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Obviously, Google Drive--the latest online backup, file-sharing, and storage service--is no fly-by-night operation. By offering the first 5 GB of space for free, it's clear Google wants to take a bite out of the market already enjoyed by Apple's iCloud, Dropbox, Box.net, and others. But the world of online backup and related services is not limited to the heavyweight division--far from it. There are plenty of options to suit a wide range of needs, company sizes, and budgets.
That could mean everything from individuals purchasing their own tools in a bring-your-own-cloud scenario to corporations provisioning backup and storage to support heavier data and security needs.
Features and bandwidth are two key considerations for any user. Not every vendor, for example, offers automatic, continuous backup, so if you want to "set it and forget it," put that at the top of your list.
Mobility is another example--some platforms make it easy to access and share files across just about any device or operating system; others focus more on traditional PCs, servers, or both. And capacity is always a deciding factor, with options ranging from a few free gigabytes to paid unlimited data plans.
Then there's price--no two providers do it quite the same. If you don't have the inclination or wherewithal to figure out your data needs now or in the future, unlimited (or close to it) backup will likely appeal. If you don't want to worry about how many users or computers and other devices are allowed, a flat rate for a set amount of storage might make more sense. And if you do have a strong grip on your users and data, you can almost certainly save money by only paying for what you actually need. Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) with manageable, steady quantities of data, for example, don't need to break the bank when it comes to backup and storage.
The 10 we highlight here run the gamut of specialties. If it's collaboration and file-sharing across devices you need, a Dropbox competitor such as SugarSync will work just fine. If you've got little time or inclination to think about your data--much less how to back it up--then unlimited or automated platforms such as CrashPlan or Backblaze should suffice. Then there's the growing question of how to back up your data in the cloud if it already lives online. A newer entrant to the field, Backupify, focuses on backing up Google Apps domains. Read on for a look at 10 alternatives to the household names.
It's not often a Microsoft product flies under the radar, but SkyDrive tends not to enjoy the same brand recognition as the Dropboxes and iClouds of the world--at least not yet. That could change with the full release of Windows 8, which promises tighter SkyDrive integration with Metro apps and on the traditional desktop via Internet Explorer. Check out Microsoft's comparison chart and it's clear who the company is going for: the personal cloud market, which poses some significant considerations for businesses. Exhibit A: SkyDrive offers 7 GB free, which bests each of its major competitors by at least 2 GB.
As the name suggests, ShareFile, which was acquired last year by Citrix, is more of an online file-sharing service with a storage component. It will best suit users with sharing and syncing at the top of their priority list; those looking for a pure backup and storage platform will probably go elsewhere. Where ShareFile tries to set itself apart is with a laser focus on business users--unlike some of the larger players, it doesn't cater to consumers. Rather, it targets professional users that want an alternative to FTP or less-secure online collaboration tools. The emphasis on top-grade security and encryption, syncing, and other business-oriented features comes with a price: corporate plans start at around $100 a month for 20 GB and 20 user accounts. ShareFile offers custom pricing for companies with more than 100 employees.
Perhaps better known as a security firm, Comodo actually makes the distinction between backup and storage. It offers free, downloadable software that enables backups to a diverse list of possible storage locations, including network drives, DVDs, online sites, and more.
Comodo also offers 5 GB of free cloud storage, and premium plans ranging from 250 GB for just under $100 a year to 1 TB for just under $200 a year. Comodo Backup could appeal to users that want the option of copying specific data sources to physical media as well as to online storage. A fairly robust feature set gives power users control over the who, what, when, where, and how of their backups. Be aware, though, that this is a true backup-and-storage platform--it won't likely suit the needs of groups looking for collaboration or mobility tools, too.
While some of its competitors have done away with unlimited backup and storage, Code 42's CrashPlan PRO, which targets smaller businesses, continues to offer it.
Unlimited data plans starts at $270 a year for three computers and increase from there--though at a certain point (think in terms of terabytes) it may make sense to consider CrashPlan PROe, the company's enterprise platform. The latter offers private cloud, hosted, and hybrid options. The PRO version also offers less-expensive, capped data plans for SMBs with modest or predictable backup needs.
This platform goes up directly against the likes of Dropbox, iCloud, and others that have a strong presence in the consumer market. SugarSync offers 5 GB of free storage for backup, file-sharing, and automatic syncing across devices. That could make it a popular pick for individuals provisioning their own tools, particularly inside resource-constrained SMBs. (Though 5 GB appears to be the new 2 GB when it comes to free plans.) Those with heavier data needs can get 60 GB of space for about $100 a year. SugarSync's business offering starts at 100 GB for three users for just under $300 a year, though it will customize pricing and plans for larger organizations. As the name suggests, SugarSync's feature set places a heavy emphasis on sharing and syncing files across multiple users, devices, and operating systems.
Symantec's on-premises Backup Exec software has been around a while, but the company recently added an online version, Backup Exec.cloud. It's intended primarily for SMB environments looking for automatic backup without the need for on-site hardware or software. Because it's Symantec, data security is also a big part of the pitch. Pricing is a bit tougher to sort through. Licensing is based on the total amount of storage you need; it is sold as an annual subscription in 10 GB increments. Example scenario: a business with 500 GB of storage would pay $59.47 a year per 10 GB increment--or $2,973.50 total.
The EMC subsidiary, like many of its competitors, runs the gamut from consumer through enterprise backup. SMBs will want to look at MozyPro; larger organizations will move up to MozyEnterprise. The latter offers a number of administrative tools for things like user management and reporting, as well as Active Directory integration.
Mozy stakes its claim squarely in the backup arena rather than collaboration or other related areas. Mozy's "data shuttle" promises to cut down the initial backup window when dealing with larger amounts of data. From a pricing standpoint, MozyPro may best suit those SMBs with a clear understanding of how much data they have across how many machines. That's because it allows customers to specify the number of computers they want to back up and the amount of storage for each, up to 1 TB total. There's also a server backup option.
How do you backup your data in the cloud when it's already online?
That's Backupify's raison d'etre--it offers full backup-and-restore for popular online systems, with a particular focus on Google Apps. The company offers social media backups, too--Facebook, Twitter, and other popular sites are included--though that's geared more for individual accounts. The Google Apps piece should hold the strongest appeal for SMBs and other corporate users that want to keep a copy of their data outside the Google ecosystem. (Assuming, of course, they use Google Apps.) Pricing starts at $3 per user, per month, for 25 GB, though the company offers other plans for larger data needs. Backupify has expanded its business-oriented tools of late. Most recently, it launched Salesforce Snapshot, a tool for performing a one-time backup and download of an entire Salesforce CRM account.
Smaller businesses that want to pay for storage rather than for users will like Carbonite's flat-rate pricing. Their BusinessPremier plan, for example, offers 500 GB for $599 per year, with no limit on the number of computers or users. It also includes support for NAS, external hard drive, and Windows Server backups. Storage can be added in 50 GB increments beyond that; that said, Carbonite's really going after individuals and smaller business environments; large enterprises and SMBs anticipating explosive growth may want to look elsewhere.
Backblaze should play well with the set-it-and-forget crowd: It offers continuous, unlimited backup for $50 per year, per computer. The tab for larger organizations could run up quickly, but SMBs that want to automatically back up everything without specifying particular files, folders, or drives--and without worrying about how much stuff they have--might find the price tag is worth it.