Online Storage Buyer's Guide

Web-based storage providers, including Jungle Disk, Backblaze, Mozy, and CrashPlan, keep your data secure and accessible with backup, synchronization, and file sharing features.

Ivan Schneider

June 11, 2010

10 Min Read
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The demand for online storage continues to grow unchecked, and an astonishing assortment of online storage solutions has emerged to meet the demand. Providers of online storage offer some combination of three primary benefits: data protection through online backup, synchronization across devices, and collaborative file-sharing for workgroups or social networks.

With these cross-platform, multi-purpose software solutions, it's become dead simple to keep your desktop, laptop, and mobile data synchronized, protected, and shared on the Web.

In this InformationWeek Online Storage Buyers' Guide, we'll examine the features and offerings of some of the most popular options in online storage.

Amazon Web Services + Jungle Disk

Through Amazon Web Services, developers can provision cloud-based storage, virtual servers, or even database instances for MySQL, IBM DB2, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, or Sybase, with the ability to scale up and down instantly, and pay only for capacity used.

For example, Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) charges $0.15 per month to store a gigabyte of data, plus up to $0.15 per gigabyte for transferring data in or out of the S3 cloud. (Note: Prices are 10% higher in Northern California.) So, if you upload a 9-GB archive to your own S3 storage container, leave it there for a month, download it, and then delete the entire container, your total bill will be about four dollars.

Numerous software providers provide access to the Amazon S3 service, and one of the more popular options is Jungle Disk for Windows and Mac. The software allows you to automatically move selected folders from your computers into an online storage bucket managed either by Amazon S3 (using the pricing structure described above, with the first 10 GB free) or with Rackspace Hosting ($0.15 per GB/month, no charge for data transfer).

The Simply Backup plan, for $2 per month, manages backup and restore functions between an individual's multiple PCs.

The Desktop Edition, for $3 per month, also includes multi-way sync between computers, AES-256 encryption, and the ability to mount the online bucket as a virtual hard drive.

Teams of up to 100 people can share a locally mountable online storage bucket with the Workgroup Edition, for $4 per user/month.

With the Server Edition, for $5 per server per month, administrators of Windows- and Linux-based servers can manage multiple servers remotely from any PC using the Jungle Disk Server Management client. The Server Edition also includes file compression and block-level de-duplication.


With CrashPlan, it takes a village. The free CrashPlan client software can perform a daily backup to one of your local computers or to the computers of your friends. As long as both machines have CrashPlan installed, you can establish free, two-way backup exchanges between the very people who would be most willing and able to help you recover from a system failure.

When it comes to security: You can pick your friends, and you can pick your backup files, but you can't pick your friends' backup files. Your remotely stored archives are secured with an encryption key based either on your CrashPlan account password, a separate password, or for maximum security, your own private key.

On top of that, you can also replicate files onto the CrashPlan servers in Minneapolis by paying $54 per year for unlimited backup capacity from a single computer. The family plan, which covers everyone in a single household, including kids away at school, costs $100 per year. Note that there's only one "head-of-household," who has unfettered access to all non-encrypted files backed up by any family member under the plan.

The initial backup can take weeks to perform for a loaded hard drive, and so to surmount that hurdle, CrashPlan also offers a service whereby they'll send you an external drive for you to fill and return.

The consumer version of CrashPlan doesn't officially recognize "mapped" drives, whether a remote network share or network attached storage (NAS) device. However, the enterprise version, CrashPlan Pro, supports enterprise-class storage and networking environments and provides continuous, intraday backups rather than daily backups.

The CrashPlan Pro free server software runs on your own hardware and includes remote configuration and Web management, access controls, auditing, tools, and monitoring tools. The client software starts at $350 for a five-pack with one year of support, with additional support starting at $76 per year per five-pack.


SpiderOak combines backup, sync, and sharing in a single cross-platform application, and provides similar controls for each of these three primary benefits of online storage.

The client software, which can be installed on multiple devices including Windows, Mac, and several versions of Linux, does more than simply push files into an online storage bucket. To speed upload time, reduce file sizes, and provide security, the client software will perform compression, de-duplication, and encryption prior to sending files to the company's servers.

With SpiderOak, Files can be backed up from any device that you can read from your own PC, whether it's a local drive, USB device, network attached storage, or a virtual network drive. You can schedule backup, sync, and sharing operations independently, either at a certain time of day, automatically, or at intervals ranging from every five minutes to every two days. Then, to ensure consistency between multiple devices, you can sync any backed-up folders among the devices you choose.

Finallly, SpiderOak also works as a simple file-sharing mechanism. Essentially, you can create your own subdirectory on the Web site that has a custom "RoomKey" as part of a URL which you can mail to friends or colleagues. The "ShareRoom" doesn't maintain an access control list, but it does allow friends or colleagues to see the latest server version of a folder through any browser.

The company also has an iPhone app that provides access to your storage area, with Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile versions to come.

SpiderOak offers 2 GB of free storage. After that, you'll need to purchase storage in additional increments of 100 GB for $10 per month or $100 per year.


For a simple yet powerful approach to backup, sync, and sharing, try Dropbox. Install the free software to create a "My Dropbox" folder on your Windows, Mac, or Linux computers and on iPhone, iPad, and Android mobile devices (with BlackBerry coming soon). Dropbox will automatically sync files placed in that folder among all of your devices.

To share files, you can place files in a public sub-folder, which automatically places your files in an Internet-accessible location within the domain. You can right-click on a file and send the link to others for simple sharing. A separate sharing folder works specifically with photos, which are presented in gallery format through the Dropbox Web site.

Dropbox offers 2 GB of free storage, 50 GB for $9.99 per month, and 100 GB for $19.99 per month.


For Windows and Mac users, Backblaze backs up all of your internal, USB-, and Firewire-connected drives. It's not designed to be supplemental storage, but rather an automatic backup of everything on your hard disk except for the operating system, applications, and temporary files. As such, there's no interface to pick and choose which files to back up, which makes it a simpler tool to operate. Network drives, including NAS devices, are excluded, and Backblaze also skips files larger than 4 GB.

The initial backup occurs at the rate of 2 to 4 GB per day, and a quick restore can be accomplished by having Backblaze send, via overnight courier, a USB drive containing your latest data.

Backblaze costs $5 per month per computer, or $50 per year.


Carbonite offers a comprehensive, no-limit backup plan which encrypts and then backs up the entire Documents and Settings folder for Windows users, or the Users folder for Mac users. Once installed, the Carbonite software tweaks the file system such that the icons for backed-up files are displayed with a green or yellow dot to indicate whether the file has been backed up or is pending backup.

From your computer, you can access the Carbonite Backup Drive to see what's in the archive and to restore files. You can also log into your password-secured account from the Carbonite Web site, either from another computer or from an iPhone, iPod Touch, or BlackBerry.

Subscriptions are available for $54.95 per year, $99.95 for two years, $129.95 for three years, or $199.95 for five years.


For Windows and Mac users, SugarSync offers an extensive feature set, including real-time upload, versioning, and full-folder backup. On installation, SugarSync creates a "Magic Briefcase," a folder that automatically syncs to other computers you have with SugarSync installed.

Backed-up files are accessible online and from a wide range of mobile devices, including iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Android, with the mobile Web site optimized for mobile browsers. Sharing is also robust, with the ability to share files of any size, share folders with permissions and passwords, and initiate direct publishing to Facebook. In addition, the service supports music streaming to Web clients and iPhones.

For individuals, SugarSync offers plans ranging from 30 GB for $4.99 per month to 500 GB for $39.99 per month. Business plans start at 100 GB for three users at $49.99 per month (introductory pricing of $29.99 now available), with additional users costing $9.99 per month per person and additional storage available at $29.99 per 100 GB.


Mozy, an EMC-owned company, performs automatic or scheduled backups of user data, including opened and locked files, and encrypts files locally before uploading to the Mozy data center. Data can be restored through the Mozy software client, through the Web, or by ordering DVDs containing your data.

MozyHome, for individuals, costs $4.95 per month, $54.45 per year, or $103.95 for two years. Free accounts are available with 2 GB of storage. Additional licenses are required for additional computers, although they can be added to the same user account.

MozyPro, for businesses, creates an online backup for network drives, servers (including SQL and Exchange environments), and employee laptops and desktops. Included with the solution is Mozy 2xProtect software, which also backs up Windows users to a USB, external, or mapped network drive. Desktop licenses are licensed on a monthly basis for $3.95 plus $0.50 per GB per month. Server licenses are $6.95 plus $0.50 per GB per month.

For Further Reading

Cloud Storage's Role In Backup, Part I

InformationWeek Storage Blog

Google's Got Your Backup Syncs Cloud With Desktop

Amazon Launches $0.10 Per Gigabyte Online Storage

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