Norton Online Backup a simple online back-up solution
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Norton Online Backup a simple online back-up solution

Norton Online Backup: If you’re not backing up your data, you’re living on dangerous ground. So back up your stuff, already. In fact, you should consider both back-ups on-site (whether that’s a home or business) and back-ups off-site. After all, if, heaven forbid, you house or business should burn down, both your original data and the back-ups could be lost if they’re all in one location.

One solution to off-site back-up is Symantec’s Norton Online, which, as of version 2.0, has come to the Mac. The latest version supports both Mac and Windows systems on up to five computers, linked together through the same central account.

The updated version gives consumers the ability to share documents with others, to transfer files between any of their computers, and to retrieve backed up files at anytime from any web connection, including up to 90 days of file revisions. This means that, via a web browser, you can select and share any of the files you’ve backed up by generating download links that can be emailed to any address.

This is especially useful after a new computer purchase, enhanced file migration assists users with the easy transfer of files between household computers. Setting up Norton Online 2.0 is pretty easy, though I did run enough snafus along the way that I wouldn’t depend on this for all my back-up needs. But more on that in a moment.

There are several things to like about Norton Online 2.0. The advanced search allows users to search for backed-up files by name, date, size and/or type of file. Open file backup stores the most current file, even if it’s open (which is especially important for email files). File purge and storage management lets you remove previously backed-up files in order to clear up available storage space.

Once you’ve installed everything and got the service up and running, an icon for Norton Online appears in your Mac’s toolbar. Clicking home will carry you to, where you’ll log into your account. Now if you’re away from your main computer, you’ll need to have this URL written down somewhere—unless you have a better memory than I do.

If you want a simple, no-frills interface, you’ll lack that for Norton Online. If you’re a power user who really likes to tweak things, you won’t. By default, your contacts, pictures, favorites, financial files, and office docs are selected for backup. Norton chooses these files based on a long list of file extensions, such as Quicken, Microsoft Office, etc.

I’d prefer to be able to manually select the folders and files I want to back up. As a Mac user that means I’d like to be easily select iWork and iLife files/media, music and movies in iTunes, etc. However, there’s no way (as far as I could tell) to customize this in Norton Online.

There is an “Other” option that’s also checked by default. This choice lets you create rules for adding files and folders to your backup (or excluding them from it), but the rules are limited to a folder path and whether to include or exclude it. You can add file types here, too, if you know their extensions. When you back up a specific file or folder, Norton Online Backup creates a copy of the file or folder in a secure online location. You can restore this file or folder when in need.

By using advanced rules, you can include or exclude specific files or folders to your backup set. Advanced rules help you back up the files that are not detected automatically by Norton Online Backup. If the file you want to back up doesn’t fall in any of the file categories, you can back up the file using an advanced rule.

Norton Online Backup automatically creates advanced rules for every file or folder that you manually include or exclude to the backup set. In addition, you can manually exclude specific files from your backup set. You can customize the advanced rule and change the rule type.

You can create two types of advanced rules. An Include rule adds the selected file or folder to your backup set. An Exclude rule removes the selected file or folder from the backup set.

You can also use a file wildcard pattern to include or exclude files for backup. However, for many users, all this will be too complicated. Symantec should have made the options a little more Mac-like.

Next, you choose when the backup should run. The default is Automatic, which means things are backed up at a random time. You can choose between daily, weekly and monthly back-ups. I’d choose daily. Then you can set the back-up process to get underway when it’s most convenient. I set mine for 2 am, a time I’m not usually on my Mac. You can also manually initiate a back-up at any time, which is handy.

Norton Online also lets you determine bandwidth throttling and configure notifications, which is also convenient. Also nifty is the support for multiple computers, though if you’re using the basic service to back up more than one computer, you’ll probably run out of space pretty quickly.

The Norton interface lets you view the available online storage that’s allocated to you at the top-right corner of each Norton Online Backup page. You can see your total storage space, used storage space and available storage space. That’s handy.

What’s not useful is the limited animated activity bar. It offers little info beyond that a back-up is in progress. There’s no info on what file is uploading or how long it’s going to take. Nor do you get an e-mail message if a back-up fails. You’ll have to check the online log to make sure things went well.

What’s more, I repeatedly got this message: “Backup completed with errors (7 files could not be backed up). 
That said, the restoration process is pretty simple and user friendly. If you have problems after set-up try rebooting your Mac and letting the backup run automatically.

Norton Online Backup uses 128-bit SSL encryption during file transfer, and 256-bit AES encryption while storing on their professional managed servers. The service utilizes block-level incremental backups, and file redundancy.

Norton Online Backup version 2.0 is now available for purchase in the U.S. through select retail outlets and the Symantec online store. The new version of Norton Online Backup will be updated automatically for current subscribers within the coming weeks.

The suggested retail price for Norton Online Backup is US$49.99 per year, which includes 25GB of online storage to backup files from up to five computers. You can add 10, 25, 50, or 100GB of storage for $29.99, $49.99, $79.99, and $149.99. Unlike other services, Symantec doesn’t offer a basic-level storage option free of charge.

Also, if you need to back up LOTS of data, you might consider the “unlimited storage” options of Carbonite and MozyHome Online Backup, which respectively charge $54.95 and $59.40 annually. And sincewe’re comparing the services, Norton Online can’t back up files that are open, though Carbonite and Mozy can.

Overall, Norton Online Backup is a solid solution for simple, automated online back-up—WHEN the aforementioned bugs are worked out. Also, it could be a bit more Mac friendly. And those who have more than 25GB of info to back up will probably find other options more economical.


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