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Backup is a task that seems mundane, right up to the moment you realize you've just lost an entire hard drive's worth of data. That feeling of hopelessness is not something any of us enjoys, not to mention the incredible waste of time that goes along with it. So while it may not be as engaging as the hottest new game, there's really no substitute for a solid backup strategy--and that's what CrashPlan provides. Its free and paid plans are available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
If words like "solid backup strategy" sound like so much techno-babble, let me elaborate: You can use CrashPlan to back your files up to the cloud (i.e, a central server in a secure hosting facility controlled by CrashPlan), to another hard-drive connected to your computer, or to your friend's computer via the Internet. You don't have to select just one backup destination: You can back up your files locally, to the cloud and to your friend's house, or even to multiple friends' places, all at once.
CrashPlan actually comes in several flavors, with the basic one being free of charge and fully functional-the only thing it can't do is back up to the cloud. For cloud backup, you'll have to purchase CrashPlan+, but the rates are very affordable: Unlimited backup for just $3.00/month, plus a few other packages if your needs differ.
If you're more of a do-it-yourself type, CrashPlan's "backup at a friend's" option might be the way to go. You get many of the advantages of cloud backup (off-site, constant backup), at no cost. You can just buy a 500GB hard-drive and ask your friend to plug it into their computer--voilá, do-it-yourself off-site backup.
If you've ever used an online backup solution, you may recall that the initial upload can take a very long time: Many of us have over 100GB of files we'd like to back up. CrashPlan has got you covered there, too: If you live within the US (50 US States) or have an Armed Forces PO, CrashPlan can ship a 1TB hard drive your way. You will then connect it to your computer, fill it up with your data, and just ship it back. They call it "seeding," and it's a huge potential time-saver.
Even if you opt for the DIY approach and decide to back up at a friend's, you can still connect a hard-drive locally, seed the backup, drive it over to your friend's house and connect it there for ongoing off-site backup with CrashPlan.
If you live outside the US, seeding your files to the CrashPlan+ cloud is not an option. In that case, backup sets come in handy: Rather than lump all of your files together and let the app upload them in any random order, you can group your files into categories such as "Documents", "Photos" etc., according to their locations. Each such group is called a "set," and you can prioritize them. For example, I chose to upload all of my documents first, and only then start backing up my photos.
One of CrashPlan's only drawbacks is that its interface is not exactly fast. Switching between tabs causes a noticeable lag, and saving configuration changes takes a moment. Still, a backup app is mostly a "set it and forget it" affair, so after the initial configuration you shouldn't have to spend much time in the interface.
CrashPlan has many other useful features, such as e-mail and Twitter notifications, and data verification. The free version uses 128-bit Blowfish encryption or a private data key that you generate; the paid version, CrashPlan+, ups the Blowfish option to 448-bit encryption.
Bottom line: CrashPlan (and its paid version, CrashPlan+, which uses the same client) is a top-notch backup service, which caters to just about every backup need and keeps your files safe and secure.
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