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Online Computer Backup Systems Described

Saturday, August 13th

Online Computer Backup Systems Described

In the past, we stored our documents, photos, financial records, and other important items in various ways:

  • In photo albums on a library shelf
  • In a record cabinet
  • In a safe-deposit box
  • In a wall safe
  • In a shoebox under the bed

For some items, these methods and others are still necessary and important. But more and more of our important information exists in files on our personal computers or other electronic devices, like smart phones and tablets. What happens to the family photos, the music collection, or even a small company's payroll records when the hard drive in the computer fails, or is otherwise damaged? All those things could be lost forever if they cannot be restored from some backup location.

Computer files can be backed up to optical disks (CDs or DVDs), external hard drives, or flash memory devices. Photos can be printed and kept in albums, and important papers can be printed and kept in a file cabinet. These methods all have their own advantages and sometimes disadvantages, not the least of which is the time it takes to perform the task manually. Plus, a file cabinet, external hard drive, or bookshelf that is in the same location as the computer is susceptible to the same fire or other environmental damage that threatens the computer.

A logical, practical solution is to store computer files in another location. Large companies have done this for many years. Now, many companies offer this same service to individuals, families, and small companies for reasonable and realistic prices. Commonly called online computer backup, this service is similar to insurance, in that it helps insure that customers' files can be restored from a remote location if something happens to the customer's local copies. This has also recently been referred to as cloud backup.

An online computer backup system is nothing more than a software program that runs at a scheduled time, compresses and encrypts selected folders and files, and transfers those files and folders to the service-provider's remote servers.

Vendors offer a variety of plans at many cost levels, depending on a customer's needs. Customers usually pay by subscription, an amount based on needed space.

It is important to understand the difference between online backup and online storage. Online backup runs as an automated process (after initial installation and setup), either at specific time intervals or on specific days or times. Online storage, on the other hand, requires manual, deliberate actions by the user. Service providers might offer both online backup and online storage.

When considering an online backup solution, it is important to shop for a service based on specific needs. A menu of services and price that is best for one individual, family, or company might not be the best solution for another.

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Online Backup Service FAQ

Online backup services give customers the ability to back up, secure and restore their files. In the event of data theft, hard drive failure or other loss, clients can easily get their information back from the service's cloud storage facilities.
Definitely not. Anyone can benefit from having their computers backed up to a secure cloud, whether the data contains sensitive financial data or treasured digital photos.
For the average personal user, the monthly fee starts at around $5. Business pricing begins around $30/month. Fees vary by the number of users and the amount of desired offsite storage space.
Free services are handy, but they're not designed to give you automated backup and seamless restoration of your files. If you're not on top of saving absolutely everything on your computer, your free storage is going to be incomplete. Using an online backup service with regularly scheduled backups is the best way to ensure that none of your files are lost.
At least once a week. Your online backup service may allow you to have continuous backups; your system is monitored constantly for any files that have been deleted, modified, created or moved and it updates accordingly in the background with no effort on your part.
If you use a reputable, reliable provider, your files are extremely secure. Be sure to choose a service that encrypts the data not only as it's being transferred but also as it's stored in their cloud. You should also check to see how your encryption key is stored; if you've got serious concerns, pick a service that allows you to create your own private key (and don't lose it, because the service won't be able to recover your data if you don't have the key!). Finally, it's worth asking where your provider's data centers are located; ones in the EU and US are preferred.
That will depend on how much you're backing up and your internet speed. It could take as little as an hour or as long as a week!
That's a frequent complaint among users of online backup services: difficulty in accessing support at all stages of the relationship (e.g. questions prior to signing up, during the initial backup process, several months into the service). Some providers have a better track record than others in this regard, so if you expect it to be less than smooth sailing because you're not tech-savvy, you should carefully choose an online backup service with a reputation for helpful, reliable customer support.
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