It’s a sad fact of life that the first time most computer users will think about backing up their data is just after they lost everything in a drive failure or other deadly digital occurrence.
These are thankfully rare, but they can happen – as I learnt to my despair when a factory reset tried to install itself onto my connected external hard drive (where I had “cunningly” stored all my working documents to keep them safe from system crashes – doh!).
Luckily the damage was limited, as I have always been in the habit of backing up “every so often”; I now make sure I auto-back up to a remote location at the end of every day. The cost is negligible in time and money and it means that I will never lose two months’ writing again.
Extensive studies have recently shown that only 10 per cent of all computer users back up their data daily and, shockingly, nearly a third of people have never backed up anything at all. Ever.
I don’t have to tell you what a bad idea this is – and if you’re sitting there feeling a bit sheepish because you’re one of the careless third, listen up, because by the end of this section you should never have to worry about data loss again.
There are loads of free options for backing up your files, with more popping up all the time as cloud computing grows.
I’ve picked out a few of the front-runners to give you an impression of what’s out there today, but in this fast-moving space you should definitely check to see which new services offer the best current prices for the storage and features you want.
Backblaze is an easy solution for PC and Mac that continuously saves what you select – from a single file to the whole hard drive. Data is heavily encrypted, and in the case of a total wipe-out you can download your data as a compressed folder from which your computer will extract everything automatically, or you can order a USB drive to be posted to you. You can try the unlimited service for 15 days, after which there’s a monthly subscription of around $5.
CrashPlan is an interesting service that lets you back up free to another “always on” computer, either in your home or, if you have a friend with excess hard drive space, elsewhere (as long as you trust them with all of your data!). It is available for Mac, Windows and Linux and there are also well-priced unlimited storage space plans if you don’t know anyone with drive space to spare.
SugarSync is worth a mention, as it lets you back up any folder on your computer, syncing it everywhere you work in real-time. It also includes apps for Windows Phone 7, Symbian and the Kindle Fire – and with 5GB free storage to start you off, this is good competition for Dropbox.
Google Drive may be the new kid on the backup block, but integration with Google’s other cloud offerings makes this a good pick for sharers and collaborators. There are free apps for Android and Apple mobiles. You get 5GB of free storage, with competitive pricing for upgrades.
Not to be outdone by its main webmail rival, Microsoft also has a cloud drive service that links to your Hotmail or online Outlook address and lets you share folders with other accounts. At the time of writing this offers the best deal in terms of storage cost, with 7GB free and just £32 a year to upgrade to 100GB. There are downloads for desktop access on PC and MAC and smartphone apps for Apple, Android and, of course, Windows mobile devices. Your data can be accessed any time without a download through the browser interface, which is handy if you’re working in a public space.
Security should always be a priority where your company’s data is concerned. Cloudfogger adds an extra layer by encrypting your data to a standard approved by the US National Security Agency for top secret information. Once you’ve selected a folder to encrypt, you can still view and open files inside it with ease, but if anyone breaks in they will just see a jumbled mess. Integration with leading services like Dropbox and Google Drive means that you can apply this encryption to your cloud storage space if you like. If that space is a shared folder you don’t even need to give your encryption details to invited collaborators, as they will also be able to open the files if you’ve authorised sharing the folder with them.
One last tool you that may appreciate if you start making meaningful connections on the social web is SocialSafe. This is a backup tool for all those vital social accounts and messages, so that you will never lose track of an influencer. The free version will let you see what the service is about, backing up limited data from just one Facebook profile. The enterprise version involves a modest annual subscription to unlock the real power of this tool, as you can save everything from 10 Facebook pages and profiles, as well as many other leading sites like Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Instagram and more. This service extracts your data to be stored somewhere that you specify, so you are limited in storage space only by what you have available, either on your hard drive or on another online space, such as Dropbox.
The 31 March has been designated “World Backup Day”. I’m not quite sure who has the authority to sanction such control over the calendar, but the website to support the event has a great and ever-growing collection of the latest tools and developments in the world of data backup, and so is well worth a visit every now and then.
This is an extract from Kate Russell’s new book, “Working the Cloud: The Ultimate guide to making the internet work for you and your business”. The book is available from Amazon both as paperback and Kindle Edition. Ms Russell is a freelance technology reporter, better known for her Webscape segment on BBC’s technology show, Click.