Backups are only as good as how you make and keep them. For best results, you'll want redundant backups, including one offsite to protect from a major disaster. But instead of paying monthly fees to store data inside a hollowed-out mountain (which sure tempts the super-villain side of my personality) you can have nearly the same level of protection with no ongoing fees.
Form a backup-exchange plan with another business or friend to cut costs. You host their backup, and they host yours. This data criss-cross should be enough for most small, and many medium-sized businesses.
And instead of trying to just upload everything to an offsite location, you'll first make a local backup in a matter of hours, and physically send that to the off-site space. Even including the time to ship or drive the disk over, the process will be faster--and less taxing on bandwidth--than uploading hundreds of gigabytes.
CrashPlan offers one way to build this system. If you have 10 or fewer computers to back up--PCs, Macs, or Linux--you'll just buy a $60 license for each one and provide your own storage space. So bring your own network storage or an attached drive for ongoing, local backups, plus a drive you can move offsite.
You'll run the backup software twice, and it'll make archives to both destinations. Then, you'll move the the external drive to a friend or a friendly business. They'll install software on their end, and you'll be able to keep incrementally backing up offsite for no monthly cost.
CrashPlan offers other upgrades, including a monthly storage option. But these versatile, do-it-yourself methods could save ongoing fees. Kick the tires on the free trial to see if it fits your needs. Or try CrashPlan Pro if you have more than 10 systems; it's mostly the same as the small-office version.
Zack Stern is building a new business from San Francisco, where he frequently contributes to PC World.