Twenty years ago, backing up your work meant saving it to a different floppy disk than the one it was already saved on. Fifteen years ago, backups were saved on slightly smaller floppy disks: the oh-so-sleek three-and-a-half inch diskette. In more recent years, technological advances have provided users with many more choices for backing up their work: one-time use and rewriteable CDs and DVDs, USB drives (also called flash drives and thumb drives), and external hard drives that are more compact than anything anyone could have dreamed of two decades ago.
These days, you may have heard people mention “online backup” as an alternative to these other methods. But what exactly is online backup, and why is it superior? And furthermore, how do you use an online backup service?
- What is online backup? Online backup is what it sounds like: backups that are performed via an Internet connection. That definition is the simplest and easiest to understand. However, online backup has a lot more to it, including many more features than are available using traditional storage methods. For instance, online backup allows you to:
- Protect your backed-up data with file encryption, account passwords, and secure transmission channels.
- Set your computer to backup automatically, whenever your computer is idle for an extended period of time, or at a specified time every day.
- Access your backed-up files from any computer with an Internet connection.
- Restore lost files simply by accessing your online account and clicking on the files you wish to restore.
- Store your backup copies at a location away from your home or office (more on the importance of this in the next section).
- Why do I need online backup? Online backup is more than just a new way of backing up files: It is a way to protect your personal or business data in ways that storage devices and media can’t conveniently offer.
For example, many people don’t back up their data because they just don’t remember to do it. Online backup solves this problem by offering a way to perform backups regularly without having to think about it at all. The online backup service’s software, which you download when you sign up, allows you to set a backup schedule – either backing up one or more times a day whenever the computer is idle, or at a set time every day. By setting a schedule, you can ensure your files are always backed up, even if you are fast asleep while the backups are being performed.
Another advantage of online backup is that your files are accessible from any computer. This means that if you are traveling on business and forget your USB drive, you can still access everything you need. Most importantly, though, online backup ensures that no matter what happens to your home or office – fire or theft, for example – your backup files will be safe. The problem with using storage devices or media such as CDs to back up your data is that a burglary or a natural disaster can often wipe out the originals and the backups. The way around this is to move your backups to a separate location, but who has time to do this every day? By backing up your data online, you get offsite storage without the inconvenience – and accessing your backed-up files later is easy.
- How do I find an online backup service? There are a variety of online backup services available. Services range in price from free (usually personal accounts) to as much as a couple thousand per year (for business accounts). Some services offer unlimited storage space, while other services may set a limit as low as 2 GB.
Shopping around is the best way to find an online backup service that will meet all your needs. Because each service offers different features, comparing different services will help you get the best online backup service for your needs. Additionally, many services offer free trial periods, making it even easier to decide which one will work best for you.
- How do I use an online backup service? Before signing up for online backup, make sure your Internet connection is fast enough. Because online backup services back up your files over the Internet, a high-speed connection is virtually a necessity. However, if you’re not sure whether your Internet connection is sufficient, don’t worry – your online backup service will probably test it as part of the initial setup process.
Once you are sure your Internet connection can support online backup, the services themselves are fairly easy to use. During initial setup, you will be asked to download the online backup software, which allows your computer to connect with the servers, encrypt your files, and store them in your password-protected account space. In addition, this software enables you to select which files you would like to be backed up, schedule automatic backups, and restore lost files to your computer’s hard drive. Most of the software is easy to navigate, making online backup an even more convenient way to protect your important files.
- Protecting your personal and business data. Whether they are personal files, such as digital pictures, or vital business data, such as customer information, the files stored on your computer and in your office are most likely irreplaceable. It’s hard enough to recover from the loss of a personal or business investment such as a computer, without also having to suffer the loss of all your memories and important information. Due to its convenience, its automated features, and its remote storage locations, an online backup service is the best route for guaranteeing the safety of your data.