Sunday, February 3, 2008

Online backups

I'm a writer, and I recently was part of a conversation about backing up your writing files. We all agreed that we are scrupulously careful about backing up our important stuff frequently to either an external USB drive, a flash drive, or CD's or DVD's.

(And if you believe that one, I've got some seaside property in Nebraska that might interest you.)

Anyway, we all pondered what might happen in the event of a fire or flood. One person knew someone who had lost an entire book in a house fire.


This conversation resonated with me, because I'd recently been thinking that I should do something to guard against this very type of disaster. Or some burglar breaking in and taking all my computer equipment. (Don't laugh; it could happen.)

So I did some digging, and I found two services (recommended by major magazines) which will allow you to back up all you want for five bucks a month. One of them will also let you back up 2 GB for free.

Here they are: - free 2 GB; $4.95/month for unlimited space (see note below) - free 2 week trial; $50/year for unlimited space

Mozy supports both Windows and Macs; Carbonite only supports Windows right now, but say they'll be adding Mac support in 2008.

Both encrypt your data before shipping it across the Internet and encrypt it again once it's reached their servers. So your data should be pretty secure.

2 GB is a lot of space; if you can fill that up with your writing, you're incredibly prolific.

You do have to have a broadband internet connection, and you'll have to download a small program and tell it what you want to back up.

Also, if you have a lot of stuff to back up, it will take a while for the initial backup, during which time your computer will be fairly busy and your internet upload bandwidth will also be in use.

But after that the backups of any new or changed files happen automatically in the background, while your computer is idle, and should be pretty much invisible.

Also, this isn't just to protect against a fire or flood. Both services do incremental backups. This means you can restore the latest version, or you can choose from earlier copies of your documents. I think they save the old copies for at least a month.

This means if you make a major mistake while editing and inadvertently wipe out your entire first 15 chapters, you can go back to an earlier version by just restoring it from the backup service.

I'm using Mozy, and I like it a lot. The program is well laid out and logically designed, and pretty easy to use and specify what folders to back up, and which ones to not bother.

It allows me to dial in how much of the computer's CPU capacity it will use while it's encrypting files to upload, so during the initial backup I was able to let it go ahead and work in the background while I was working.

It also lets me specify how much of my upload bandwidth it will use while backing up, which lets me avoid complaints from my housemate about how I'm hogging all the bandwidth while she's trying to get her email, dammit.

Here are some links to reviews of these two services:

Mozy (see the section on Mozy Home):
PC World Business Center

PC World Geek Tech

It will take you a few minutes to download the software and set it up, and you'll have to be patient while it does the initial backup. (I have a fairly slow DSL connection with upload speed of about 220 kilobits per second, and it took Mozy about a day to back up 1.5 GB.)

But it could save your butt, in which case it would be worth way more than the time you spend setting it up.

Note: If you sign up for Mozy, please use this link: or enter my referral code - B2AD6G - or my email address - - during the registration process. This will result in both you and I being given an additional 250 MB of storage space for free.

1 comment:

Alisonnic said...

I distributed a hard copy of this blog to the participants of a writing workshop, and emailed it to the contents to another writing group.

A couple of days ago, one of the recipients told me, "you saved my work. I had a hard drive crash. If I hadn't followed your suggestion, I would have lost it all."