Make 2016 The Year You Start Doing Cloud Backups

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Whatever your opinion on cloud computing (and mine's far from favourable), it certainly does have its uses. Most importantly, from my perspective, it allows you to set up your PC so that all your important files are continually backup up to a remote system in such a way that you don't have to worry about remembering to take regular backups of your PC.

As we approach the 17th year of the 21st century, there's no excuse for not having a proper backup regime on your PC. So if you don't already have one, or if you think that your current system could benefit from a re-think, here's what I recommend.

If you don't already have one, get yourself a free online storage account. The market leaders in this area are Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox. They each work in different ways, and the amount of free storage you get varies wildly. OneDrive gives you 5 GB, Box gives you 10, while Dropox gives you a measly 2.

But there's more to this topic than raw capacity. More importantly, I think, is just how usable the system is. After all, you could pay $40 for an external hard drive and never use a cloud-based system. But you'd have to remember to take regular backups, and not to keep the drive next to the computer, which is why cloud makes so much sense.

If you run Windows 10, which comes with OneDrive already built in, you may be tempted to use that system for your backups. Anything in your OneDrive folder on your PC is pretty much protected, because it is always automatically backed up if you have a reasonable internet connection. But look online in customer support forums for messages from people having problems with OneDrive, and you'll be astounded at just how many there are. Especially from users who find that files in OneDrive on one of their computers aren't getting synced properly with their other PC's.

If you have a Google or Gmail account, you may also find that you have a Google Drive already set up for you to use. Try it out, and see if it will work for you.

In the case of Box and Dropbox (similarly named, but they're completely separate companies), you need to download a special program and sign up for a free account. Once this is done, you'll get a folder on your PC and any files in that folder will be automatically backed up to the cloud. And synced to any other computer or device on which you're running the sync software linked to your account.

My personal preference, out of all these services, is Dropbox. I actually pay for an account that has 1000 GB of storage instead of the basic 2. But regardless of the cost and the amount of free space you get, I find that Dropbox is the simplest to use. It just works. And with backups (and yes, you can argue that syncing to the cloud isn't actually a backup, but it's good enough for most people), anything that just works is what's most important.

If your important files (even just the 2 GB of stuff that you'd be most upset at losing) aren't automatically being synced somewhere other than your own PC, make 2016 the year that you make it happen. Try any or all of the systems I've mentioned, and choose the one that you like best. Any of them are better than nothing at all. Way, way better.

And a very happy new year from me, to the thousands of you that read my recommendations every week. As always, drop me an email to gizmo@schifreen.co.uk if there's a freeware product or online service that you think I should be writing about.

 

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2 Free suggestions:
1) use crashplan free client to backup files for you for free to your google drive/box/dropbox partitions
2) or even better, you can use their software to backup files across multiple computers, avoiding the cloud completely.
for instance, in a household with 3 desktops and 2 laptops computers, you can buy a single 2TB hard drive on sale for $40-$80 and stick in any one of the 3 desktops and let it run... it will backup all the files, (tune it to run at night during idle time, etc...)

windows/Linux/Mac

http://www.code42.com/crashplan
https://store.code42.com/store/ [pick the free option]

We have been using ADrive at work for a a couple of years now. They offer 50Gb storage for free.

I don't see how you could possibly have a 50GB free ADrive account. ADrive stopped offering free storage last year. All ADrive customers were notified.

My webhost allows unlimited storage, so I backup my files to a hidden directory there.  Sensitive files are encrypted before uploading.  It currently is not set up for real time backup, but there are programs that would allow me to do that.

Don't forget to investigate using Google Play Music for uploading and storing (free) up to 50,000 of your songs and also to use Google Photos for unlimited (free) cloud storage of all photos (Plus some pretty other amazing qualities). Its the photo capability that I really appreciate. Many of my pictures are ones that I wouldn't want to loose. When I get the music and the photos off of my desktop, I find the document storage requirements not so great. I've been using OneDrive for some time now and it works great for me and just shows up as a local drive on my PC and laptop.

I use both onedrive and an Amazon account I got as a freebie for buying a hard drive.

What no one seems to mention is how fast it is to get back a sizable chunk of data. One of my programs that I have backed up has over 200,000 tiny files and weighs in allup at 12GB. Next time my ISP quota renews I plan to try and get that as a download to see how practical the cloud disaster plan really is for me. If it doesn't download at the highest possible speed for my connection then it is useless. Smaller sized backups will of course be a lot less susceptible to my particular problem and need.

The other thing, you can backup all you like to another drive (and you definitely should) but if you don't have a backup at another address you are still at risk to fire flood theft etc etc

Copy is another Dropbox clone. I have almost a terabyte there, free due to referrals. Both have Linux file manager integration, very nice.

My big problem is uploading speed on my cable internet. Keeping backups on an internal HDD is a lot easier and faster.

Mega (https://mega.nz/) offers 50GB for free account :)

enjoyed the article....but i still have problems keeping my "stuff" on someone else's computer. it might be convienient but we are constantly being bombarded with news of hacking here and breaking codes there and constant fixes for this and that. its pretty easy to make a weekly backup...been doing so for years....i keep three and delete the oldest. its fast and only takes about 5 minutes and i do other stuff while its doing it. its easy for cloud sites to say they are safe and encrypted and all that but that only lasts until they are hacked. but each to his own and whatever works for you is fine with me. i always enjoy the comments and different points of view.

I'm using Mozy free 2GB http://mozy.com/free which is more or less a set and forget, and a paid cloud program that works very well, in addition to two external HDDs, and a flash drive. The Mozy interface isn't much to brag about, but once it is working it is very reliable.

How to Never Lose Files Stored in Dropbox and Other File-Syncing Services is one of many articles that help users to ensure that their backups don't disappear due to some unforeseen event. A small problem would be a syncing issue, a big problem would be an accident leading to a long coma.

The following table shows some of the differences between three main cloud storage services in terms of how long your free file storage actually remains a backup:

Cloud Storage Service  File
Versioning
All files? Versions count for your storage quota Previous
Version
Deleted
File
Deleted
Account
Inactive
Account
How long are your files backed up for?
DropBox Version history
up to 30 days for each revision
Yes,
All files
No up to
30 days
up to
30 days
up to
30 days
2 years
Google Drive Revision history up to 100 revisions Yes,
All files but may be less for very large files or non-Google files
Yes 30 days or 100 revisions 30 days up to 30 days?

User defined in Inactive Account Manager
or 9 months

OneDrive Yes but not for free storage No No No up to 30 days 60 days five years

 

I like to do double backups to two external drives (one daily and one weekly), and then lock the weekly one up most of the time in a fire safe. :P

"But you'd have to remember to take regular backups, and not to keep the drive next to the computer" (?) Please clarify because my external drive only works if its next to my computer and connected to it.
I have accounts with Google, Box and Dropbox but I primarily rely on a portable external drive.

Found a good one! One Tb for free! And instructions how to upload NOW! But you have to PAY to download! Kewl, huh?

But, if you do, make sure you encrypt everything before you do, absolutely no one provides a completely secure service.

True Crypt is history so who do you recommend for that job now?

OhZone is right and TrueCrypt Version 7.1a (the last before probematic 7.2) is safe, according to Gibson Research who has all the latest "safe" versions available for download from here: https://www.grc.com/misc/truecrypt/truecrypt.htm

I think you can still get the older True Crypt somewhere. Not sure where. I saw a link somewhere. If you still have it, it still works I think.