Monday, August 06, 2012

Cloud Based Back Up Easy and Inexpensive

If you are a regular reader of this column you know that over the years I have written several times about the importance of backing up the information stored on your computer.  I have suggested various ways of protecting your files, documents, pictures and videos from loss when your hard drive or other storage medium fails.  Notice that I said “when” and not “if” your hard drive fails.  If your use your computer for any significant length of time the storage drive will fail and if your files are not backed up you will loose them. 

Since many of us now store on our computer very important information such as tax returns, banking statements and legal documents, loss of these files can be a very serious matter.  With photography now almost completely digital, family photographs are no longer relegated to the shoe box in the hall closet but share space on that at-risk hard drive.

Up until now my recommendations for protecting your stuff have been hardware based. Backing up regularly on CDs or an external hard drive were the least expensive choices. In many cases, though, you had to remember to do the back up and, perhaps more important, make sure that the back up copy was stored in some safe place.  If the back up copy of your data is stored on a CD and that CD is kept in a box on your desk next to the computer, a fire or flood might well destroy both the computer and the back up.  In short, backing up your data has been a pain.

Now there are inexpensive options that not only make backing up easy, they solve the back up storage issue and the need to remember to do the back up.  There are several services that use the Internet and the cloud to provide reliable and affordable options.

Companies like, and are only three of more than a dozen options.  Priced at about $4 per month, these services load a simple program on your PC that automatically backs up your files to their secure and redundant data centers located around the world.  The back up process is continuous; every time a new file is created or changed on your computer a copy is sent to the cloud.  This is done in the background and the user doesn’t even know it is happening.  It takes only seconds for a file to be backed up.

When you first sign on to one of these services it might take several hours for all your files to be transmitted to the back up site, but after that it is quick and painless.   When you need to restore the files you just download them from the cloud to your new computer or hard drive.  Many of these services also allow you to access your files from another computer.  So if you are on vacation away from your computer you can download any backed up file from the cloud to the other computer.

A list of the major cloud based back up providers is available on line at


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