Backing Up Your Computer
How you can keep your data safe with an online backup service.
For automatic backup of personal computers, business or otherwise, an online solution is a great option. If you are not doing backups then you are creating a big business liability and risking a potentially heart-breaking personal loss of family memories and digital belongings.
If your office or home has a broadband internet connection, then online backup is a fantastic way to go. Online backup is different from keeping an extra copy of your files on a portable hard drive in two critical ways. First, should something happen to the building where your computer and the backup are stored, you've lost everything, but when you backup to an online service then your files are safely elsewhere should the worse come to pass. Second, using a backup drive means that your backups only happen when you remember to make them happen, but online backup services work for you all the time watching out for you 24 hours a day.
Here, we'll compare three online backup services and how they differ from each other:
Each of these are superb at what they do - providing you with an off-site backup.
These services run in the background on your computer, silently, unobtrusively, and securely backing up everything to their servers. They encrypt your data so that no-one but you can look at your files, not even employees of the backup service. If you lose your password, no one is going to be able to get your data back, to make sure to keep a copy of it safe somewhere in case you are injured or forget it!
Keep in mind that it may take days or even a couple weeks before your first backup is complete. After that, any of these will back up your files only as they change, which is much faster. Then, should the worst happen (your computer blows up, house burns down, aliens steal your hard drives) you can log-in to these services and download your latest backups from them.
All of them offer you the ability to download versions of files from the last 30 days. So if you save over an important document accidently, you can download a backup of it from before you made that mistake.
You might be wondering about differences between the three:
All of these are easy to use, but Backblaze is the easiest of them all. When you install their program you pretty much just push one-button to start it. From then on it just runs in the background, silently doing its job. Backblaze cannot backup portable storage or network storage, it will only backup what's in your physical computer, so if you have portable hard drives or a bunch of stuff saved across your network at home, you're not going to be able to use Backblaze to back that up. Backblaze also has no scheduling component, it just runs all day for as long as your computer is turned on, so there's no pausing it or setting it to only do backups at night. If you want something completely hands off and don't mind that some features will be unavailable to you because of that, Backblaze may be a perfect solution for you.
This company set the standard for online backup back when it first became an industry. By default, Carbonite sets itself up to backup your My Documents folder, you'll need to tell it what else you want to have backed up. Carbonite differs from the other two in that you can let other people download files from it, like a file-sharing service, but I caution you to not be sold on it just for that. Let your backup solution be a backup solution. If you need file-sharing, use Dropbox or some other services. You should also be aware that Carbonite will delete files from its system 30 days after you delete them from your computer. If you want a few more options and the ability to access your backups from anywhere appeals to you, Carbonite may be the perfect solution for you.
Crashplan does not let you share files, but they do offer many great features including the ability to choose between continuous backups or scheduled backups. Unlike Carbonite, Crashplan can be setup to keep your files forever, even long after you have deleted them from your computer. Crashplan (for a fee) will also exchange hard-drives with you by mail. This can be very handy if you want to get your initial backup done faster or if the worst should happen and you're not in a position to wait for your backup files to download. If you have portable hard drives or network storage to backup or you like having the option to be able to pay a little extra should you need to get your data back quickly, Crashplan may be the perfect choice for you.
The cost of having a backup far outweighs what it will cost you when something happens to your computer. Eventually something will happen. Whatever you choose, whether it is one of the above or another online service, make sure you test it out and are comfortable both with how it works and how you can recover files from it. This way, when you are in your moment of need, you can confidently retrieve your valuable files.