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Online backup services are more popular than ever. Businesses and organizations of all kinds are using them to provide critical backups in case of fire, theft or other disaster. Consumers are relying on online backup so they don’t have to worry about their hard drive crashing.

What is Online Backup?

Instead of backing up your data to a local hard drive, tape backup or similar system, online backup services provide space for your data on their servers. Most vendors also provide software which automatically performs backups depending on your specifications.

Multiple Advantages

There are significant advantages to using online backup services.

Automation- manual backup systems can involve human error. Automated systems take place at the same time and perform the same function on a regular basis, helping to remove possible mistakes.

Unlimited space- backup space is unlimited in online backup systems. It only varies by the budget allocated. On-site backup systems rely on multiple hard drives or tape backups which can fail or run out of room quickly.

Off-line storage- in the case of a natural disaster like a fire or other catastrophic event, off-line storage provides tremendous security. Many off-site data storage services have multiple, redundant storage centers at strategic locations around the country.

Data security professionals say there should be three backup copies of all important data – two on-site and one off-site. If one of the on-site backups crashes, there is another copy ready to go. In the event of both on-site copies meeting their demise, the off-site backup copy provides an extra cushion of security and peace of mind

Stay organized- online backup services provide a measure of organization for massive amounts of data. Some services offer a file system similar to those found on PCs and Macs, helping end-users to be more comfortable in organizing their online data backup. This user-friendliness means that people will actually use the system. A system that is not easy to use ends up not being used at all.

Mobile workforce- another advantage of online remote backup services is that an increasingly mobile workforce does not have to stay at a stationary computer to secure their data. In addition, some online backup services provide folders where a working team can work on the same document. Each employee can access it from their current location.

Possible Drawbacks

Despite these advantages, there are some challenges to consider regarding online backup services.

Speed- while upload rates are increasing, online backup services can slow due to many customers backing up considerable amounts of data a regular basis. Also, their systems can become sluggish due to upgrades or maintenance.

Privacy risk- no matter how secure the password system for your data, any data stored in off-site computers and dedicated servers is at risk of being compromised by hackers, crackers and other criminals. While the risk is minimal, there are plenty stories in the news of major retailers, government organizations and other high-profile entities getting hacked.

Cost- the cost of online data storage has dropped considerably in the last 5 to 10 years. However, there is a reasonable investment needed to secure data on a qualified, professional, reliable system. For startup businesses or individuals on a budget, online data storage may be cost prohibitive.

Out of business- another risk is that the backup service could go out of business. Bankruptcy, mergers, corporate takeovers, poor economic conditions could all lead to the sudden collapse of the business. Again, while the chances of that happening are low, it is a possibility to be considered

There are a number of online remote backup services choose from. They vary in features and pricing and should be evaluated carefully to determine which one is best for each situation. Online backup provides a level of security, convenience and peace of mind that far outweighs the monthly investment.