Every week 140,000 hard drives crash in the United States.
That fact alone should be enough to frighten every computer owner on the planet. We all have photographs, movies, important documents, emails, etc. that we do not want to lose for any reason, yet I find very few PC users who regularly backup the contents of their computer(s). Every one of us has experienced a moment when we thought our PC had crashed and the first thought was “I should have backed up my files!” Why is it then that so few people perform regular backups? Is is Time…. Money…. Knowledge?
Whatever the hurdle is, it is time to overcome it and protect our important files from permanent deletion. There are several theories on what makes a “safe” backup, but we are going to focus on online backups. Why? Because external hard drives or CD/DVD backups are great, but they are almost never stored in an off-site location. Natural disasters and fires don’t show any mercy when it comes to destroying a home or an entire community, so let’s prepare for the worst scenario and secure our files in a secondary location.
Storage prices have dropped to all-time lows and high-speed internet is becoming a standard for PC users around the world. Thanks to these diminishing barriers, there are already dozens of online backup services available to us and I am sure there are more on the way. While amount of storage is important, I think most people will agree that cost and ease-of-use are the ultimate factors in choosing a service. I have searched the internet and found a few of the front-runners for you to choose from.
Dropbox, which we have written about numerous times, can serve as a backup solution if you only have a few gigs (GB) of information. While Dropbox is really not meant to serve as a full online backup tool, it turns out that over 40% of users rate it as the best option (taken from a lifehacker.com survey). The Dropbox service is FREE (up to 10GB of space with referrals) and is one of the easiest tools to integrate, ever! The one major issue with Dropbox is that they don’t currently support “other folder” syncing. In other words, you would need to copy your files to a specific folder to have it synced via Dropbox. Luckily, the Dropbox Folder Sync was created by some unofficial sources to solve this very problem.
If you are in love with Dropbox, like I am, and want to make it your backup solution you can also upgrade to the 50 GB/$9.99 per month option. That pricing is slightly higher than the other online backup services available, but that 50GB can be used however you see fit. 30 GB can go to backups while the rest remains available for anything and everything you choose.
Mozy “makes it simple.” Start with 2 GB for FREE and upgrade to unlimited storage for one low price of $4.95 a month. When I researched online backups months ago, prices like these were just a dream. Mozy has a fantastic web site and, from what I have read, their interface is top-notch. Your files are safe with “military-grade” encryption and a 128-bit SSL connection. The latest version of mozy (2.0) has 25% faster upload speeds and the 2xProtect feature, which allows you to backup files online AND to an external hard drive simultaneously.
CrashPlan is a unique service that I stumbled onto while researching mozy. In many ways, it is similar to the mozy offer, allowing you to save files to an offsite server farm for under $10 a month (unlimited GB). The encryption and connection (your security) are identical and their interface seems very user friendly.
Then, CrashPlan sets itself apart with a laundry list of other offers, most of which are catered to the PC power-users out there. Not only can you back up to any number of PCs to any number of destinations, you can choose a friend’s computer or even another computer you own. This would allow you and a family member (not in the same house if you adhere to the offsite rule) to swap backups and keep the cost down. Technically, you could each go out and buy a TB external drive and simply serve as a backup location for the other, for FREE. If you own multiple computers and want to back them all up, CrashPlan is the option for you.**
When all is said and done, I think I’ll be setting up Mozy today. While I am a huge Dropbox fan and I like the idea of backing up to a free location of my choosing with CrashPlan, there is something amazing about the unlimited storage available from Mozy. At $4.95 a month, I really can’t complain about the price and every online review I have read confirms that Mozy is just easy to use. The one downfall I have found so far is that complete backups of a system can take a long time. Honestly, I am not too concerned. I can run the backups at night and, with any luck, I won’t be losing my hard drive before the backup is completed.
If anyone is already using or has tried one of the services above, I would love to hear about it. If you have another service that blows these out of the water, I would love to get the details. For everyone else, get started TODAY! Your hard drive might not make it until tomorrow.
**Special thanks to reader Tim (TC) for the additional information on CrashPlan and Mozy!