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A simple way of implementing a personal offsite backup on a budget

There are a lot of schemes available for offsite backups. The drawback to these is the fact that you are always at the mercy of the offsite operator and, more importantly, it costs money. During the current era of frugality, you should be doing what the big corporations do – look for cost-cutting ideas. I have one regarding offsite backup.

First of all, make no mistake that offsite backup is important if you have valuable data. This includes digital photos, financial records, and personal documents. As a writer, I have all my writings since 1980 backed up, so I can bore people to death for eons.

Many people religiously back up in case of a hard disk failure, but that's not the same as backing up in case of a calamitous fire, which will generally burn the backup drive with the computer. Thus, you need to do what the pros do – offsite backup.

My offsite backup strategy is lame. I keep a couple of big hard disks in the boot of my car. Every so often, I drag them into the office and add more files. If the house burns down, I'm hoping the car doesn't go with it.

But here's my current thinking. Everyone has a friend who could use access to a 2TB hard drive, right? Go spend £60 for a 2TB standalone drive and around £100 for a Pogoplug personal cloud device, and install it in someone else's place for them. You can both use it as a backup device. You will now have access to a remote backup device for a total lifetime cost of £160. You can also add capacity later, if needed.

Pogoplug bills itself as a "personal cloud" company. It allows you to set up a quasi-cloud operation right on your own (or in the case of my evil scheme, someone else's) network. This idea is not new by any means, but Pogoplug creates a cloud service that runs standalone. I personally never leave my office PC on when I am not there with it. In fact, I generally turn off everything, including the network and routers, when I'm not using them. But I can see leaving the network on with a Pogoplug attached – although I wouldn't even have to do that because my Pogoplug would be on someone else's network.

This creates some security for my systems, while providing me offsite backup and access to my data from the remote site. Using any number of encryption systems will keep the data secure. The eventual key to success with this idea is to make sure there is high bandwidth at both ends. Of course, the friend who you set this scheme up with has to be trustworthy. But then, if you were to use, say, an online backup service – how much can you trust a third-party anyway, particularly with the amount of hacking that goes on these days.

Another cool aspect to this idea is that you can actually back up your files at full-tilt speed by hooking the hard disk directly up to your machine before attaching it to the Pogoplug and putting it offsite. This should save hours upon hours in itself. After that, it's all maintenance. And if you ever do have to restore the files, you can just go pick up the drive and do it locally at full speed rather than over the net – another benefit.

So there you have it. A simple offsite storage solution on a budget.