Keeping copies of your data on an external USB hard drive can be convenient if you happen to delete an important file or need to go back to an earlier version, but you can’t say that you’re really protected until a copy of your data is stored off-site and in a secure location.

That used to mean schlepping backup tapes or an entire USB drive to a safety deposit box. Not anymore. Today, thanks to dozens of online backup services, “storing off-site” is done automatically. This month I’ll compare two popular online services: Carbonite and Mozy. and are similar in approach. A software “agent” installs on your computer and keeps track of which files have been backed up or are waiting — you don’t have to do anything. You can turn on status indicators that show, at a glance, your backup status. Both services can back up open files such as your Outlook database.

On the other hand, neither service is good for archival storage. When you remove a file from your computer, it’s only kept on their servers for 30 days, but both services now keep and let you restore older versions of your files up to the 30-day limitation. Both services offer file access via a Web-based interface, in case you’re somewhere without your computer.

I wish there was a way to combine the best features of both services. Carbonite’s backup functionality is nicer to live with day-to-day, with fewer interruptions and almost zero impact on your computer’s performance. Mozy is better at restoring files. Its “restore” interface is more modern and makes it easier to select individual files or groups of files to restore. Mozy and Carbonite each cost around $50 per year for individuals, both support PCs and Macs, and both have “Pro” versions to manage backups for multiple users and your office servers.

Frank J. Borkowski

—Joe Stoddard is an industry consultant helping remodelers be successful with their technology. Reach him at Twitter,, or at [email protected].