|At a glance
|Backupify Backupify () [Website]
|Backupify is an interesting service designed to back up your cloud data. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work.
|• Easy setup.
• Decent web interface.
• Support is quick on the responses
|• Limited Utility
• Security model is questionable
• Certain services not easily backed up
Backupify aims to fill a need that most people havenâ€™t even begun to think about: backing up your cloud life. Much of my digital life happens in Twitter, Facebook, Google Apps (Docs, Email, Calendar, Reader, etc.), Flickr, Dropbox, and several other services that live out in the â€œcloudâ€.
Once I started thinking about it, I realized that a lot of the information I use on a daily basis is stored in some cloud database. My friends have stopped sending email invitations; we use Facebook (except for that one friend who refuses to use Facebook…you know who you are).
My new startup lives entirely in ActiveCollab and Google Apps. I have oodles of pictures in Google Picasa and Flickr and Facebook.
When Backupify was recommended for review by a reader, I thought â€œWow this sounds great!â€ Backupify literally could be a â€œset and forgetâ€ kind of service, silently collecting all your cloud data so you can access it in case one day Twitter realizes it doesn’t actually have a revenue model.
The account options are straightforward. Everyone gets a 2 GB account for free that hooks into five cloud/social media accounts, but no Google Apps Accounts. Backups occur weekly, and tech support is limited to email.
Upgrading to the Pro 100 account gets you 25 social media accounts (Gmail included), and five Google Apps users. 25 GB of storage, Nightly Backups, and Phone or Web tech support options are also included.
Pro 500 users get bumped to Unlimited Social Media accounts, ten Google Apps Users, and Unlimited storage. Pro 100 will set you back $4.99/ Month and Pro 500 is $19.99/ Month.
Setting up Backupify is easy but somewhat scary, since all weâ€™ve been hearing about is Google getting hacked by China, and the malware plague spreading across the â€˜Net. Why would I ever want to give the keys to my digital life to another service that could get hacked? That’s an interesting question in general, and one I think I’ll ponder in another “Day in the Cloud”. But for now, I’ll address it a bit in the next sections.
Setup and Use
Like I said, setup is easy. Once youâ€™ve signed up for an account, you are presented with a screen to select services. Most services use a token authentication approach, popularized by Googleâ€™s OAuth. The process involves Backupify requesting access to your account via a special web page on the particular service’s website. Said service then gives Backupify a unique token to use, rather than your username and password, once you confirm Backupify is kosher to access your data. This makes access management much simpler for all parties involved.
Zoho is the only system in the list that doesn’t support token authentication. Zoho users will have to let Backupify store login data. Backupify claims it stores this very securely, but lets be honest. Eventually, Backupify decrypts your login so it can log in and back up your data. This means one-way hashing algorithms aren’t possible for storage, and they are the only secure way to store that type of data.
I initially set up Twitter and Flickr integration for testing. Both of these services support OAuth-style tokens, and neither account would be a devastating loss if someone got into the accounts by hacking Backupify. As it turns out, the backup process wasn’t terribly dramatic either!
The way Twitter gets “Backupified” is by Backupify pulling in all your tweets, mentions, friends, followers, etc. All of these particular items have a unique identifier (ID) associated with them. This is how Twitter knows who to reference to what Tweet, and so on. Backupify uses this ID to display this data to you, rather than saying this Tweet was from some user name. This makes for a confusing archive display, an example of which is in the gallery.
This overuse of the ID is annoying because I donâ€™t actually know what got backed up. Thereâ€™s no search option for any of the services, and Twitter isnâ€™t exactly the type of service you can â€œrestoreâ€ data into. You can look at the message and maybe see something recognizable burred in the HTML markup, but that’s frustrating work. Backupify does generate a searchable PDF though with an entirely different, and usable output, which also happens to be searchable.
Screen to add new services to backup.
Here’s the explanation screen Backupify displays before signing up with Twitter.
Look at all those ID Numbers. Completely useful for know what that message is, right?
Here’s what a single "update" message in twitter looks like. You can decipher the message in the HTML, if you want to.
This is the PDF version of my Twitter archive. Looks much nicer right? Why can’t the website show this?
Here’s what Flickr and Gmail insist on telling me. Hopefully support figures this out.
Flickr backups failed to work at all. I have several photos in my private stream, but Backupify claimed there were no items to back up. I even tried making a few public to see if it would work, but no luck. This was annoying, as I wanted to try restoring something because restoring to a cloud-based service would really show the capabilities of Backupify.
I decided to try integrating a Gmail account that I use as a spam catcher. Hopefully this would yield a working backup so I could try out restoring data. This mail account gets a bunch of emails a day so I was sure Backupify would have something to work with. Unfortunately, Backupify failed to pull in any email, leaving me confused as to what the service could actually do.
Shortly before posting, I asked Backupify support about both these backup failures and I’ll post an update when I hear back.
Access, Restore, Security, and Support
Restoring and accessing your backups occurs via Backupifyâ€™s website. The site presents a very minimal portal that manages your services and backups. You can add services, remove them, and view archives and history. Different services have different restoration procedures.
Flickr, for example, can be restored almost identically to your deleted account. Twitter, on the other hand, offers zero restoration, with only a PDF of your tweets available to download. You can view the restoration options available for a particular service when you add it to the backup list. Gmail supposedly can have email added back into a new account, but I could not test this feature.
Security is unexplained on the website, which is frustrating. I reached out to technical support and received an explanation that all items are encrypted with 256-bit AES before being stored. The CEO and the VP of Security can decrypt your data, but no one else has access. I would rather no one have access, as even one person having access ultimately means a security risk.
Support for free accounts is through email only. Paid accounts receive additional phone and web-based technical support. Pro 500 accounts receive an SLA of a guaranteed 8 hour turnaround time for your support ticket. My queries using a free acount generally were responded to within 4 hours though, so at least the line is active.
Overall, I have trouble recommending Backupify for a few reasons. If you are truly worried about your web-based email being shut down, use an IMAP or POP client to download it all. All the web-based photo services generally allow downloading of all your photos. I would also imagine most people used a computer or a phone to upload the image in the first place, so an original usually exists.
For Google Docs, everything can be exported as PDF. While itâ€™s not the most efficient form of the data, the data can be backed up just using Google. Google calendar support iCal feeds, so Outlook and Calendar.app can pull in your Google calendar for backup.
That leaves the social media services like Twitter and Facebook. Twitterâ€™s backup, like I mentioned, isnâ€™t terribly useful since you canâ€™t exactly back up a timeline. Backupify will make a searchable backup of all your tweets in a PDF, but I donâ€™t see the utility in that. Facebook could be useful, but once again I only see photo and video backup being useful, and originals should already exist on another device.
In closing, Iâ€™m perplexed by Backupify. It could be a useful service, but since it didn’t work (so it seems) for two out of three services I tried, I really can’t recommend it. Add somewhat limited utility, and we have an equation that ultimately says look elsewhere.