March 31, 2011, 9:02 PM — Backup is one of the oldest needs in computing. Whether it's hard disk failure, computer theft, or just a wandering three year-old with a fruit juice carton, it's very easy to lose data on a computer.
There's a debate about the best kind of backup, but storing your data offsite and online is a good option.
Although at one time offsite backup was niche and often expensive, the cloud has brought about a revolution in inexpensive storage, making backing up online inexpensive and fuss-free.
But with so many choices out there, how can we narrow it down? Rather than directly recommending services, here are requirements to consider.
Firstly, however, a word about the types of cloud storage available for workstations. Essentially, there are two: dedicated backup services and cloud sync services.
The former usually comes with a client that's able to watch files or folders (including types of files) and back them up when they change. A popular example of this is Mozy. The downside is that restoring files is more involved; it isn't expected users will restore unless they have to.
Cloud sync services take a different approach, adding a magic folder or drive to your computer, the contents of which are automatically and invisibly synced online. A popular example of this is Dropbox. Some services offer client software that can also watch files and folders anywhere on your hard disk and back them up too, such as that offered by SugarSync.
Cloud sync is a more immediate form of backup, and if you create and edit files within the magic folder everything will be backed-up automatically.
When it comes to choosing any kind of service, the first question to ask is what computing platforms are supported. If you're backing up a Mac, for example, then being able to access the data from a PC client is vital should the Mac die; PCs are commonplace, but Macs are rarer. Some cloud storage services offer clients not only for Mac and PC but for mobile devices like iPhones and Android phones, too.