Look, ma! No tape!

Now and then a new product emerges that everyone raves about, yet leaves you scratching your head asking, "Why?" Connected Online Backup, from Connected, is that type of product.

Connected Online Backup is, as its name implies, a program that backs up your data over the Internet or a private communication circuit. The program backs up your laptop or desktop PC on a regular basis and stores your data offsite for later recall in case you delete a file or overwrite important data.

Features
Connected Online Backup contains several advanced features that make the program extremely useful. One feature, Delta Block Technology, determines which files have changed since your last backup, and backs up only those files. For example, if you have a 20MB database, but you've modified only 2KB of data, the software only backs up that 2KB--not the entire database. Delta Block Technology saves a lot of connect time that is otherwise wasted on backing up data that already exists on the destination server.

Connected Online Backup uses automatic file selection and data compression. Automatic file selection uses an intelligent file selection algorithm to determine which files on your system are essential and which files are not, and then backs up only the essential files. (For instance, the program does not back up executable programs because you generally install these programs once and have them stored on CD-ROM or other media in case of a system failure.) The software compresses each file it transmits, which further reduces your connection time. For security, Connected Online Backup encrypts all data before transmitting it over Internet links.

Installation and Operation
I encountered only one problem while getting the software online and operational. I installed the software on a Windows NT workstation by running the setup32.exe program on my installation disk. After installation, the software initiated a Dial-Up Networking (DUN) connection through its interface. When the program prompted me for my ISP account password, my Internet Service Provider (ISP) could not verify me so I couldn't log on. I had to manually establish my ISP connection using NT's DUN and then let Connected Online Backup complete my registration.

To test the software, I backed up all the Windows NT Magazine articles I've written since the beginning of the year. I had the software select all files created after January 1, 1998. As Screen 1 shows, this resulted in a 40MB+ backup set, which would have taken hours to back up, so I manually looked at the selected file list and removed unnecessary files. After completing the selection process, my backup had 195 files and used 12MB. The backup took less than 30 minutes.

Restoring a backed-up file is simple. I deleted one of my test files from my system and opened Connected Online Backup's Restore View. When I selected the file I wanted to restore from the listing, the software automatically logged on to Connected's server (my ISP link was already established) and transferred the file to my machine.

A Real World Application
I have one concern with Connected Online Backup: Most backup software offers some type of disaster recovery feature that lets you re-create your system using just a recovery disk--Connected Online Backup doesn't. Backing up your system using Connected's product is unfeasible, especially if you have a dial-up connection. If you experience a catastrophic failure, you must first reinstall your entire workstation, and then you can reinstall Connected Online Backup to retrieve the files you backed up through Connected's service. Although Connected Online Backup is useful to the casual user, it is not a solution for a serious business environment.

Although the software is free, you must pay $20 per user per month. At first, Connected Online Backup seems like a unique product that services a unique market. However, because local backup devices are relatively inexpensive, a year of monthly fees to Connected will pay for a local backup device that offers you more flexibility in your backup strategy.

Connected Online Backup
Contact: Connected * 800-647-3078
Web: http://www.connected.com
Price: $20 per month
System Configuration: Windows NT or Windows 95, Internet connection, Connected Online Backup