Is it time for you to embrace online backup?
There are two kinds of hard drives — dead ones and those which are going to die. As such, if you don’t keep backup copies of your important files you could lose them all in a heartbeat. Fire, flood, theft, virus attack, hardware failure, power spike, natural disaster and plain old human error are just a few of the threats to your precious data. You’re at even greater risk if your important files are stored on a notebook, smartphone or tablet which is exposed to the rough and tumble of life on the road.
While you might be able to recover from the loss of some files, others are simply irreplaceable. For example, in the years to come there’ll be plenty of people with no baby photos after their parents lost everything in a high-tech disaster.
The simplest backup system is to copy your files to a USB stick or maybe a USB hard drive. If you’re trying to protect a few computers around the house you might upgrade to a Network Attached Storage drive. But these may not save you from fire or flood. Any disaster which claims your computer will most likely also claim the backup devices sitting in your desk drawer. For full protection you need to keep “offsite” copies of your files, safely stored far away from the originals.
This is where Google Drive comes into play, the latest online backup service which is built into every Google Gmail account. Google Drive offers 5GB of free storage, with the option to pay for more if you need it. You can upload your files via a web browser, but Google also offers free software which runs in the background on your computer and automatically uploads new or changed files. This kind of “set and forget” backup solution tends to offer the best protection for your data.
To be honest Google Drive is a little late on the scene and faces stiff competition from the likes of SkyDrive, DropBox, Jungle Disk, Mozy, Carbonite, Crashplan, SugarSync and others. Google Drive may particularly appeal to Mac users who are about to lose access to iDisk and are frustrated by the limitations of Apple’s new iCloud service.
If you don’t have offsite backups of your important data it’s worth experimenting with these different backup services. Start small, run a few tests and read the fine print before you commit yourself, as your first full backup will take a long time so you don’t want to change providers regularly. Keep an eye on your monthly data usage if your ISP counts uploads towards your monthly limit (be especially careful when using mobile broadband).
While the cloud is a handy place to keep your backups, it’s not foolproof either. For truly irreplaceable files such as family photos you might also want to keep offline backups burned to DVD, perhaps at home and/or safely stored at someone else’s house or your desk drawer at work.
Think of a backup system as an insurance policy for your data. You can never be too careful when it comes to things which can’t be replaced.