Restoring Data with Online Backup Software

Typical Online Backup Services allow end users to restore data themselves using an intuitive graphical user interface that presents a file and folder tree structure and some way to select files and folders to restore. Some, like Mercury, also allow restoring files by application name.

The Online Backup Guide for Service Providers is a complete 196-page guide on starting and operating an Online Backup Service – the latest revision of Rob Cosgrove’s industry defining RBS Book originally published in 1987. The entire book is being published here, chapter by chapter.


RBackup and Mercury also provide a way to search for files to restore by file name, folder name, dates, and other file attributes, including some powerful functions provided by Synthetic Full Backup. Unlike other software, RBackup and Mercury can deliver a full restore of all the latest files, or of just a group of them, in a single quick pass.

End users can define groups of files to restore by any file or folder attribute, and can even do a disaster recovery by simply asking for “the latest copies of all my files.”

RBackup and Mercury can deliver a full recovery of all the latest files, even if there has only been one full backup and all the rest were Incremental.

As with the first full backup, a full restore can be too big to perform over the Internet within an acceptable amount of time. So, the software you choose should be able to restore from a USB drive or from the RBS server itself. RBackup can do this.

You should select a disk-based restore option that conforms to the security and privacy requirements of your customers. It is generally not acceptable to restore data to a disk drive, and then ship the disk drive containing native data via common carrier (the US Postal Service or UPS.) It may be acceptable to hand-deliver such a hard drive.

If you have to ship a drive containing restored data to a customer, it is preferred to ship the drive with compressed and encrypted files that are then decrypted at the end user’s site using a Disk Recovery Utility such as the one included in RBackup. This is in compliance with regulation, and will prevent loss or disclosure of data due to theft.

Recovering a Complete Drive System

This is the procedure to use in case of a complete failure of a drive system and total data loss.

1. Repair or replace the hardware.

2. Re-install the Operating System.

3. Re-install drivers.

4. Re-install applications from distribution media.

5. Upgrade the OS and applications to the current versions.

6. Re-install the Online Backup software.

7. Perform a Disaster Recovery operation with the Online Backup software.

While some end users can do this procedure themselves, most will not want to. You should charge a premium for doing it. Many end users take this opportunity to upgrade their hardware and operating system. Use your good judgment about drivers.

It is important to remember that most Online Backup Services can restore files and folders only, and cannot (as of this writing) do an adequate “bare metal restore,” a procedure that restores the complete hard drive including its operating system, applications and settings, sector by sector.


Rob Cosgrove

Rob Cosgrove, CEO Remote Backup Systems

Rob Cosgrove is the President of Remote Backup Systems, founder of the Online Backup Industry, and a vocal advocate for maintaining the highest standards in Online Backup software. His latest book, the Online Backup Guide for Service Providers: How to Start and Operate an Online Backup Service, is available online now, on, and at bookstores.

Remote Backup Systems provides brandable, scalable software and solutions to MSPs and VARs enabling them to offer Online Backup Services.

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About The Author

Rob Cosgrove /

Rob Cosgrove is President of Remote Backup Systems, developers of the fully brandable RBackup Online Backup software platform, powering more than 9,500 Service Providers, MSPs and VARs wordwide since 1987. He is the founder of the Online Backup industry and author of several books, the most recent, "The Online Backup Guide for Service Providers", available at and bookstores.