Here are the hard facts:

  • 12,000 laptops are lost or stolen in airports every week,
  • One computer's hard drive crashes every 15 seconds,
  • Coffee, Kool-Aid, etc. gets spilled on the keyboard,
  • One in three laptops die in the first three years,
  • Your laptop gets dropped, or falls off a cart,
  • Burglary, fire, tornado, virus, human error...

...many of these things have happened to me - five or six times in the past 30 years I've had to restore all my programs and data files from scratch when my hard drive crashed. But many more times, a single file got deleted, corrupted or changed, and I needed to recover a previous version of the file. So it's not a question of "IF"... but "WHEN" it will happen to YOU. Your insurance policy will only cover loss or damage of physical property, not intangible information. That's why you need to do frequent backups: your computer and programs are replaceable, but your files are irreplaceable.

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Why bother with offsite backups anyway, if you're already backing up to an external hard drive or flash drive? Well, what about burglary, theft, fire, flood, tornado - the list could go on - when your local backups are Gone. (And by the way, most people don't backup their files locally because it's a bother and takes time. So do it automatically, and offsite!) According to the 3rd annual survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 92% of computer users still don't do regular backups, and yet 46% of people need to restore data every year: this means nearly one of every two of you, your friends, family and co-workers will lose data permanently. Work files? Gone. Photos? Gone. Music? Gone. These people don't backup their files because they never heard about doing backups, or it's too confusing, or they don't have the time... and then it's too late for data recovery. When your computer and peripherals are stolen, all or some of your files get deleted or your hard drive crashes, what will you do? You need to start doing automatic offsite backups now, before those things happen!

Each of the offsite backup services below give you a "client" program that it does its thing automatically - you set it up once, and then forget about it. All offer encrypted file transfer and storage. Many support Macs as well as PCs. Some offer file sharing, and some keep several old versions of your files - a very important feature! I have personally installed and tested several online backup programs, including all of those shown below. Read my reviews and see which one best meets your needs:

In the Oct. 13, 2012 issue of CompuNerds.Net-News I mentioned what I'm doing now for offsite backup: using Google Drive ($1.99 per month for 100Gb), Dropbox and my website. Since then I've also begun using Microsoft's OneDrive. I've cancelled my IDrive account because it seemed to conflict with Google Drive: iDrive was failing every day for a few months to backup my files. Moral of the story: check periodically to be sure your offsite backup system is working - don't just assume it's backing up your files!


(Just a quick suggestion: whatever online backup system you use, protect your files with a good mnemonic password, i.e., one that's easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess, not a randomly-generated string of letters and numbers. The reason for this is that if you lose your computer and any DVD or USB-drive backups due to theft, a fire or natural disaster, you may have also lost your password vault with its generated passwords that you can't possibly remember.)


Click to see full-size! IDrive is really great - it gives you 5Gb of free storage when you sign up. If you refer five or more friends, you get 10Gb free! A personal account that provides you 150Gb of storage costs just $4.95/month or $49.50/year (2 months free). The cost for business accounts vary by size.

When you install and set up IDrive, don't just right-click on the setup file and select "Run as Administrator" - you should temporarily change your day-to-day account to administrator, then login afresh as a member of the Administrator group. This will make IDrive's icon appear on your desktop and your documents to be selected automatically. Then, of course, change day-to-day account back to standard user. If you installed IDrive by selecting "Run as Administrator" you can manually add a desktop icon, customize the selection of folders and backup schedule after installation, but the default selection of most commonly backed up data - your Documents, Pictures, Videos and Email folders, which is created with a random after-hours schedule, is probably best for most users.

IDrive supports PCs and Macs. You can set it to Continuous Data Protection (CDP) that copies any new or changed files every 10 minutes, you can Backup unlimited PCs, Macs and iPhones into a single account, Synchronize that syncs your online storage to mirror your computer's hard drive, Time-Line Restore can recover a select set of files back to a specified point in time, Retrieve your data from any location, create and Manage Multiple Accounts from a single account via your web browser, Versioning that retains the last 30 versions of all backed up files at no additional charge for storage (in my opinion, this is a most important selling feature!), and much more. Because it offers Versioning, I rate this as the best offsite backup system I've tested.

After I downloaded IDrive, I changed my regular user account to the admin group, installed the program, selected the folders I wanted to backup, about 1.2Gb, and let it run at full throttle. (You don't need to be logged in as Admin to use the program, and I prefer the extra security of doing my day-to-day work logged in as a standard user.) IDrive took just under 10 hours to do the initial full online backup, and the next morning it took just a few minutes to backup the 99.5Mb of files I had added or changed since the initial backup finished. I set it up to backup all our photos and music files too, about 15 GB. The Versioning feature is essential if you want a real backup system, not just synchronizing the offsite backups with your current files.


Click to see full-size! Backblaze has a really funny demo on the home page of a young lady squirting barbeque lighter fluid on a notebook computer and setting it ablaze! (We don't recommend this as a way to test their online backup system, or anyone else's, though.) You can get a free 14-day demo account, then if you're happy with Backblaze sign up for the full account at $5/month or $50/year - none of that $4.95 or $4.99 silliness. You get Unlimited Backup: no size limit for your online storage. Backup Everything: Backblaze backs up everything on your computer except your operating system, applications, temporary files, or those over 4GB. Backup Continuously: Files change and Backblaze backs them up.

By default, Backblaze simply backs up all the time so you don't have to remember. But if you wish, you can schedule Backblaze to backup at a convenient time or only when you click "Backup Now". Backup External Drives: Use a USB or Firewire-connected drive for additional storage or backups? Backblaze will backup those too. Backup Windows and Mac: Backblaze backs up Windows XP 32-bit, Windows Vista 32-bit and 64-bit, Windows 7 and 8 32-bit and 64-bit, and Intel-based Mac OSX 10.4 and newer. Restoring: You can restore a single file, a folder, a set of random files, or all your files. Use any web browser to restore to a PC or a Mac. Restore Previous Versions: Backblaze keeps up to four weeks of file versions, so you can scroll back and pick any version to restore.

Backblaze just plain works: its straightforward, simple interface is a breeze to set up and run: just download and run the installer in three clicks, and it automatically locates all your photos, music, documents, and other irreplaceable files - no matter where they are on your hard drive - and compresses, securely encrypts and uploads them to the Backblaze remote datacenters. For ease of use, versioning and that nice round $5 number(!) I rate Backblaze right up there with IDrive (above), and Mozy (below).


Click to see full-size! PersonalBackup lets you either use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to upload your files to your own website, or back them up locally. You can use the default backup folders or select which folders you want to backup, and what file types (extensions) you want to include or exclude. The program is free, but if you choose the FTP online backup option, be sure your web hosting service allows storage of personal files on your website: otherwise, you might have your website shut down! An alternative is to use a service like www.Box.com (5Gb free) or www.Dropbox.com (2Gb free) to automatically upload your backups from your computer to their servers.

If you're a "do it yourself" person, take a look at my backup *.bat files to use with PersonalBackup for doing daily (partial) and weekly (full) backups that automatically retain 4 weeks of daily backups. These files use PersonalBackup to backup your data on 3 different media - see Steps 4 and 5 in our AA 12-Step Plan where I show you how to use the free PersonalBackup program for doing local backups. But if you're not technically inclined, at least use one of the online backup programs listed here and let "the Cloud" do it for you.


Click to see full-size!With MyOtherDrive one account can backup multiple machines, unlike some other online backup sites. You can share photos and files, create private folders or collaborate with coworkers by copying files to another account, use online files for presentations and web pages, and access your files from anywhere using your web browser. To back up your personal or sensitive data, mark a folder as encrypted, and all files uploaded to it will be AES 128-bit encrypted. No one but you (not even MyOtherDrive employees) can access your encrypted files because encryption is performed on the client before the file is sent to the server.

MyOtherDrive works with PCs, Macs and Linux-based machines using your web browser or MyOtherDrive's Java-based Desktop Client that works quite smoothly! (If MyOtherDrive won't work at first, you should de-install any old versions of Java and install the latest version from www.java.com.) You can have a free 2-Gigabyte account (ad-supported), or pay $5.00/month or $55.00/year for 100Gb of storage for the Pro plan, and $240.00/year for 1Tb of storage for the Enterprise plan. All plans include unlimited bandwidth, unattended backups, file linking and a desktop client.

More than just keeping backups of your data, MyOtherDrive offers file and folder sharing - in fact, that's the default. When you tell others your user name and password, they have access to all the online files and folders except any folders you have encrypted. MyOtherDrive installed easily but didn't run at first, so I contacted tech support. A nice guy named John suggested that I uninstall Java and install the latest version - that worked! (Because it's written in Java, MyOtherDrive runs on PCs, Macs or Linux computers.) It ran quietly and flawlessly, initially backing up my 1.2Gb in about 12 hours, then each daily backup after that took just a couple minutes. Because of the added benefit of being able to backup multiple computers and share files with friends or coworkers, I rate MyOtherDrive as just a bit behind Mozy.


Click to see full-size! DriveHQ offers you a wide array of services: not only a backup server, but also automatic folder synchronization, a secure file sharing server, FTP server, website server and email server. DriveHQ's free basic service gives you 1Gb. Paid plans cost $2.99/month for 3Gb, $7.99/month for 6Gb, and other plans are available. You can have group accounts, sub-accounts and group sharing and collaboration. You can have quick sharing with a URL link; a [your-name].drivehq.com website or your own domain name; advanced sharing with access control; or publish files and link to them from any other website or from an email message. This is much better than sending files as email attachments. You can share files of any size easily, and share folders for read-only access or read-write access. You can map your DriveHQ folder to a drive letter, which is better, larger and cheaper than a USB flash drive. With DriveHQ FileManager and the Desktop Express client, you don't need a USB drive, period. Unlike other Internet backups, DriveHQ FileManager and Desktop Express don't lock up your PC or applications, even if your network is down.

DriveHQ and MyOtherDrive are taking us into some higher forms of Cloud computing! - See our Dec. 5, 2009 issue of CN.Net-News on the "Cloud".