Best business online backup service: which should you choose?

Could your business cope with a data disaster?

Best business backup

If running regular backups is important for home users, it's essential in business: losing even a small fraction of your most important data, for a brief period of time, could still be a real disaster.

You could try to protect yourself by copying files to external drives or burning them to disc. But these solutions take time to manage. They'll also leave you vulnerable to fire, theft and hardware failure, which is why automatically sending your data off-site to an online backup service in the 'cloud' may be a better idea.

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Of course, all cloud backup solutions are not the same and you need to choose your preferred provider with care. There are important questions to ask. Do they have software clients for all your computers and devices, for instance? Can they back up all of your servers and business applications?

Is your data transferred and stored securely, perhaps stored in multiple data centres for extra protection? Can you send the company a disk with your initial data to save time (often called "backup seeding"), or get them to courier a drive to you if you need everything in a hurry? And if you run into an issue, is there someone ready to help, at speed, 24-7?

You're probably not going to get by with a free Dropbox account, but there are plenty of business backup providers ready to deliver the extras you and your business need. We tried eight possible contenders, and whether you're working to a tight budget or just looking for a full-strength, no-compromise enterprise solution, there will be something to suit you here.

Amazon Glacier

Around £7 to store 1TB/ month, £0.075 per GB to retrieve (1GB/ month free)

Online backups can seem expensive, particularly if you're looking to archive a vast amount of data, but Amazon Glacier shows it doesn't have to be that way. The service charges a tiny $0.011 (just a little under 7p) per month for every gigabyte of data you use, and there are no annoying account or file size limitations - you can just back up whatever you need.

The service also provides good security, transferring your data over SSL and encrypting it via AES-256. It's supremely reliable, too, with files stored on multiple devices within a data centre, and spread across multiple data centres. Your documents won't be lost easily.

Best business backup

There are catches, of course. Notably, there can be a delay of several hours before you're able to access your data. What's more, there's an extra charge (around 7.5p per GB) for retrieving more than 5% of your total backup in a month. Glacier isn't a service you'll use for disaster recovery, file syncing or anything similar. Instead it's more about archiving data which you need to keep, but that you require only rarely, and where retrieval delays aren't a problem.

While this sounds good to us, there are more issues to consider. The Amazon signup process appears carefully designed to be as obscure as possible, and even once you've waded through that, there's no "official" client. If you have access to software developers (or are willing to hire some) then they could use the Glacier API to produce something tailored to your needs, but otherwise you'll have to research the third-party options. There are some reasonable tools around (FastGlacier and S3 Explorer), but they generally don't have the power of a regular backup client

Amazon Glacier isn't for everyone, then, but if you've large-scale archiving needs, and are willing to invest the time in setting the service up, then it could save you a lot of cash.

Find out more about Amazon Glacier

Fasthosts Online Backup

Free 30 day trial (credit card required), 500GB of storage for £756/year