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Monday, 01 February 2016 20:50

Back up your life with personal cloud storage

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Do you have files on your computer which aren't backed up? You need to do something about it.
 
I see people all the time - files all over their desktop, scattered on their C: drive, e-mail, documents, photos ... the same also for their mobile phone, their tablet and all other manner of devices.
 
I ask them when they last backed up. Invariably the response is "I need to do that, don't I?" Some demonstrate to me they have Microsoft SyncToy installed - which they still need to think to run now and then. Some tell me how they copy all their files to an external hard drive occasionally - again, a manual task, and worryingly, often the drive is always plugged in meaning it's just as susceptible to malicious corruption or to disaster as the computer itself. Some people e-mail important docs to themselves, or copy things onto a USB stick periodically.
 
People: it's time to end this, and there is no need to be concerned. You can in fact back up much of your important data without even paying for a service to do it. It can be transparent, seamless and effortless. All you need is a good cloud storage system and to change one single habit, namely, where you save your work on disk.
 
I've a big advocate of Dropbox and have been covering it for seven years. I found Dropbox because of my own personal requirement. I wanted to work on my 27" monitor at home, instead of squinting at my laptop all day. I knew there must be a better way than sending files via e-mail or usb stick and sure enough, Dropbox was it. I could save my work to my Dropbox folder - this was the only change I had to make. I switched from my regular Documents folder to Dropbox, and anything I worked on was discretely uploaded and saved, provided I had Internet connectivity. I could save a document, close my laptop, go home, and continue working on the exact same document, just where I was up to, on my home PC with larger monitor. Similarly, I would save my work, go to bed, fire up the laptop the next day and keep going. The handoff between devices became transparent.
 
There were many other benefits; with smartphone apps I could access all my work from my pocket. I could be driving home and remember I needed to mail a file to someone, and make it happen simply through the app without turning my laptop on.
 
Of course, these things aside, the greatest feature of Dropbox is my files are secure. If the worst happened to my laptop and I needed to set up a new machine I could easily sign into my Dropbox account and download all my work again. I would lose nothing. This makes it an excellent backup strategy.
 
Now, there are other viable options besides Dropbox on the market today, all with pros and cons, and all with an amount of free storage. Some will let you supplement the storage with credits gained by referrals, other's won't. They will all let you pay for more space.
 
I'd recommend having more than one cloud storage option so you can maximise your available space. Use one for your highest priority items, and another for your longer term archive.
 
Here are some options:
 
Dropbox
My referral link, which will give you extra space: https://db.tt/KeG5riq
You get 2Gb free, but additional space can be gained through referrals plus a few activities like Tweeting your love for Dropbox. Dropbox ran online treasure hunts in the past where you could more space for free but unfortunately not in recent years.
 
Dropbox for Business also exists for $17/user/month with allegedly "as much storage as you need".
 
Copy
My referral link, which will give you extra space: https://copy.com?r=9EliNP
 
You get an impressive 15Gb free plus 5Gb per referral.
Copy is backed by Barracuda Networks (of hard drive fame) and so they know a thing or two about storage.
Free users get 30 day file revision history and 30 day file recovery, but paid plans are available from $4.99/month with storage beginning at 250Gb. These bump the file recovery and file revision history up to 180 days each.
Copy is no more! Literally hours after this story was written (and not because of it!) Barracuda has announced it is shutting Copy down on March 1st, 2016.
 
OneDrive
My referral link, which will give you 0.5Gb extra: https://onedrive.live.com/?invref=c7fe110ca834c114&;invsrc=90
For free you get 5Gb, with referral credit up to an extra 5Gb.
 
You can pay $2/month for 50Gb, but the best value comes with Office 365 subscriptions, which include 1Tb OneDrive space.
 
OneDrive clients now exist for non-Windows smartphones making it as versatile as Dropbox.
 
Google Drive
Google do not offer any referral links, but you can sign up at http://google.com/drive
You get 15Gb for free, and this space is shared with your Gmail account as well as other Google apps.
 
You can pay $1.99/month for 100Gb and $9.99/month for 1Tb.
 
Google Photos
While not a file-based cloud storage service, I truly recommend Google Photos, particularly for your smartphone. Google will let you upload every single photo you have without any storage consideration whatsoever - I kid you not - the only catch being it will resize them if they are above a certain resolution. You can storage your original-sized really high-def photos as part of your Google Drive quota, but no matter how else you might backup your photos you truly will do yourself a favour by checking out Google Photos.
 
It provides some very clever features - you can search your photos by location, or by objects and things - like horses, weddings, babies - and even by people, as you train Google who they are.
 
 
Box
Box does not provide referral credit. You can sign up at http://box.com
Box offers 10Gb for free, albeit with some constraints. You are limited to 10Gb bandwidth per month, and 250Mb maximum file size.
 
For $11.50/month you can up the storage to 100Gb and to 5Gb maximum file size.
 
Business plans also exist with a minimum of three users.
 
 
Whichever way you go, back up your data. Sign up for one, or more, cloud services and start moving your working files to these. From them on, the only action you have to take is to go File/Save As and save to your cloud folder. The service will take care of the rest. Forget USB sticks, forget e-mailing files to yourself, and importantly, forget having a laptop or phone full of unsaved work which you place at risk every day you continue not to back it up.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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