By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 12:01 am
Symantec, which rolled out Norton Online Backup as a standalone service earlier this year, is giving it a major overhaul that adds a bunch of attractive features and fixes some limitations of the original version.
The new version supports Macs as well as PCs for the first time. It can back up files even when they’re open and in use (a pretty basic feature that the previous iteration lacked) and it now keeps 90 days’ worth of old files so that you can roll back to a previous version if need be. You can now search for those old files as well as browse for them, can restore them to the original computer or any other system, and send them by e-mail.
As before, the service is as close to fully Web-based as possible: You do need to download a small app to your Windows PC or Mac. It runs in the background to shuttle data to or fro (and didn’t seem to be much of a drag on performance in my test drive). But managing backups, restores, and other aspects of the service is done in the browser, so it’s exactly the same experience in Windows and OS X. The new version has a cleaner, easier user interface.
At first blush, Norton Online Backup’s price of $49.99 a year for up to 25GB of storage sounds pricey, given that rivals Mozy and Carbonite offer unlimited storage for slightly more money. But Mozy and Carbonite’s pricing is per computer, one of the defining features of Symantec’s service is that’s for multiple-PC homes–its price covers up to five PCs and/or Macs. Additional storage is available, ranging from another $49.99 for an additional 10GB to $239.99 for 100GB. And the service is bundled into Symantec’s Norton 360 3.0 suite.
Given the extra cost to get sizable quantities of online space for multiple computers–not to mention the inherently slow process of backing data up across the Internet–I think it still makes sense to be selective about what you back up to a service such as Norton Online Backup. Send your irreplaceable files up to the cloud, but use something like a 500GB Seagate FreeAgent Go drive to protect everything else. (Portable hard drives may not be as simple and safe as online backup, but they’re faster–and they cost about a tenth of what you’ll pay for one year’s worth of the same amount of storage with Norton.)
Symantec is also soliciting tales of data-loss woe (and woe averted) for a competition it’s callling Norton Saved My Bacon. I mention it here mainly because the prizes include a year’s worth of bacon and bacon-flavored foodstuffs such as mints. (Vegetarians can opt for the cash equivalent.) I give ’em points for creativity–even though I don’t like bacon.
I confess that I haven’t used any online backup service on a regular basis, in part because I have multiple PCs and Macs around the house. So the new Norton is tempting. (Clarification: I have been using SugarSync lately, but not for anything close to comprehensive backup–just to sync a few folders I need on more than one machine.) Anyone out there want to share their experiences—good or bad–with any online backup service?