The Flaw In Dvorak’s Easy Offsite Backup On A Budget

pogoplug-personal-cloudJohn Dvorak’s article How To Get Easy Offsite Backup On A Budget has a lot of merit, and it is truly better than what most people have for computer backup (nothing!) but there is a serious flaw in his plan.

(Personal Note: I have great respect for Mr. Dvorak in general and read his articles regularly; I just don’t quite go for this idea other than to say it IS better than nothing)

In short, Dvorak suggests buying an inexpensive Pogoplug personal cloud device and creating a “personal cloud” backup program with the Pogoplug and the free service the company offers.

John’s idea is to buy a Pogoplug cloud device, a 2TB hard drive and then set it up at a friend’s house for geographic diversification of backup (about $200 cost, one time). Your friend gets to use it (in return for you putting it there and using his/her bandwidth) and you use it.

Presumably neither of you uses more than your 1TB “share”.

Now, your friend has to make sure he leaves this Pogoplug cloud device and his internet on all the time, which may not be a problem.

protect-your-data-against-widespread-floodBut there are a LOT of issues you need to be aware of that are, in my opinion, flaws in the plan. Granted, I say again, this scheme is better than no backup at all.

Considering, though, that you can get unlimited online backup for under $60 per year, that’s over 3 years (more like 5 years if you prepay as you are with the Pogoplug)  worth of service that has the advantages of:

  • Unlimited storage
  • VASTLY improved security
  • VASTLY greater geographical diversification
  • No need to “cut a deal” with someone who is a friend today (who knows about tomorrow) or a relative whose limited bandwidth you will be occupying part of

Is it really worth it to spend the $200 up front and impose/deal with a friend or relative?

Keeping in mind that to have any sort of security on your data you need to learn and use what Dvorak recommends “Using any number of encryption systems will keep the data secure.” He is right, there are free programs available for encryption.

But unless you encrypt each file individually (PAIN!) there are two problems with that:

  • You can no longer backup just “changed” files using a minimum of bandwidth and time; you may have one or more multi-gigabyte encrypted containers to upload
  • You will spend lots of time encrypting and decrypting either individual files or huge slow to encrypt containers

So to really put this in perspective and give you ALL the information you need, let me list the flaws with the Dvorak Pogoplug plan.

Flaws related to weather, nature:

  • Hurricane (Katrina)
  • Earthquake or Tsunami (Japan)
  • Flood (Take your pick)
  • Tornado (Take your pick)

If your friend or relative lives close to you at all, then consider the above threats that might take out both of your homes and computer equipment installations.

Flaws related to security:

  • Dvorak recommends using encryption as protection. Encryption is like backup, it only happens if it is AUTOMATIC
  • Encryption requires either LOTS of small files or few HUGE files (see above regarding ills of this)
  • If it is not encrypted, then you risk eavesdropping by your friend and additional THEFT threat (now you have to worry about 2 homes being burglarized

Flaws related to performance

  • You will be sucking up your friends bandwidth (or vice versa) whenever you save or retrieve files. Unless it’s all timed to occur at night (which it won’t be), he or she WILL notice it
  • Manually encrypting your files will take YOUR time and PC power

A real online backup service will cost you less in the long run (my opinion) and:

  • has a better “warranty” than the cheap 2TB hard drive you bought or the Pogoplug
  • backs up automatically
  • encrypts/decrypts your data automatically
  • can have true geographic diversification
  • backs up your backups
  • gives you previous “versions” of your data
  • provides and pays for their own bandwidth which is likely MUCH better than your friends (he/she may have huge download speeds but how about upload when you want to retrieve something?)
  • offer customer service and support

So, what’s it gonna be? Pogoplug or a REAL online backup service (reviews here)?

Or just backup 1 PC now, with unlimited encrypted storage, for under $60 per year.

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  1. rampr2
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Really? I mean really?

    1) The last time I checked, Carbonite disallowed lot of file types (.iso for example) to get uploaded. It’s meant for schoolgirls with lot of JPEGs, MP3s and other media to upload. Not big files, disc images and stuff.

    2) Who says uploading to Carbonite will not use the bandwidth?

    3) When I crash my hard drive, it may take anywhere from 45-60 days to download data from Carbonite. Faster option? Carbonite can ship a hard drive for $300. Not so cheap anymore. On the other hand, I can just yank it out from my friend’s house when I need it.

    4) Why would I trust Carbonite with a proprietary encryption system? I can mod my pogo to use TrueCrypt with whatever encryption I want.

  2. Online Backup Spot
    Posted October 7, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Many online backup services have limitations and we try to cover them in our detailed reviews and comparisons.

    What the vast majority of people want is something that is simple and reliable; ie, it just works. Carbonite is not our top pick but we know some people who are very happy with them and the price is reasonable.

    Look through our reviews to see who are top pick is and why. We note also that due to varying needs, one person’s perfect online backup service is not necessarily the next persons.

    thanks taking the time to comment.


  3. rampr2
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Roger. Thanks for your reply. PogoPlug has just announced online backup powered by Amazon Glacier Services. So in essence you have unlimited local backup and 1TB of redundant online backup powered by a reputable cloud storage company for just $99 a year. I believe this kind of cheap hybrid model will bring disruption to the existing cloud storage market where you can get only a 1/10th of space for same price from Microsoft (Skydrive) or Google (Google Drive) etc.

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