It's mid-hurricane season where I live, and my thoughts have been turning (as they so often do) to disaster recovery for small business. We should all have learned by now that even a comprehensive backup can be inadequate if it's stored in a filing cabinet in the front office. No, for better protection you need to keep a copy of your files someplace safe -- or at least someplace not likely to be hit by the same event that created the need for the backup.
I've been trying a couple of simple solutions for backing up my critical data. The first is SpiderOak, a system the company describes as, "Your complete online backup, storage, access and sharing solution." A free account comes with 2GB of online storage, with more available for license on a monthly basis. The second is Microsoft's Live Mesh, an extension of your desktop onto the Web. There are similarities between the two, but there are also differences that might make one or the other a better choice for your needs.
SpiderOak is, in the way the interface presents itself, a backup system first, with file- and folder-sharing pleasant side effects. When you download the application onto your system, you're presented with a modestly-sized window that allows you to select specific drives, directories, or files for synchronization with the SpiderOak servers. Once the selection is made, the software starts the upload and synchronization is automatic after that. If 2GB isn't enough, you can get additional storage in 10GB increments for around $5 per month. SpiderOak says that they perform some serious compression on the files transferred in order to cut down on the requirements for both bandwidth and storage; looking at the same files stored on both SpiderOak and Live Mesh indicates that this is true. You can make the files you upload sharable through an account extension, but the interface makes it obvious that file backup and restoration is the reason this service exists. That interface is nicer than many of the remote storage services out there, and the interface (which works with Windows, Mac, and Linux systems) may be enough to make this your choice for a service.
Live Mesh is, as you might guess, something different. I must start by saying that it's in the "Tech Preview" stage of existence right now – that means it can be buggy, unstable, undependable, and quite different from the finished service and it's all OK. In fact, I've found it to be none of the first three things, and only time will tell on the fourth.