Statistically there is a 40% chance you will suffer a hard driver failure on your home computer resulting in loss of data. For the average user that could mean irreplaceable loss of family photos, work documents, accounting records, and more. There’s no question you should back up your home computers and an online backup service could offer the best way to secure the safety of your data.
With an online backup service you install software on the computer to protect and scan all storage devices for files that should be backed up. The software then compresses and encrypts the data files and uploads them to large secure server farms, or “the cloud” as it has been called. These server farms maintain military grade security and redundant systems to provide better protection of your data, then you can ever do at home. There are dozens of these service providers out there, so how do you choose which is best for you?
In principle the service is simple, periodically and automatically backup your files, then download them when you need them. What’s to choose? Well, turns out there is a bit more to the available features, so it might pay to consider them up front.
The various services target different types of users and their pricing reflects that. Do you have lots of data to store? Some services include unlimited data storage which may be perfect for you. But that may cover only one computer. Do you have more than one computer in your home? Make sure the price quoted by the service supports multiple computers. Other services charge a minimum for a base storage amount and additional charges for each additional gigabyte. Prices can range from as low as $4 per month for unlimited data on one computer to as high as $200 per year for multiple computers.
Choosing Files For Backup
Most of the backup services target Windows My Document or Mac’s User folders for backup and allow the user a certain degree of fine tuning for the file selections. This allows a pretty straight forward operation without a lot of interaction, but is also not terribly flexible. Other services go deeper and allow you to individually select files within the computer’s directory or folder structures. These can be handy if you have specific documents and files to protect. Decide which is best for your situation before choosing a service.
Basically you have two options for scheduling your backups, 1. scheduled periodic backups, or 2. continuous backup when files change. Obviously the latter option provides the highest degree of safety for your files, but it often comes at the cost of performance on your computer or elevated bandwidth on your Internet connection. The backup software must constantly run in the background on your computer and monitor file activity. Some service offer a combination of the two, providing periodic scheduled backups plus continuous back for selected files only. Decide which fits your needs before signing up.
How To Restore
The ability to restore lost files is of course the whole reason for backups. So make sure the service you select can make the restoration process easy to follow and not overly complicated. All the services can restore files through a browser, but if you want protection against complete loss of a drive, you may want a service that can create a mirror image of your drive, OS, data, and all. Recovery then just requires installation of a new drive and copying the mirrored files back to your computer. If intend to store very large amounts of data, you might also ask if the service can ship your data to you on an external driver rather than spending days downloading the original files.
There is no shortage of online backup services waiting to serve you. But do the leg work to make sure they offer the services that best meet your needs at the best price. Chances are you’ll be a client for a very long time.