Although Symantec is better known for its security and virus-protection programs, Norton Online Backup is also part of the company's arsenal.

Norton is available for Macs and PCs, but not Linux systems. The vendor also offers Norton Connect, a beta iOS app that lets you download archived files (Symantec had a similar Android app that it pulled from the market last October; the site says that it is working on a new version).

Norton's home screen lets you back up your system immediately, restore files, download files or change the settings. A log lets you know the details as well as displays a green check mark or a red X that shows whether the task was completed.

As is the case with the other applications reviewed here, Norton's default settings copy only basic files, including contacts, financial files, pictures, browser favourites and documents. The interface includes check boxes to quickly add music, email and video. You can add any folder or file manually; you can also copy your entire drive, including system files. The program provides a progress bar and displays the percentage of the task that's been completed, the amount of data and the number of files being moved.

While the software can back up a connected external hard drive, it won't back up the system to an external hard drive. Backups can be scheduled, but the program doesn't support continuous backups of files as they are saved.

At any time, you can restore a lost file or rebuild the entire computer from the stored online data. Deleted files stay active on Norton's servers for 90 days.

In addition to restoring any stored file, Norton provides a great way to share material with colleagues or friends via email. All you do is select the file and the service emails a link to anyone; the process can be password-protected.

Norton colocates its servers at several data centers in the US and the UK and uses a 128-bit SSL encryption key for online transfers and 256-bit AES encryption on its servers. Data is mirrored at two locations, just in case there's a failure or disaster.

Test results

The initial default backup amounted to 1,226 files (190MB). It was completed in just 1 hour, 2 minutes and 7 seconds.

It took Norton 15 hours and 21 minutes to archive the contents of the system's C: drive, six times faster than CrashPlan took to do the same thing.

I was able to perform an incremental backup with 25MB of data in 7 minutes and 23 seconds and the service was able to locate a deleted file in 2.7 seconds. I recovered it in 1 minute and 45 seconds.

Norton Online Backup has a 30-day free trial period; after that, it costs $50 for 25GB. There's no unlimited capacity plan, but a single subscription can accommodate five separate computers, something others charge an extra $2 or $5 for.

OUR VERDICT

The software may be showing its age, but the service is fast and rock solid.