Product Review: Backup Solutions

Caveat: by no means is the Backup Solutions application/service a product designed for consumers. The software is best designed for use in the business/enterprise sector. Sure, a SOHO user could use the service, Backup Solutions won’t turn you away. Just don’t expect to store terabytes of data without difficulty.

After my dip into the waters of poor customer service that is BackBlaze I found myself needing a new online backup provider. Over the years, I’ve rolled my own backup server, used Amazon’s own AWS, Microsoft Azure, and various other services. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to code scripts, create a working GUI, or putz around at a command line to upload files and folders. Sure, there are clients that do this out of the box, CloudBerry Lab makes some fantastic applications for those DIYer’s!

My own needs were simple:

  • Sign up > Install application > Configure backup > Go.
  • Data stored in a secure location, safe from the majority of natural disasters.
  • Data center storage and archival methods should maintain and preserve data integrity.
  • Ease of recovery. Ease doesn’t mean fast, just means when the files are downloaded – they aren’t corrupted.
  • Some sort of web control panel for recovery of small files. In EIT (Enterprise IT) BDR (Backup/Disaster Recovery), most storage methods are designed for archival purposes, data which is infrequently accessed. The systems which store this data aren’t generally designed for constant backup – recovery – backup changes – recovery, and so on.

Knowing I wanted a more “corporate” solution, I started looking around at various Enterprise companies. One of the first to come to mind was Iron Mountain. After all, they are known for maintaining some of the most secure facilities on the planet. Iron Mountain has operated a data center in it’s famous underground limestone mine in Boyers, Pennsylvania, known for storing Bill Gates’ Corbis photo collection, priceless pieces of art, and documents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, to name a few. Several years ago however, Iron Mountain sold their digital arm to Autonomy, an enterprise IT software corporation, now known as HP Enterprise. While HPE has retained control over the servers, they are still physically housed in the Boyers, Pennsylvania underground mine and maintaned by Iron Mountain staff.

It turns out Iron Mountain prefers to deal with two types of people – businesses and very wealthy people. After phoning to inquire as to the cost of Iron Mountain’s own desktop backup service, they informed me (albeit, politely) they have a 10-seat minimum license, well beyond my needs. They did refer me to a company called Backup Solutions, however.

I phoned Backup Solutions to make sure it wouldn’t be a problem to use their service, as a SOHO user. I made it abundantly clear the amount of data I’d be storing. Full disclosure: I failed to mention the type of content I’d be storing (my huge media movie/tv show collection). This type of customer contact also sets the stage for the type of customer service and support they offer on a regular basis.

Backup Solutions offers “unlimited backup” for a PC or Mac for $99 yearly. A fantastic price in my opinion. Let’s take a look at their software:

Once Installed, the application is very simple to use. Initially, you’ll select directories/drives to backup, and go. Backup speeds compared to Backblaze are several orders of magnitude faster than BackBlaze was. In fact, I was able to upload nearly a terabyte of data in just over 24 hours. Check out the gallery below for some screenshots of the software client.

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Additionally, the software does allow you to schedule automatic backups. This application, however, does not continuously run in the background, uploading changed files like BackBlaze or CrashPlan do.

scheduling

From this view, it looks like the software does everything you’d expect with regard to backing up files. Where the software really shines is the business features. For example, backing up to Iron Mountain/HPEs facilities allows for revision history. If you have made changes to a file which was previously backed up, and need to go back to the original, it’s there. There is a retention time of 30 days, usually, where revisions are stored for your convenience.

In addition to the revision availability, there is the inherent security aspect of storing your data in Iron Mountain/HPE. Privacy is assured, as they would need a compelling reason (likely a subpoena or similar) to open your backups, decrypt them, and peruse your backup sets.

Sounds like a sweet deal, right? Well, it is! On top of that is fantastic support from Backup Solutions team, Bo and John. In my final weeks with the service, I probably drove them a little over the edge with my requests for assistance.

If the service is so great, why leave?

Don’t get me wrong. The service works, and it never went down. If it did, it was due to error at my end >99% of the time. I rarely had issues backing up, and as I mentioned earlier, the upload speeds were off the charts.

Unfortunately, I have over 2 terabytes of data to store, most of which is media that is “questionably obtained”. Although Iron Mountain/HPE employees, and even Backup Solutions cannot see your files on their servers, they can see the names of your files from the backup logs. If you look through some of mine, it’s pretty apparent what Im backing up. Storing this type of content creates a risk for Backup Solutions. After all, they have an arrangement with HPE and likely pay a set price for storage, having one client (me) with such a large backup set and the other 99% of clients below the 500-800 MB mark, for example, is easily detected.

Not only this, but as my account grew larger and larger, so did the database stored on my computer. I began having issues with the software. Sometimes the backup client wouldn’t backup due to account size issues. Iron Mountains servers run a cron job, of sorts to “compact” files, shrink them so they can store more on the servers and also remove outdated revisions or files which are no longer being backed up in the desktop client client. With the size of my account, the compaction process would fail. John, one of Backup Solutions co-owners and I decided it was best to move on and not chance causing any issues for myself or the Backup Solutions team.

Interestingly, some time before deciding our end-game, a slip of the finger caused me about 700 GB of data loss. As I knew the files were on Iron Mountain/HPEs servers, I began the process of restoration. If there is any complaint I have about the service, it’s that download speeds on restores is atrocious. Thisis not the fault of Backup Solutions, of course, and circles back to my earlier mention that solutions such as this are not designed for quick-retrieval of data. At one point, a several hundred GB restore took just over 1 day. With the download speeds I have, I measured the restore downloading at around 2.5-2.9 megabit/second.

The files recovered from backup were intact, the MD5 hashes matched, and I would deem my final restore from the service a resounding success!

Anyone can launch a backup service, but not everyone can store the data for long periods of time and keep it intact for any pending restores by the user. Kudos to Backup Solutions/Iron Mountain for this!

Would I recommend the service?

Yes, to businesses and people who don’t have large collections of content with questionable copyright problems. If you require a lot of hand holding, Backup Solutions does offer excellent customer service via the phone or remote desktop assistance, and can walk you through a lot of configurations. Once you get the hang of the software, it’s not difficult to use.

What are you using now?

After my subscription to Backup Solutions expires, I’ll be using a combination of Amazon Cloud Drive and Windows Azure Storage. Also, for grins and giggles, I’ll demo BackBlazes software again to see if they have improved their upload speeds.

As usual, if you have any questions, concerns, or comments, let me know!