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Tag Archives: Dropbox

How To Manage Your Online Backups

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How do you choose the right online backup service?

It’s important to keep an offsite backup copy of your most important files – safely stored far away from your computer in case disaster strikes. Online backup services offer a handy way to do this, but you need to weigh up your options and choose carefully before you commit yourself.

There are two main types of online storage devices. One is designed primarily with file backups in mind. The other is designed with file storage and sync in mind. They sound the same, but it’s important to appreciate the difference when choosing the right service for you. You might even find a combination of services is best, each handling different kinds of files.

Storage and sync services such as Google Drive and Dropbox create a new folder on your computer. Anything you drop into that folder is automatically copied to a secure folder on the internet. It’s also copied to a matching folder on any of your other computers which are running the software. This means you can jump between different computers, perhaps your desktop and notebook, and always have the latest versions of your documents at your fingertips.

The drawback of Google Drive and Dropbox is that you can’t just point them at your existing folders, such as your My Documents folder. You have to move everything you want synced into the new sync folder.

If you just want to backup your files and don’t care as much about syncing, you might be better off with a service designed primarily for backup. You’ll find plenty around including Mozy, Carbonite and Jungle Disk. One of the handy things about these options is you can tell the desktop software to backup your folders as they are, rather than having to move all your files around. They also offer a lot more flexibility in terms of what they backup, how often they backup and how fast they backup.

If you can’t throttle your backup software, you might find that it chokes your internet connection. Some backup services let you create multiple backup lists and schedule them separately to spread the load. For example you might back up the documents you’re currently working on once an hour during workdays, but only backup your photo library once a week in the evening. You might also throttle these backup jobs to different upload speeds depending on the time of day you want them to run.

Like we said, you might find that a combination of services works best. For example, Mozy might be a good option for backing up your photo library but Dropbox might be best for backing up current documents and syncing them with your other computers during the day. Take care when pointing more than one backup service at the same folder, as they can get stuck in a loop.

It’s worth checking the fine print to see which features the different services offer. For example Jungle Disk offers the best of both worlds and lets you run both backup and sync jobs side by side. You’ll also find that some backup services are restricted to one computer, while others can backup several to the one account.

It takes a long time to run your first backup to an online service, and you need to be careful if your ISP counts uploads towards your monthly limit. Considering this you don’t want to change services often. Do your research and perhaps run a few tests before you commit all your important files to an online backup service.


Remote Control

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For years we’ve read thousands upon thousands of words about remote working, road warriors with laptops and the paperless office. The paperless office seems more remote now than it ever has before and the advent of videoconferencing software — whether you’re at the pro telepresence end or the consumer Skype end — makes travel in these financially constrained times a lot less likely or necessary.

Still, the need exists for persistent data access for those times when you’re out of the office. There are solutions that rely on storing data and documents in the cloud (my personal choice being Dropbox), but it’s not always necessary (or prudent) to stick all your documents on somebody else’s server.

I’m writing this from a kitchen bench, far far away. In London, to be precise, but it’s being written and saved on the computer that sits at my desk in my office. And that’s a 27″ iMac. At 13.8kg, not exactly a portable computer. There was no way I was going to get away with having that as carry-on luggage, even if I’d wanted to.

A quick disclaimer: I’ve travelled to London as a guest of mobile phone company HTC for a phone launch, but that’s not germane to the point I’m going to make.

Still, I’m typing this that way, because I can. Specifically, I’m using a piece of remote access software called LogMeIn, running both on my office computer and then accessed via the web on the computer right in front of me, although it could conceivably be a tablet, iPhone or Android handset as well. LogMeIn’s not the only game in town; software from Cisco, Microsoft, VNC or Apple can handle this kind of remote computing just as well.

The advantage of remote computing versus cloud computing comes down to trust. Sure, I could stick most of the documents I actually need onto a cloud server, and either way I’d still need net access to get to them, but by accessing my computer rather than somebody else’s server, I’m guaranteed to have everything, not just some things I may or may not need. I can also do anything else I’d be able to do from that machine, such as check mail, schedule tasks — I could even, as I’ve done here, create remotely.


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