Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably taken notice how much of today's information is stored electronically. Many of us own digital cameras, digital music players, etc and have amassed large libraries of electronic files with much personal or professional significance. However, not many of us put much thought into making sure these files are protected. Unless you've actually been the victim of a theft or hard drive crash, it is hard to truly imagine how devastating it can be when all that data is lost and/or unrecoverable.

Over the past few years, there have been a number of services that have popped up online that allow you to backup your important files over the Internet. This article will provide some guidance as to how you can choose the backup provider that is best for you.

Things You Will Need

* Computer with files needing backed up
* Broadband Internet Connection
* Credit/Debit Card to pay for subscription (if necessary)

Step 1


The first step in choosing an online backup provider is to determine how much storage space you need. There are numerous articles online that explain how to find file and folder sizes. Some common folders you will want to backup include your "My Documents", "Pictures", and "Music" folders.

If you require less than 2GB of storage space, you should focus on choosing between the following Online Backup providers that provide up to 2GB for FREE:
* Mozy (http://www.mozy.com)
* iDrive (http://www.idrive.com)
* Dropbox (http://dropbox.com)

If you have greater than 500GB of files to store, you should look into the following options which offer "unlimited" storage capacity for your online backups:
* Backblaze (http://www.backblaze.com)
* Mozy (http://www.mozy.com)

Step 2


The majority of online backup providers provide exactly that: backup of your files into "the cloud." There are a couple of services that extend that functionality, by integrating the backup process with a sync process, allowing you to move your backed-up files down to additional machines. For example, if you have a desktop computer and a laptop computer, an online backup service with a sync feature will automatically move your edited document from Computer A to Computer B.

If you prefer to utilize a service that will sync files across multiple computers, you will need to look at the following services:

* Dropbox (http://dropbox.com)
* Sugarsync (http://www.sugarsync.com)

Step 3


Each online backup service offers a plethora of different options. Here are a few of the important ones to consider:

* Versioning - Some of the Online Backup Files have different rules for version tracking (number of days versus number of files). Ensure you're familiar with how many versions of a file you can keep in case you need to revert to one of those older versions.

* Continuous Data Protection - Some of the Online Backup Providers automatically backup a file immediately after it has been changed, while others ONLY perform backups on a scheduled basis. If you want your files immediately backed up after they're changed, make sure your Online Backup Service supports this.

* Mobile Access - If you want to be able to access files from your mobile phones, ensure your Online Backup Service supports this. Also, ensure it works for your particular type of phone (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc).

* Locked File Support - Sometimes your backup may attempt to run when you have files open and locked for editing (as is common with Outlook PST or Quicken/Quickbooks files). If you want your files backed up regardless of the state they are in, make sure your Online Backup service supports backups of a "locked file."

* Network Drive Support - If you have a small Network Attached Storage appliance, or store files on a network share that you want backed up, make sure your Online Backup provider supports this.

* Large File Support - If you wish to backup files that are greater than 4GB, make sure your Online Backup service supports this.

* Additional "Restore" options - Most online backup service providers only provide the options to "restore" your files by downloading them from the Internet (via a web browser or through an installed client). Additionally, some providers allow you to pay to have your data burned to DVD's or copied to an external USB Hard Drive and mailed to you. This can be handy if you have a large amount of data that would take a long time to download via your Internet connection. Make sure you understand how your "Restore" will work when a disaster happens.

Step 4


Some of the backup providers offer features specific to business applications (such as Exchange and SQL). If you have these in your business, and know you would like to back them up, you should look into one of the following services:

* Mozy Pro (http://www.mozy.com/pro/)
* iDrive Pro for Business (http://www.idrive.com) As you can see, there are a number of options when it comes to Online Backup providers. Each provider has a slightly different offering, so make sure you understand the features you wish to have before choosing an Online Backup provider.

Tips & Warnings

* Remember that Online Backup services are typically subscription based, so be sure you continue paying your subscription fee as you may suffer data loss if your hard drive fails and your backups have been discontinued.
* Remember to periodically validate that your Online Backup is running successfully. The last thing you want to happen is to lose your files and find out that your last backup was from a year ago!

While not exhaustive, here is a list of a few of the more popular Online Backup providers that you can research for your own usage:
* Mozy
* iDrive
* BackBlaze
* Sugarsync
* Dropbox
* Carbonite