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There's a new class of online storage available for free that can be used for remote backups. Should you use them? As part of a larger strategy, maybe.

I make sure everything is neatly backed up and safely stored on an external hard drive. I've always heard of making two backups; one relatively close to your computer like your external hard drive for instance and another one away from the place your computer resides, maybe even away from your home like a server or something. Much like your "Are free E-mail addresses worth it?" - with the recent release of Windows Live Skydrive services by Microsoft and Gmail's Gdrive in a further past, how do you feel about these services that offer online storage of files and documents for free? Especially compared to their non-free counterparts?

I have mixed feelings.

Like free email, free on-line backup concerns me if used improperly, and of course it's the definition of "improperly" that needs clarification.

But I can't help but think, again, of the adage "You get what you pay for."

My objection to free email accounts is not with free email accounts themselves, but in relying on them for anything important. I've seen too many situations where people have irretrievably lost everything because their account was compromised, and they had no backup and no recourse.

Free on-line backups are, in some way, the reverse situation. You're explicitly not putting all your eggs into a single basket. In fact, you're using the backup service as another basket!

That all makes sense, and is, I think, a reasonable approach to backing up. In fact even with respect to email, I often recommend that people use a free email service as a backup to their primary. This is very similar.

"The thing to look for with any service such as this are the customer support options."

However it's not without risk.

Here's the nightmare scenario:

  • Your computer dies or is otherwise lost. The contents are, for whatever reason, irretrievably lost.

  • Your backup drive is also gone. The most obvious example that knocks out both your computer and the external hard drive is either theft, or something like a fire burning down the building in which they were both located.

  • You go to your free on-line backup only to find ... it's gone. You've lost access. You can't get in. And there's no customer support. It, too, is gone.

How likely is all that? I don't know. But that's the risk you're running. With a free service, how likely is it that it'll actually be available when you need it?

If it's anything like free email services, the answer will actually be "most of the time". And yet I still, regularly, hear from people who were on the other side of "most of the time" and as I said earlier, lost everything.

The thing to look for with any service such as this are the customer support options. The for-pay options will typically have better customer support as part of their justification for taking your money on an ongoing basis. But even so, free or for-pay, it's your ability to get help in a time of crisis that will make all the difference.

But for most folks it seems like it could be a reasonable part of an overall backup strategy.

Just make sure it's not the only part of your backup strategy.

Article C3308 - March 3, 2008 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

March 17, 2008 1:55 PM

I agree. If your data is important, then use a service that has technical support, and is a solid product. I use

January 9, 2009 9:24 AM

I look for sharing in addition to backup from my online storage company. I like because their online backup is industrial strength with unattended operation and encryption. So I know my data is safe. But their sharing is where it's really at. I can control who sees my shared files - I do not have to shared publicly for others to see. Very cool.

October 21, 2009 3:43 AM

Advantages: 2 GB free, High Performance, High Security, Very user friendly and Technical Support.

June 25, 2010 12:52 AM

They for sure worth it , because your data/files saved online are much safer than using any other method. A good software that you can try and see for yourself how the softwares act is .Is a free software and also their online storage service is free up to 3gb of space.

August 5, 2010 10:33 PM

The cloud has become a lot more powerful. It is far more than just storage or backup. Not only you can backup files to the cloud, you can also move your entire file server, FTP server, email server, web server and backup system to the cloud. You can create sub-users and sub-groups; you can set different user roles; share different folders to different users with different permissions. For a small business, Cloud-based storage, backup, sharing and Cloud IT Solution can save you a lot of cost, while offering better, more secure and reliable services that can be accessed from anywhere. is one of the first few companies offering such cloud based services. For more info, please visit:

August 17, 2010 9:59 AM

now that everyone can upload 25gigs of info for free to windows live accounts, is there a reason to pay for online backup? google thinks so - they have various online storage plans including $50yr to store 200g of info.

i had 2 backup hdd die during a lightning storm that wasn't even that strong and i haven't bought an hdd since: why waste the $$? i need another source of backup though and wonder which online service is really a good idea. or might it be good to have one free service like windows live and one for-pay service?

August 17, 2010 12:34 PM

wups! forgot to ask - what about buying a blu-ray recorder and backing up to blu-ray discs?

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