It is a universal truth that, with technology, things go wrong. This can include hard drive crashes, accidental file deletions and even natural disasters.
However, where previously a machine breaking just meant a call to the repairman, with computers, a mistake or a malfunction could mean losing your work, your memories and even your records.
This makes proper backups important for any computer user, even if very few actually bother to create them. Many claim it’s too difficult, too expensive or simply too easy to forget to maintain good backups of their files.
But with online services offering free, simple-to-use backups, the excuses for not backing up your data are becoming extremely thin. Best of all, the nature of cloud backups means that files can be backed up more regularly and with greater security than local backups.
If you’re looking to improve your backup system or start a new one, here are five online services that are free and can get you going.
Dropbox is the best known of the solutions on this list and one of the most commonly used. A free Dropbox account provides you with 2 GB of storage, which can be expanded rapidly by referring others to the service – up to 16gb if you’re a student! Files stored in Dropbox are synced across all computers on the same account automatically and are also available via the Web.
Dropbox makes it easy to recover previous versions of files (within the past 30 days) and undelete accidentally trashed files. Dropbox works with Windows, Mac, Linux and has apps for Andriod and iOS. You can learn more by visiting this post.
SugarSync is Dropbox’s best-known competitor and ups the ante by providing 5 GB of storage for free. As with Dropbox files are synced across all computers using the account and files and it is available for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS and the Web (no Linux version available).
SugarSync, unlike Dropbox, also lets you choose which folders to sync and makes it possible to edit files via the Web. Also, as with Dropbox, you can recover previous versions of files and recently-deleted files to ensure that you always have access to the data you need.
Right off the bat, Microsoft SkyDrive offers by far the most free storage of any system, 25 GB, and the best-known name of any of its competitors. However, the system is a bit inflexible as it is closely integrated with Windows 7 and SkyDrive is only available for Windows Mobile devices. Additional clients, including Mac, iOS and Android, have been promised in the future and files can still be accessed via the Web.
Still, Windows 7 users without a need for other platforms may find SkyDrive a great choice for backing up and storing critical files.
OpenDrive works much like SugarSync and Dropbox, providing automatic file syncing between computers along with web-based backup, but it adds an additional feature; the ability to back up files without syncing them. This is ideal for files you want to preserve, but not necessarily have on every machine.
OpenDrive offers 5 GB of storage for free and provides clients for both Windows and Mac. However, automatic syncing of files is not available for Mac at this time. There is also an application for your iPhone and, as with other systems, you can access your files via the Web.
When it comes to online backup, Mozy is one of the longest-running players in the game. Best known for its “set and forget” backup system, Mozy lets you install the program once and then trust that your files are secure. Mozy, for Windows users, also offers the ability to backup locally as well as via the cloud.
However, Mozy only offers 2 GB of storage for free with no means of expanding the storage for free, making it the smallest of the offerings. That being said, Mozy is available for Windows and Mac as well as iOS and Android phones.
All in all, the best backup system is the one that you actually use. So, it’s important to take a look at each system and understand how it might fit into your workflow and which you will most likely use moving forward. After all, it’s better to have 2 GB of data actually backed up than 100 GB of empty, unused storage space.
The one thing you can’t afford to do, though, is ignore the need for backing up your files. So choose a system you like and get cracking before you lose that term paper you’ve been working on!
Let’s hear from you: if you’re already backing up your files, what service do you use? What do you like or dislike about it?