Pair Up! Cucku Lets You Swap Data With A Backup Buddy

In the last few years we’ve seen a number of backup solutions emerge that have tried to make the backup process as painless as possible. Local backup solutions like Apple’s Time Machine back up to an external disk and tend to be quick and easy, but they also leave data exposed to theft and natural disaster. Cloud-based storage services like Mozy and Carbonite remove the risk of physical damage to a disk, but it can take days or weeks to recover data after a disk fails.

Cucku, a new startup that launched last week, is trying to merge the benefits of local and remote backup. Using a technology it calls “social backup”, users are able to automatically save their files to a friend’s computer over the Skype P2P network. The software is Windows only for now, with a Mac version planned for the future.

Here’s how it works: Each user pairs off with a friend, who becomes their “backup buddy”. Every time you modify a file on your drive, it gets uploaded and saved to the allotted backup portion of your friend’s drive. Likewise, whenever your backup buddy modifies one of their files, it gets saved to your hard drive. Everything is encrypted, so you shouldn’t have to worry about prying eyes.

CEO Rob Ellison says that Cucku solves some of the problems associated with cloud-based remote backup solutions like Mozy and Carbonite by keeping all of your files nearby. Instead of having to wait a few days for your files to arrive on a DVD, you can just call up your friend and get access immediately.

Cucku may have a leg up in terms of convenience, but it has some major technical hurdles to overcome. For one, users will need to give up significant chunks of their hard drive space to make room for their friends’ data – when that “low disk space” message pops up, your precious backup will likely be the first thing to go. And what happens when your friend goes on vacation for a few weeks and doesn’t leave his computer on? There’s also the issue of bandwidth, which all cloud services suffer from – backing up more than a few gigs can take weeks or months.

Cucku’s basic consumer offering probably won’t catch on, but its pro package does stand a chance. Unlike the regular version, which requires 1-to-1 backups (you can only swap data with your Backup Buddy), the Pro version will allow users to back up multiple computers to the same drive. Users will be able to create a dedicated server for backup purposes, which will allow large groups of people to back up to a “cloud” that is still physically accessible.

There are a number of other sites that have attempted to use P2P backup, including Wuala and AllMyData, which has adopted a more traditional could-based model.