A computer used to be a box on a desk, and to do computer work, we had to be in front of that box. Now our files and applications have moved into the cloud, meaning that we can be almost anywhere and do almost anything using almost any device. We can also backup the heck out of everything – which, in this dangerous age of hacking, viruses and other nastiness – we should.
When you’re using an online backup service, you generally set up an account; tell it which drives, folders and files to back up; and let it get to work. They can work in the background all the time or back up on a schedule. If your computer blows up, you can restore your files to another machine, or recover an earlier version of a document (ever hit “Save” instead of “Save As …”?)
If I didn’t use Dropbox for my backup plan, I’d choose CrashPlan. The free plan, aptly named CrashPlan Free, puts the backup network into your hands by allowing you to connect to friends’ computers for storage. You backup to someone else’s computer while he stores his backup on yours. Neither one of you can see the others’ files, but everyone has peace of mind — without a price tag.
Their paid versions are pretty comparable to other services — $59.99/year for unlimited data from one computer. They also offer to save multiple versions of your active files as well as all the files you delete. And you can backup to multiple locations, such as their online cloud, another computer and an external hard drive.
I need to mention Carbonite and Mozy because they’ve been around the longest and are perhaps the best known, but I think these days you have better options. Carbonite looks great on paper — unlimited storage on unlimited devices for $59 a year. But if you read the small print, you’ll soon discover that if you have more than 200GB to backup, your backups will be slower and take longer — data throttling, if you will. That said, it’s a simple service with a great reputation, so if you don’t need 200GB+, it’s a nice option.
Mozy was one of the first online backup services I discovered. These days they also have MozyStash, which is their file synchronization service. You can have 2GB for free, or choose a paid plan starting at $5.99/month for up to 50GB.
SOS Online Backup doesn’t have a free level, but they’ve won plenty of awards and high marks. IDrive is another standout in this field. It has a fairly generous free plan, and the paid plans start at 150GB for less than $50/year. I love the fact that it integrates with Facebook, which means you can share files and folders with connections with a couple clicks. IDrive keeps a whopping 30 versions of each file, and it backs up multiple devices into the same account.
IDrive is a good example of the mixing of the pure storage sites and the collaboration/sync cloud services. You can sign up for the classic IDrive storage or go for IDrivesync for a Dropbox-like experience with up to 10GB of storage for free.
ADrive also stands out in the pack because of its free level – a very generous 50GB of storage, which is at least five times the free space as most services. AVG LiveKive is a cool option from a trusted company. They have a free 5GB version, as do many of the others, but their unlimited device/unlimited storage version for $79.99/year is an incredible deal. Like Carbonite, though, you should read the fine print, which says that if you have more than 500GB of stuff (which is a LOT of stuff), they may charge you extra.