Symantec is offering consumers a backup to the cloud service through its Norton brand, with 25GB of space costing a smidgen under $50/year.
Norton Online Backup can protect up to five household computers and operates via a software agent in the Windows XP/Vista PC or notebook. You can select specific files/folders to backup, or have it back up the entire C: drive and an initial full backup then runs. Thereafter, block-level incremental changes are backed up, either to a schedule you specify or automatically when the PC is inactive.
Neither Apple Macs nor any flavour of Linux are supported.
Backup data is compressed and encrypted - with 256-bit AES encryption - so a fair amount of local CPU cycles will be needed, particularly for the first full backup. Files can be restored or downloaded from the Symantec cloud via a web browser - IE 6 onwards, Firefox 2.0 or higher, and Safari 3.0 or higher - on any PC. Chrome and Opera users are left out. You can adjust backup settings via the web browser, too.
The data is stored in two or more of a worldwide set of Symantec data centres.
Here is Symantec's answer to EMC's Mozy, Carbonite, Spare Backup and other consumer-facing online backup services. With the massive installed base of Norton security software customers Symantec has a huge and obvious upselling opportunity, as well as a bundled price discount opportunity should it wish to take advantage of it.
Carbonite has recently extended its cloud backup service to support Macs and offers remote access to backed-up files from any web-connected PC. It's available for unlimited backups at a price of $54.95/year
Symantec says cloud backup can be safer than relying on local external disk drives. The downsides are that you have to trust Symantec's cloud backup service to be always on and never lose your files; bulk restores will take a long time if your PC's hard drive crashes, and will vary with your network bandwidth; and it doesn't protect all the files on your PC.
It differs from Norton Ghost which offers full system and file backup using disk imaging to local FTP and NAS drives (network-attached storage). Norton 360 backs up user files locally and includes just 2GB of online storage.
Norton Online Backup (NOB?) is available now in the US through the Symantec online store, costing $49.99 for 25GB of space and up to five PCs and notebooks protected. Additional storage space can be purchased in increments of 10, 25, 50 and 100 GB. Worldwide availability will take a few weeks. ®