How To Protect Your Personal Data When Disaster Strikes

By glblguy

House Fire

I’ve known for a long time that in the event of a disaster such as a flood, fire, hurricane or tornado that my personal data including health records, financial statements, insurance information, etc. would most likely be destroyed. I’ve known it’s a risk yet I’ve done nothing about it. We’ve discussed purchasing a fire/waterproof safe and even making copies and storing them elsewhere. Why haven’t we done it? I’m not sure exactly. To be honest, I guess it’s just pure laziness and the fact that I keep telling myself: What are the chances?

What tweaked me to make begin looking at options and to take action was the recent fires in California. I wonder how many people lost their personal data including family pictures, documents, etc. Fireproof safes are generally only fireproof for a certain amount of time or if the blaze is less than a certain temperature thus making them a potentially unreliable source of protection.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been researching the various options, and kept coming back to the same answer: online backup services. Not a new service in the market for sure, but they have become much more cost effective and reliable recently. These services offer online and off-site data storage known as “vaulting”. They provide the ability to store your data on backup computer systems and even in physical data storage vaults. In the event of a disaster, the data can be quickly retrieved and/or restored. The best part? The data can be retrieved from anywhere. Another huge benefit.

I found the best review of the available services/software over at PC Magazine where they did a feature on The Best Backup Solutions. Here’s a summary of the software they and a few other sites reviewed and the findings from the articles I read:

SOS Online Backup (Editor’s Choice)

SOS Online Backup received very high marks from the editors of PC Magazine and from a number of other reviewers. Two key features of note with this package are continuous backup and backup of open files. SOS offers various different plans based on the amount of data you wish to backup. SOS continuously monitors the folders and files you flag for backup and automatically stores that data for you. Visit PC Magazine for the full review.

Mozy (Editor’s Choice)

Mozy also received top marks and provided the lowest cost solution among the various options. Mozy was liked by both PC Magazine and Arstechnica. The key selling point to Mozy is the $4.95 a month unlimited storage plan. Mozy is highly flexible and includes numerous various backup, security and encryption options. For the average user who just wants to to simply backup their data, Mozy may not be the best option.

Arstechnica review and PC Magazine Review.


In sharp contrast to Mozy, Carbonite has very few options and is targeted to be a more simple online backup product. For users who want to specify specific backup options or select specific files or folders Carbonite isn’t the right option. Arstechnica also found Carbonite to be slow doing backups and restores. Cost $49.95/year.

Read the Arstechnica review.


XDrive from AOL is a service that wasn’t liked by any of the reviews I read. The desktop software was slow and frequently hung. The connectivity to online storage was unreliable and slow. Another issue editors of Arstechnica raised was that there was no way to throttle the connection, so while restore or backup processes were in use, the internet connection was unusable.

Seems this is an option I won’t be considering based on the reviews I read.

Read the Arstechnica review.
Another backup service liked by many reviewers is iBackup. iBackup is targeted at more advanced to expert users. This becomes evident during the installation process when it prompts to backup Exchange or SQL Server files. While this is a good overall backup package, from what I read it is not recommended to for average PC user.Read the InformationWeek review.

In Summary

I haven’t decided which software I am going to use just yet, but at this point I am leaning towards SOS primarily due to constant backup feature and price. I’ll keep you posted on how things go and what I end up staying with for the long haul. There are also some things you’ll need to consider when backing up your data, especially when moving from paper to digital format. I’ll discuss those in a future article.

Are you using online backup? If so, what’s your preferred choice? Any tips for those considering using these or other services?

10 Responses (including trackbacks) to “How To Protect Your Personal Data When Disaster Strikes”

  1. justin Says:

    I am struggling with this as well.

    I have a lot more data than the average user, photos, video, audio, decades worth of email. Code, documents (not much space with those).

    I need to backup my data as well as my wife’s. I used Carbonite for a while, but it was lacking in many ways. It would throttle the upload bandwidth when one PC was idle being backed up, as it assumed a single computer household with no options to set the upstream cap.

    I am looking at a centralised server that the desktops/notebooks are backed up to, and then having that data sent to an online backup service. S3 seems to be a contender.

  2. glblguy Says:

    Centralizing the data to one machine, then backing up to an online service sounds like a good plan. WE have 3 computers to back-up. Keep us posted on your learnings. I don’t have near as much data, but enough. Thanks!

  3. James Says:

    I agree with the local, centralized option.

    It’s a lot quicker for uploading (at least from the perspective of your laptop).

    It’s a lot quicker for recovery. You can restore in minutes rather than hours.

    You can encrypt before uploading.

    You can even set up with some sort of 1 month / 2 month / 3 month backups to handle deletions, corruptions, etc. The remote server would have the most recent and you could have several months of backups locally.

  4. Jason Says:

    PC Magazine may like Mozy – but not everyone is convinced. Look at for a very informative article on Mozy with regards to defensive computing.

    There are plenty of other good services out there. The one I personally use is Angel Backup ( It archives your files forever and keeps multiple versions of each file for those ‘Save’ when you meant ‘Save As’ moments :-)

  5. glblguy Says:

    @James – Welcome, and thanks for your comment. Most of the services I mentioned provide encryption capabilities as well.

    @Jason – Thanks for adding your perspective Jason and the link. I agree, there are tons of great services out there and there are new ones everyday. I’m currently evaluating Mozy and SOS, but will check out AngelBackup as well.

  6. Eric Says:

    Your article is right on! Good job. I agree with alot of your points. I do think you missed a good service that I personally use though. I’ve tried all of the above but for online backup has done wonders for me. Check it out!