Strategy 2: Automate Your Backup, and Store It at a Safe Distance
· Good for: Your documents (including your recent documents), and application data
· Frequency: Daily
· Recovery features: Versioning but no full-system restore
· Automatic off-site storage: Yes
A backup continuously connected to your computer is vulnerable to the same dangers that might threaten your PC, as is a backup kept in the same building as the PC. But if your system rarely lacks a fast Internet connection, an online backup service can perform completely automated backups that it saves to a server miles from your PC. You don't have to purchase hardware or plug anything new into your computer, though you must install software. This arrangement gives you access to your data from any Internet-enabled computer.
Backing up Windows and applications online is impractical, however, so online services don't offer that option.
A number of online backup services, such as Comodo and SpiderOak, are available (you can download the free software client for SpiderOak from our Downloads library). But I recommend Mozy for its versatile software and low price. As with Rebit, you can right-click a file in Windows Explorer and restore any version of it that Mozy has on hand. The MozyHome service costs $5 per month per computer, with no storage limit per PC (our Downloads library has the free software client for MozyHome, too). The company also provides a professional service.
Internet backup services share some inherent flaws, starting with their being horribly, horribly slow. Your first, complete backup can take days or even weeks (you can work while it backs up). The agonizingly unhurried upload speed may explain why Mozy offers unlimited storage per PC. Anyone trying to back up 500GB of video over the Internet would soon give up. In general, if you use online backup, consider finding another medium for your large media files (see Strategy 4 for advice). But I do use the Internet to back up photos.
For similar reasons, I don't recommend online backup services for people who work with music or video files. If you're editing a movie, for example, the daily backups will be much too large for a once-a-day upload to manage.
Another issue: Can you trust an online company for long-term data storage? I sure wouldn't. See "Will Your Data Disappear When Your Online Storage Site Shuts Down?" for some nightmare scenarios.
Also consider cost. Though $5 per month per machine may sound cheap, with multiple systems the charges add up.