This page focuses on Online / Cloud Backup. If you are not clear whether you are looking for Backup or Storage we suggest you start with our Cloud Storage vs Cloud Backup page.
Whether you are a business user or just use a computer for family photos and the occasional letter or document, it is important to back up your documents to prevent loss in the event of accident or a computer fault.
Backing up your Onsite Backup
Until recently, the generally accepted method of backing up was using an external hard disk (still an ideal device for primary backup) however data is still at risk from fire, flood, theft or other physical disaster.
Due to widespread broadband availability and cheap storage devices computer users now have the option of utilising cloud backup services. (Cloud Backup and Online Backup are the same thing). This is where a third party company will, store a backup of your documents on their servers “in the cloud” so that if your main storage or primary local backup fails you have a copy of your data offsite.
As described on our Backup vs Storage page this means your main files are still stored locally and copied to The Cloud automatically or manually.
Cloud backup services have the advantage that they are safe from any physical damage that might affect your computer equipment at home or work.
How does cloud backup actually work?
There are many different types of online backup services, with a variety of different price and data plans, including free services.
A small program is usually downloaded to your computer and connects your file system permanently to your cloud service (assuming your computer is connected to the internet). This utility uploads a copy of the relevant files to your cloud backup provider’s server.
The first time the backup service is used, the initial uploading of files may take some time, but it runs in the background allowing you to carry on using the computer in the meantime, and before long you won’t notice as it silently monitors and backs up the selected files.
What files are backed up?
This is a really important consideration that people do not think about until they actually start to use the service. Backing up every file on your computer to a cloud service will be expensive.
One Folder Backup
Some Cloud Services like Box.com or Dropbox.com provide an additional folder in your file structure. They only backup files you have in this folder. The problem with this is if you normally have files in folders named eg Quotes, Photos, Projects these will not be backed up unless you move or copy them to the cloud folder.
You then have either duplicate files (copy) or similar files in two locations (move). You might think the obvious solution is to put your My Documents (Windows) or Documents (MAC) into the cloud folder. The problem here is that you end up with a massive Cloud Backup which will exceed your free or monthly quota.
Multiple Folder Backup
Some services offer the facility to ‘map’ individual folders to backup to cloud. The advantage here is that you store your files in their normal folders and you spend a little time ‘mapping’ the cloud service to automatically backup the contents of individual folders or individual files. The benefit here is that once mapped you just work on your files as normal without having to work from a special cloud folder or having to remember to copy files to that folder after creation or update. This type of service makes it much easier to keep your cloud backup within your free or monthly quota.
Whatever you use your computer for, whether business, work or pleasure, if you have documents or media files which you wouldn’t want to lose then you should consider getting an account with one of the many Cloud Backup services in addition to keeping your own local backup.
For large data users it is important to note that you really should have onsite backup in addition to Cloud Backup as it can take a considerable time to restore a large amount of data from The Cloud compared to a local backup using an External Hard Drive, Raid or NAS Backup – days vs hours. See more about onsite backup in our Onsite Storage and Backup Section.
You can read more about Cloud Backup on this Wikipedia page.