Back up and sync between your home and travel PCs

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Carol-Anne Croker wants to know two things: How best to sync files between two computers, and how to back up the more portable PC on the road.

You can sync two or more computers—along with portable devices such as tablets and smartphones—very easily these days. Backing up two computers, on the other hand, can be a bit trickier. Fortunately, the way you sync everything can help with the backup.

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You can easily sync multiple computers and mobile devices with just about any cloud-based storage service, such as DropBox, Box, OneDrive, Google Drive, and iCloud. I'm not going to recommend any one over another, because I haven't used all of them extensively enough to have an informed opinion. I will say that I use DropBox on a daily basis and am happy with it.

On a computer, these services pretty much "just work." You create or change a file on one PC. When you boot the other computer, the changes happen automatically (assuming, of course, that both PCs have Internet access).

But what about backup? As I explained last year, you need to back up new and changed data files (documents, spreadsheets, photos, and so on) every day you use your PC. You should back up to either an external hard drive or a cloud-based backup service.

Backup becomes trickier when you're on the road. You might not want to pack that external drive, or pay for online backup on two computers—especially if they mostly share the same files.

One solution is to take a flash drive with you. Their high price-to-gigabyte ratio makes them impractical for general backup. But for a short time on the road, they make a simple solution. When you're done for the day, plug in the flash drive and copy whatever files you've created or changed that day.

Just be sure not to pack the laptop and the flash drive in the same suitcase. You don't want to lose both.

Another option: Keep all of the files you're working with in your cloud storage folder. That way, they'll upload automatically, and effectively get backed up to the cloud.

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