Online Backup’s Inflection Point

I have been a fanatic about backing up my hard disk since the mid 80s after losing a month’s work on a year end paper in a hard disk crash.  Scars like that don’t heal.  They stay front and center and result in an obsession about being backed up.

For years it meant a local tape drive, some backup software, and a manual tape rotation system. It was a pain, but it worked.

But then in the mid 90s, my friend Charley Lax introduced me to a company in Boston called Connected and my life changed for the better.  I didn’t invest in Connected, but Charley did.  I became a customer.  Charley made money (eventually, it took a long time) but I got peace of mind. Connected was sold Iron Mountain a couple years ago.

Fast forward ten years.  I still use Connected.  And I have been rewarded several times by being able to get back a file, a folder, and a whole hard disk when I would have otherwise been totally hosed.

I can’t say enough good things about Connected.  Except that Connected is too expensive for most people at close to $20/month.

Connected is basically an "enterprise" solution meaning it is sold to businesses, large and small, to protect the data that sits on their employees hard drives (most likely mobile/laptop hard drives).  It’s too expensive to be a consumer solution.

For most of the past 20 years, while I have been paranoid about my hard drive, most people I know have been operating without any sort of backup protection.  Doing manual backups just isn’t a realistic option for most people.

But things are changing.  Everyone is now using digital cameras to shoot pictures and video.  That’s ending up on their hard disks.  They are accumulating a lot of music on their hard drives.  These personal media files are valuable to them.  And increasingly my friends who have been going unprotected for years are saying to me "what do I do to make sure I don’t lose this stuff?".

I tell them about Connected but many say "$20/month is too much, what are my other options?"  There are a number of less expensive online backup solutions out there and we have seen a few new companies being started recently that promise even lower prices.

One that I particularly like is Carbonite, started by serial entreprenuer David Friend.  Carbonite is aimed squarely at the home computer user and costs $2.50 per month.  If you are looking for a good home solution, I think you should give Carbonite a shot.

I am not the only one thinking that online backup is reaching an inflection point.  Jeremy Zawodny thinks so too and has an interesting post up on the subject right now.  Apparently some of Jeremy’s readers think that consumer broadband upload speeds are too low to make online backup a viable solution.

I totally disagree.  I have been using online backup for over ten years in my home. I have even used it over dial-up.  You just let the backup go over night.  The only really large backup happens when you get started.  After that, these systems just backup what’s new.  I have had to run a backup for almost a day a couple times, but I do it over a weekend or something.  That’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.  I agree with Jeremy, it’s like filling up a swimming pool at the start of the season.  Once it’s done, it’s over.

So I think online backup is at an inflection point.  Consumers are going to be adopting this approach to peach of mind in droves over the next couple years.

It will only take one lost photo of a newborn baby or a birthday party to cause "post crash stress syndrome".  Trust me.  I know how it feels.