All it takes is a sudden hard-drive crash to sell a computer user on the value of backing up all important documents. And if you travel, or move between different computers in the course of your work, secure online data storage means you'll never find yourself going into a meeting without that one file you urgently need.
I've been using Mozy for several months now, to store copies of important personal files. The scheduled backups have happened without a hitch, the interface is easy to use, and in general the service has worked for me as advertised.
The MozyHome Free plan offers 2 GB of space free, with unlimited storage space for $4.95 per month. Supported platforms include Windows Vista, XP, and 2000; MozyHome for Mac is available in beta. MozyHome is for personal and non-commercial use only, however. Business users (and those who need HTTPS proxy support) will have to move up to the MozyPro version, with a desktop license priced at $3.95 + $0.50/GB per month.
Over the weekend, I've been testing SugarSync as an affordable online backup service for business use. And it's looking very good indeed. This is not just a dumping place for data, but a new way to organize and work with your files on-the-go.
SugarSync lets you get to your backup files from any computer with Internet access -- PC or Mac, and even from many mobile phones and Blackberry versions. (Linux support is said to be in the works.)
The online backup files are automatically synchronized with those on your computer, so any changes you make to your folders or files on your hard drive are automatically reflected in the online copy.
And if you're working offline on a file, that's okay: those changes will be backed up automatically the next time you're online.
Not only that, multiple computers can be set up for synchronization in real time, with a "Magic Briefcase" that works very much like the Briefcase in Windows: Edit a Magic Briefcase file on one computer, and every computer on your SugarSync list will be sync'd automatically to have the same up-to-date version of the document.
The advantages for collaborating with a trusted partner or project team are clear, and as for privacy -- you get to choose which files you want to have replicated and accessible to the other SugarSync'd computers or mobile phones.
Even with a fast Internet connection, backing up the better part of your documents folders to any online storage system will take some time: The average highspeed connection can wrangle about 2-3GB per day. (In my experience, this all worked quietly in the background -- almost invisibly -- with no noticeable loss of computer performance, while I continued with all my normal online and offline operations.)
After the initial full-scale backup, of course, only the changes you make will have to be recorded: those updates take place almost instantaneously.
SugarSync's not free, but it's very affordable: Five different plans are available to fit different storage needs, starting at $2.45 per month (or $24.99/year) for 10 GB of space. A 45-day free trial gives you 10GB of storage space and access to all features, and you won't need to give any credit card information to try it out.
See the SugarSync FAQ for more information.