Free Online Backup and Software Options
Did you know... March 31 is World Backup Day? You know you need to backup your computer, but who has a lot of money to spend on getting it done? Here's some good news -- I've got some FREE options for online backup, and free backup software that you can start using today. Read on to learn more about backup options now...
Free Backup Software and Services
If you run a business on your computer, or just use it to store your personal documents, photos and music, a hard drive failure can be devastating. Failure to backup up your data on a regular basis can lead to data loss, heartbreak and costly recovery fees. If you're not convinced, see my personal story in How I Got Hacked... And Why You MUST Have a Backup!. I've heard plenty of excuses for not backing up, but fortunately "backup software is too expensive" no longer applies.
There are several free backup software tools and even free online backup services that you can use to backup and restore your files. There is a free backup utility that comes with Windows XP and Vista. I don't generally recommend it, because the feature set is pretty basic, and not all features are available in all versions of Windows. However, Windows 7 has a much improved backup feature. See my article Windows 7 Backup and Restore for the pros and cons.
If you have a Mac, Time Machine is an excellent automatic backup tool that's built into Mac OS X Leopard and higher. Backups are automatic, and if you lose a file, or need to see how it looked in the past, you can recover it with a few clicks. Speaking of Time Machine, Windows 8 has a new feature called File History that offers similar features.
The free backup software that comes with Mac and Windows computers will do the job, but other 3rd-party backup products offer more features and flexibility. So let's look at a handful of free downloadable backup solutions.
Free Downloadable Backup Software
Easeus Todo Backup Free is widely touted as as top choice for free backup software. Aimed at Windows home users, and designed for ease of use, Todo Backup Free offers "one-click backup and restore" to protect your files and help you recover in the event of a data disaster. The software backs up your entire hard drive including the operating system and installed software. You can schedule your complete backups to run automatically, or backup only selected files and folders on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Macrium Reflect Free is best known as a tool to make system images, but it's also an excellent backup software option. It can clone a hard drive (make an exact file-for-file copy) or create a backup image with optional incremental updates. I use Macrium Reflect to create a weekly backup image and daily incrementals, so my backup is never more than one day old. You can also use it to backup just selected file or folders. The scheduling feature lets you automate your backups. The user interface of Macrium Reflect isn't quite as intuitive as other products, but it does offer outstanding flexibility and some advanced options that power users and system admins will love.
CrashPlan started as a commercial backup service, but the software is now available for free (PC/Mac/Linux). You can use the free version of CrashPlan to backup to an external hard drive, but it also has one unique feature I really like. If you have more than one computer, you can install CrashPlan on each, and they'll backup each others' files. You can even back up your data to a friend's computer, over the Internet. CrashPlan encourages users to have redundant backups -- multiple copies of your backup -- for maximum protection. See my article describing CrashPlan, and how I use it to "backup my backup."
Another good choice is Comodo Backup. If you are familiar with the Comodo name then you know that this software manufacturer has a good reputation. Comodo Backup works with Windows XP and later Windows versions. It will allow you to backup your files and store them in a folder on your hard drive, a portable storage device or on an FTP site. This program also allows you to schedule your backups and compress your ZIP files to save disk space.
Every time I write about backups, several readers mention Microsoft's SyncToy. This free tool isn't a full-featured backup program, but it lets you sync folders on your desktop or laptop with a flash drive, external hard drive, or a shared folder on your home network. You can use it to make sure that two folders are synchronized with the same files, by automatically copying, renaming or deleting files as needed. The sync can be configured to copy files in one direction only, or to always ensure that the latest copy is available in both folders, regardless of where the file was modified.
Free Online Backup Services
There are still a few companies that offer free online backup services. One of the most well known online backup services that still offers free accounts is Mozy. Mozy's Free Backup Service offers 2 GB of storage space for Windows and Mac users. Your backup files will be encrypted and stored in a secure, remote location that's only accessible to you. This service is compatible with Windows as well as Mac OS X 10.4 and higher.
You might also check into IDrive's free account, which offers you 5 GB of storage space. To learn more about online backup services and other free online storage options, see my article Ten FREE Cloud Backup Services.
Selecting a Free Backup Option
Obviously you have many backup options to choose from, and I've only mentioned a few of the choices in each category. So which is better, local backup, or an online backup service? Some people are nervous about the security and privacy of online backups. But if you do backups locally, there's always the chance that your backup media could be lost or corrupted.
I recommend a combination approach, with copies of your backup files stored in more than one location. A good start would be a full backup on an external hard drive, and your critical files stored online. For more tips and advice, see my related articles Demystifying the Backup and Online or Local Backup: Which is Best?.
Post a comment and tell me about YOUR backup strategy. Also mention if you use free backup software, or a commercial backup solution.
Posted by Bob Rankin on 31 Mar 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Free Online Backup and Software Options (Posted: 31 Mar 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved