You've heard it thousands of times -- backup your data. A good data backup strategy is to have two copies of your data – one local (it resides in your office or place of business) and one offsite (you pay an online data company to store it remotely on their secure servers).
Here are five of the best online data backup services for small businesses. They range from simple and inexpensive to more expensive with all the belts and suspenders you could ever want.
What Constitutes 'Best?'
All online backup services are not created equally when it comes to data security. The strongest security is "zero knowledge" strong encryption. This means that your data are encrypted using a unique encryption key that only you possess, and nobody can access your account without this key.
If you lose your encryption key then you are locked out of your backups, and all the vendor can do is open a new account for you. This might sound a little scary, but giving your vendor access to your data requires a level of trust that may not be warranted and also leaves it open to government searches.
Don't count on backup services to make heroic stands for your rights, because they won't. What's the best way to protect your unique encryption key? Write it down and lock it in a safe place. I don't know what keeps the persistent myth alive that writing down passwords is bad, because it is bad advice.
Some nice features to look for are cross-platform client software, support for multiple filesystem types, and sharing and file sync across multiple devices and users. Most backup services use deduplication to reduce the size of your backups; that is, they copy identical files only once. Another trick for reducing backup size is recording only the changes to that file rather than making multiple complete copies.
Backups should be automatic, and restoring data should be easy. Reliability, of course, is a must, because nobody should pay for unreliability. We already get that for free in everyday life.
Figure 1: Memopal accounts range from small and inexpensive options up to pricier multiple terabytes.
(Click for larger image).
Many services offer 2GB - 5GB accounts for free. You'll find personal, family and business plans with different features and pricing. You can ignore the labels -- if a personal or family plan meets your small business needs then use it.
Memopal is based in Italy and supports customers in Europe, the USA and Asia -- in 15 languages. It supports more platforms than most online backup services: Mac OS X, Linux, Windows, Android, iPhone, Blackberry, a Web interface, and a Web-based, mobile-friendly interface.
Licensing is simple with Memopal Personal: a single license covers as many computers as you like, up to your total storage limit. An annual fee of €48.00, which is about $68 USD, buys 200GB of storage.
Memopal Business costs more and comes with a license that permits commercial use, central account administration, scheduled backups and support. If you buy 300GB or more you get a free external backup drive for a fast initial backup. Business licensing is a little more complex, so use the company's online calculator to quickly figure out pricing.
Memopal guarantees your confidentiality, and the anonymity of the data stored on its servers, though it does not implement true zero knowledge encryption. If you lose your login you can request a reset and get back into your account.
SpiderOak is the online backup service with the funny name. SpiderOak gets my #1 recommendation for SMBs with fairly simple needs. You get good, reliable, secure online backups, and real zero-knowledge protection.
Every account gets a unique encryption key that encrypts customer data for the entire end-to-end process -- uploading, storage, and downloading -- and nobody can access your data without this key. If you lose it, you lose access to your account, and Spideroak cannot restore it or create a new one.
SpiderOak is cross-platform and supports efficient online backups, file synchronization across multiple devices, file sharing and remote access from anywhere. There includes client software for PCs and mobile devices, or you can use the Web interface. The company offers a forever-free 2GB account, and then each additional 100GB is $10 per month or $100 per year.