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SyncBack Pro: Encrypted sFTP Synchronization for Online Backup Servers

I’ve been a big fan of SyncBack Freeware for a very long time, and for a very long time it handled everything I needed to do when it came to keeping my laptop in sync with my desktop machine and my external hard drive. As my business has grown (which is a good thing), the amount of data that I need to store has also grown. Because of the risk of catastrophic data loss, as low as it is, I do keep a rotating 3 month external hard-drive backup at a physical off-site location. This drive, however, will not help me as much as I would need if I have a data disaster somewhere in that 3 month time frame; and the idea of weekly or monthly having to make a trip to my off site backup location isn’t something I really want to do.

Enter SyncBack Pro.

As readers of this blog already know, I’m not a terribly big fan of the major online backup services. I don’t like proprietary data formats, and I like to be able to see for myself exactly what my data looks like on the other side. Basically when it comes to my data, I only trust me. I’ve had my own backup server in cyberspace for a while now with a reputable company, but I’ve only used it for minor stuff.  The problem I was having in backing up more data to this server is that I needed the ability to sync as well as encrypt files and use sFTP. Because even though the initial volume of data I’d upload is large, the actual day-to-day changes are not. This is where SyncBackPro becomes a necessary tool, as I’m now using my own backup server to its potential.

There are many difference between the three version of SyncBack: Freeware, SE, and Pro, and these differences are very clearly explained on the 2BrightSparks website. The most important feature for me of SynBack Pro is the ability to encrypt files and use sFTP to upload the files to the backup server.

The method to get my server to where I wanted it to be with SyncBack was simple. First I set synback to run backup with compression and encryption, and then set the program to store the files on the server as individual encrypted .zip files. Note that also set the upload parameters to use sFTP In this manner, Syncback was able to achieve the three goals I need it to achieve: synchronization, encryption, and sFTP.  This ability to synchronize with the online data is critical, as I don’t see a point wasting time and bandwidth uploading files that are already online and unchanged locally.

In thinking about security, you must use a strong password to protect your files no matter what type of system or software you are using; considering that your files are encrypted with SyncBackPro, you generally should be pretty safe if you use a password of random ASCII characters (try something on the order of 60 characters if you really want to protect the data).  Now would be a good time to also note also that SyncBack Pro will allow select from a variety of encryption and compression schemes, so you can find what combination meets your needs.

And for those of you who want even more security, SyncBack Pro has a feature whereby you can encrypt your files and compress them into one large .zip file. Thus, if you chose, you could (1) create individual encrypted .zip files and then wrap these files in a second .zip file or (1) create a single encrypted .zip file and then wrap this file in a second .zip file. In this manner someone would be required to break two difficult passwords to get to your data. With this system you would increase your upload time because you are moving single files (the big .zip) and you are not allowing SnycBack Pro to directly compare files online for sync purposes — but it would get the job done — it just depends upon the level of security and convenience you need.

Other features of SyncBack Pro that I like are the advanced compare window that you get when you Sync files (as compared to the freeware edition). Further, the Pro version also gives you the ability to backup to CD or DVD which can come in useful in certain situations. Lastly, I think it’s also important to mention that the company has an active support message board, where my questions about the program were answered in a matter of hours (and on a weekend, at that).

So while the freeware version of syncback will most likely be adequate for many home users, anyone who is serious about fine tuned control of the security of their online data should really take a look at SyncBack Pro. It’s loaded with features, and the time and money it will save you is well worth the around $50 sticker price.

Disclosure. I originally approached 2BrightSparks about writing a review of SyncBackPro. I was given a free license to use the product.

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