I'm a compulsive saver. I save backup copies of all important
computer documents I'm working on, and then I back up
As I'm working, I frequently hit Ctrl + S to save my
current document to the hard disk. Somewhat less frequently,
I save a backup copy to a floppy disk, provided the
file is small enough to fit on it (which it usually
is). Somewhat less frequently, I save a copy through
the Internet to an off-site backup disk. And still less
frequently, I make a complete backup of all the documents
on the hard drive of my primary work computer to a writable
I've never lost a document, despite making the not-so-uncommon,
but no-less-brain-dead, mistakes of accidentally deleting
an important file or destroying a current, nearly complete
version of a file by overwriting it with a preliminary,
incomplete version. I've also suffered one major data-destroying
hard disk crash.
Another time I was a victim of a natural disaster.
My wife and I were barbecuing when it started to rain,
so we moved inside. I then heard thunder and nervously
checked the computer in my office. I was working on
a book and didn't want to lose anything. Everything
checked out. Then….
Boom! The bomblike noise was accompanied by a small,
momentary fireball on the ground maybe 100 feet from
where we were sitting. Lightning had struck.
When I checked the computer again, it was dead. An
enormous surge of electricity had blown right past my
surge protector and fried the PC. But my data was still
alive, saved by a backup.
Fortunately, I've never been victim to the kinds of
horrendous natural disasters that have been all over
the news in recent months. Hurricanes can destroy not
only your computer, but also any backup hard disks,
optical discs, tapes, Zip disks, Jazz disks, or floppies
that you've dutifully made. This applies equally to
tornadoes, fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides,
avalanches, tidal waves, and meteor strikes. Despite
the improbabilities, catastrophes do happen.
All this underscores the importance of off-site storage.
These days, as a result of the Internet, saving important
data off-site is easier than ever, with various options
One viable free option for home and small-office users
is to save documents to the Web space that your Internet
service provider offers, depending on how much space
it gives you.
You can transfer files using the same tools you would
use to upload files when creating a Web site. For instance,
you could use a stand-alone file transfer protocol (FTP)
program such as SmartFTP (http://www.smartftp.com)
or the FTP tool built into another utility program such
as VCOM PowerDesk Pro (http://www.v-com.com/product/PowerDesk_Pro_Home.html).
If you're going this route and backing up sensitive
documents, you should encrypt the files to prevent Web
surfers from perusing them (inadvertently or not). One
easy way is to password protect these files using the
popular Zip file compression format, which is built
into many other utilities.
A more automated option is to use a specialized online
backup service. A number of these services went belly
up during the dot-com bust, but IBackup.com (http://www.ibackup.com)
is still alive and kicking. For $14.95 per month, you
have four gigabytes to play with.
Along with providing tools that you can use to schedule
automatic backups of preselected data, IBackup also
lets you make its remote-file server space look like
another local hard disk, so you can manually drag and
drop individual files to a safe, password-protected
location. Unlike some other online backup services,
you can use it to back up Mac and Linux files along
with Windows files.
which pioneered the concept of making remote file space
look like local file space, is a similar service that
also shows no signs of going away any time soon. Xdrive,
which is available only for Windows, just upped its
allocated space from 500 megabytes to five gigabytes
per user, and it charges just $9.95 per month for the
privilege. That's not enough to make a complete backup
of most hard disks, but it's plenty for documents that
most users create.
Like IBackup, Xdrive also provides other pricing options
if you need additional storage for yourself or for multiple
people. Along with using services such as these for
remote backups, you can also use them for sending files
that are too large for e-mail.
For more basic backup tips, check out the Web site
Backup Critic (http://www.backupcritic.com).
Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author
of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org