Wednesday, December 29, 2010

3 Steps to Online Storage Choices

Last week before Christmas, author Jody Hedlund blogged about how she's sitting there all peaceful in front of her laptop, drinking hot tea and feeling great, when all of a sudden a nasty trojan virus popped up on her screen. (here's the link to the post)

Horror!

Jody's post was actually about how unexpected nasty things like that take you by surprise. But equally interesting to me--and others reading the posts, judging by the comments--was, what happened? Did her laptop files get wiped out? Was it a real trojan virus? The answer is yes, but Jody mentioned in her comments that she uses Carbonite online backup, so all was fine.

And when you're a published author--no, when you've written ANYTHING, you'd better have some kind of backup system in place. I know this. You know this. But are you actually backing up? Cause I sure as hell wasn't.

Here's the deal. I have an external hard drive, a big fat one that holds a million GB or whatever, but it requires that I sit there and plug into it. And because I use a laptop all around different areas of the house, I don't do that. I never do that. So, I never backup despite repeated reminders from friends, despite little pings from Toshiba (manufacturer of my laptop) to do so. I've never done it, because I was too damned lazy. I mean, for God's sake, I'm not going to go plug it in to my laptop! That is lunacy.

And more importantly, my laptop is newish and in good working order and my virus protection is up to date (actually, it just expired...guess I better take care of that too).

But Jody's post proved none of that matters. And I may not be published yet, but I started thinking about my WIP and my novel on submission and all the ideas and hours and work I've put into writing. It would KILL ME to see that all disappear or go corrupted merely because I hadn't backed up. I started feeling kind of sick thinking about it, kind of like when you eat a large chili cheese dog with sauerkraut and then drink borscht to wash it down. Ewww.

So. I am too lazy to back up to the external hard drive. What would be nice is a simple automatic thing that does it for me, with no hassle. Also, I want to back up all the photos and videos we've taken since the whippersnapper was born.

I did what any smart person does when one needs answers: I asked Twitter. And the answer was, yes, it's good-- but so are other online backup services. Mr. Sierra, darling saint that he is, took the time to research the best rated ones for me. PC Magazine and Cnet both have some great comprehensive reviews. Here are some steps I put together if you want to know the basics:

1. Decide what you want.
You might want to just back up your laptop, or you might want to back up your entire music and photo collection across 500 DVDs and hard drives. Also, you might want to back up other computers in your household. If so, you need to know which services do multiple PCs, external hard drives, and how much storage you get for your money. (See below for the basics.)

2. Estimate how much space you'll need.
They say the average user thinks they'll need like 50 GB when in fact they usually only use about 20. But when Whippersnapper #2 is born in April, I'm guessing we're going to have a crap load more photos and videos. So what I might backup now might increase over the next two years.

3. Consider your long-term plans.
Even if you don't know what you're going to do with your digital stuff, I want to know that I'm using a company that's going to be around for a while--particularly if something happens to my original copies. What happens when if your online backup company goes out of business? I mean, are they expecting to be around forever? I don't know, but the company's marketing and positioning might have an effect on my choice.

So, here are some quick service run downs but I recommend you do your own reviewing. There are many more companies out there but these are the biggest I think.
  • Carbonite --unlimited storage for $54.99 for a year, exudes stability, and also has great user interface. But no multiple PCs and no external hard drives.
  • MiMedia -- price plans depending on storage ($50 or so for the first 25 GB), and an awesome quick way to load all your crap onto a storage device and then bank it with them. But, 25 GB limit and I didn't need the extras like a web portal.
  • MozyHome - price plans depend on storage, stable company behind it, good user interface. But won't back up external hard drives or multiple PCs.
  • Norton - multiple PC backup, web based interface, about $50 for the first 25 GB, and is a trusted company. But, their interface integration into Norton security was, the last time I checked, shit.
  • SOS Online Backup -- This got a very good rating at PC Mag, but I'm giving this a huge thumbs down because when I went to their web site, there were NO links whatsoever to questions I have about the service including price--just a button inviting me to sign up...and a phone number inviting me to call if I had questions. Um, really? Really, guys? Seriously?
Here's the link to the PC Magazine online backup reviews

I ended up going for Carbonite's free trial, but I have to make some careful decisions because they don't back up external hard drives, and I need that.

But, God do I feel better about backing up.
Comments? Thoughts about other backup services/solutions/companies? Do you backup? Do you use the same excuses I did?

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