Just as it's a good idea to store important documents in a safe deposit box to protect against fire, storing a copy of your data offsite is a smart move for any business. But for many individuals and small businesses, regular backups are enough of a chore, let alone regularly moving those backed-up files to offsite storage. It's easy to fall out of the habit.
A new startup called Cucku thinks the answer is something it calls "social backup software." Cucku Backup makes regular backups of your important files to a local hard disk and then automatically sends a copy of the latest changes to an offsite "backup partner" -- whether it's a dedicated server or just a friend with a PC. You don't need any special hardware to make it happen. So how does it work? I'll give you a hint: Your backup partner can't be more than a phone call away (but Cucku doesn't use a modem).
Give up? The answer is that Cucku is a novel use of the Skype voice-over-IP network. Both you and your backup partner need to have the Skype client installed in addition to the Cucku Backup software. But rather than placing voice calls, Cucku uses Skype to locate your partner on the Internet and initiate file transfers. It just sends backup data instead of voice data. The big advantage of this method is that, thanks to the Skype engineers' know-how, it makes it easy for less technically inclined users to connect to each other, without worrying about the vagaries of routers, firewalls, or IP networking.
Cucku Backup runs on Windows XP and Vista. The current software is free, but Cucku says it's planning a "Pro" version, to be released later this year, that will be available "for a small fee."
In case you were wondering, naming a backup partner doesn't mean turning over your confidential data to that person. Your partner can't make copies of your files, or open them, or even see the filenames. All of the backup data is encrypted before it is transmitted or stored, using virtually unbreakable 256-bit AES encryption.
The immediate downside, of course, is that when you agree to become someone's backup partner you give up some portion of your own hard drive in order to store their backups. Cucku doesn't set any limits to how much data your partner can backup over the service, either (though it currently can't backup individual files that are bigger than 4GB), but you do get to say just how much drive space you're willing to give up. In these modern times, when a terabyte of hard drive space can be had for just a couple hundred bucks, couldn't we all spare a few megabytes for a friend?