Cloud based storage and backup solutions

By David Shinn

There are many options today for storing and backing up your documents, photos and music. For the past few years, cloud based solutions have been popular in both areas. There is really no “best” service. It all depends on your needs. The companies below have many offerings.  Storage vendors range from small free packages to large packages in the $20 per month fee area. Cloud backup vendors charge a monthly fee based on your backup space required, usually $12 to $40 per month.

What’s the difference between Cloud Storage and Cloud Backup?

Cloud storage vendors like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud and Amazon Drive offer space to store your files and share them among your devices. Some offer more robust team based sharing with a rights structure (admins have full rights and different user levels limit the ability to add, edit or delete files). I suggest that my clients make a backup of their Cloud data to a local external hard drive once per month as an added precaution. Vendors will tell you they backup your account data, but I have seen circumstances where data falls through the cracks based on timing.

Cloud backup vendors like Carbonite, Norton, and Acronis allow you to backup a data set from your site to a reserved storage area (not for being used or shared, just for a backup archive). Most vendors will have an online dashboard to manage your backups and all will have a reporting system to inform you of any problems that may arise. Most vendors feature FERPA, GLBA & HIPAA compliancy.


Where is the Cloud?

The cloud is not a magic place where fairies and unicorns live. The Cloud is based on physical computer systems located in a Network Operations Center (NOC) somewhere on earth. The location could be US based, but most likely is in India or China. They are large network servers with huge amounts of hard drive storage.

Is the Cloud secure?

Any information you put on the internet could be compromised. I can say that all companies listed above feature encryption for the data being passed back and forth from your computer/devices… and they employ advanced security schemes that are FERPA, GLBA & HIPAA compliant. However, I’m sure you hear the media reports about weekly security compromises.

Click here for a list of data breaches for 2018 to date… scroll down through the bottom of the page. You may be surprised who has been hacked and what data has been compromised.

Understanding cloud based restoration

This section is not so much about services offered (those are pretty straight forward)... but the process and time of restoration.

When you setup a program like Carbonite and define your backup set, it may take 4-6 days to upload or “seed” data to populate the first backup. The time depends on your internet speed and network traffic in your home or office. From there, the daily backup will upload only the files in your data set that have changed. 

Let’s say your hard drive crashes. You get a new hard drive, load the operating system and all programs, and then install Carbonite to restore your data set. It will take 3-5 days for the data set to be restored!  Please be prepared for this… it is not a fast process.

I often ask clients to list their most important files… usually Quickbooks, Word/Excel files and their browser bookmarks. These are reasonably small to download so the client can get back to being productive. Then you start the main restoration and wait.

NOTE: Your download speed is usually faster than your upload speed. The restoration goes a bit faster than the original upload. Go to to test your service speeds.

Another backup?

In addition to the Cloud backup, I suggest that clients do a secondary backup of their computer data onto an external hard drive for an added layer of protection. The external drive should be stored offsite in a fire-proof lock box.