you will see the LiveDrive icon in your system menu bar. One of the choices on the drop down menu is "Manage Backups". Here you see in the left pane of the window that opens all of the folders on your computer. By clicking on the arrows to the left, you will see the subfolders contained within the folder. You simply check the folders you want backed up, and LiveDrive immediately begins backing up the folders and files within that folder to your account on their servers.

For my trial run, I checked just the "Desktop" folder. It contains about 5500 items. The backup went very smoothly with no problems. After it was done, I was able to see all the files using the web browser after logging in to my account on the LiveDrive site. I was also able to see all the files using the LiveDrive application on my iPad.

I can not tell you how thrilled and excited I was. After all the struggles I had gone through to find a solution for backing up my files off-site (see previous blogs), I finally found a solution that worked and with absolutely no hassle.

The next test was to see if I was going to have any problems backing up my Documents folder, which contains about 55,000 files. Backing up that folder took a bit longer. And I did notice that LiveDrive seemed to have a problem with one of my files. It kept trying over and over to backup the file, but didn't appear to be succeeding. I could see this when I looked at the status and clicked on "Detailed Status".

It turns out this was an old Apple IIgs spreadsheet file that had a forward slash in its name. LiveDrive converted the forward slash to a colon, but it was still having problems. So I went into that folder of spreadsheets and manually changed all the names, converting the forward slashes to colons. After I did that, the backup proceeded with no further problems. It was so satisfying to see "Your Backup is up-to-date" in the status window.

It is so cool to be able to go to my iPad and get to all of the documents on my laptop. Of course, as far as I can tell the files can't be opened on the iPad. You wouldn't want to go changing a backup file. Trying to then keep the files in sync would be a whole different ballgame.

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