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Avoid computer nightmares: Free and paid backup solutions

By Gavin Richardson

What is your worst technological fear? Most people will admit to being afraid their hard drive will crash, losing irreplaceable data, pictures, videos and more. It would make sense to surmise that people would allay that fear by backing up their data regularly. However, many do not, meaning those priceless files could be gone in an instant. So, what is the solution? An online data backup service is an excellent, easy and secure way to back up your data automatically at an off-site location. In addition, you won’t have to wade through dozens of CDs or DVDs that you’ve burned to find your files.

Because your data is stored offsite, if your computer crashes or is destroyed or stolen, your precious data is still safe on a service’s secure server. Online data backup does not require an advanced technology degree. However, for those without the “techie” gene, what do you look for in online data backup services? Listed below are features to consider as well as companies that are user friendly, cost effective and reliable.


1. Backup features – including archiving, automatic and incremental backups and file managers. This means your online data service will automatically backup and archive your files without you having to remember to do so. The user interface should be intuitive and make it simple to set up automatic transfers and syncing.

2. Security – encryption, encryption, encryption! Secure transfers, private storage and encryption during transfer and storage are non-negotiable. Look for a minimum of 256-bit or AES, which stands for Advanced Encryption Standard.

3. Backup space – knowing how much storage space you need* will help determine which plan is best for you. Plans range from a couple of gigabytes – for those with data files, but not many pictures and videos – to several terabytes – for those who love multimedia – all for a monthly subscription fee. Alternately, you can opt for an unlimited amount at a discounted annual rate.

4. Mobile/web access for tech-savvy consumers – having remote-access to your online data backup service is necessary. Imagine the headache you're avoiding when traveling, knowing you can check your file backup from your smartphone or tablet!


1. MyPC Backup excels in usability, security, affordability and much more. For less than $10 a month, you get unlimited backup space; SSL Secure Transfer and encrypted storage; automatic, incremental and selective backup; mobile access and much more. A disadvantage includes inability to set file permissions.

2. SugarSync is another great data-backup service. Mobile access is compatible with almost any smartphone and tablet, has the same security features as MyPC Backup and offers different amounts of storage to fit your needs for monthly fees of less than $5 for 30GB to less than $25 for 250GB. Disadvantages include inability to schedule syncs and capped storage.

3. MozyHome is an affordable option. For less than $6 a month, you can get 50GB of storage for one computer or for less than $10 a month, you can access data from three computers for 125GB storage. All of this comes with the features you need most – security, intuitive interface, file syncing and mobile access. Disadvantages include a slow initial backup and capped storage.


1. Dropbox – Dropbox is a great option if you need to secure and access your files and photos from anywhere and you have a limited budget. You get 2GB for free, but through a referral process, you can increase your storage space up to 18GB. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it lacks security. Dropbox uses SSL and encryption for your files. A disadvantage includes not having the option for unlimited storage.

2. Google Drive – In the quest to be a one-stop provider for all things technological, Google offers Google Drive. Offering the first 5GB of storage free, Google Drive gives you the storage, safety and security you expect. A disadvantage is that if your Google account is hacked, you could lose your files since your Google Drive files, email and Picasa albums are all linked.

For more information about the pros and cons between Dropbox and Google Drive read File Syncing Faceoff: Dropbox vs. Google Drive.

3. SkyDrive – For those who love Windows, Microsoft offers SkyDrive as part of their Windows Live suite. SkyDrive offers 7GB of free storage and allows users to synchronize files across multiple computers and within the SkyDrive cloud. Cloud computing is the use of computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the Internet). However, like Google, if your Windows Live account is hacked, you may be rethinking your no-cost option.

Love your online data backup service and it’s not listed here? Tell us about it so we can update our suggestions!

*Unsure how to check how much space is on your hard drive? Here are step-by-step instructions for Windows, Mac and Linux.