24 June 2007

#26: Back ’Er Up, Fellas

At the Tool Bar & Grill, we encourage all our patrons to cut calories, sample all the food groups in their proper proportions, eat plenty of fiber, and back up their computer files frequently. Everyone agrees it’s right, but how many really follow through?

Be proud of yourself if you bother to back up your files at all. Remember, though, if you copy your files to another folder on your hard drive, consider the consequences if your hard drive dies. If you back up to an external hard drive or to removable media (CDs, DVDs, etc.) and store them next to your computer, what will happen if there’s a fire or earthquake?

I know I would sure hate to lose all the letters and e-mails I’ve written to Shania Twain, so recently I started evaluating free backup utilities that make it easier to copy and store valuable data. I will report my findings in a future post.

The safest approach is to store file backups on safe media in a secure place other than where you work. One way to do that is to use the Internet. So today we review free Web-hosted backup and file storage services.

On-Line Data Backup

If you want secure off-site backup for free, consider the advantages of Web-based services: security (with encryption), immediate access from any computer, the ability to share stored files with others, and no need for buying, burning, and storing discs. On the down side, uploading lots of files can take a long time, especially for a full backup. (Later incremental backups take less time, and can be done in the background). And some sites limit the volume of file transfers or the total amount you can store for free, though you can always buy more.

Here are some of the major sites that are focused on backing up your data and are likely to be reliable. (The descriptions of all the sites assume you register for a free account.)

  • Xdrive: This AOL subsidiary provides 5 GB of on-line storage for free and gives you handy backup software that enables you to drag and drop files to Xdrive and to schedule unattended backups. http://www.xdrive.com/
  • Mozy: Provides 2 GB of on-line storage for free and relatively flexible and efficient backup software. http://mozy.com/
  • MediaMax: On-line storage up to 25 GB, but transfer volume is limited to 1 GB per month. The backup software is in beta, and is not as feature-rich as some others. http://www.streamload.com/
  • BeInSync: This service is primarily intended for synchronizing specified folders on two or more computers, but also provides 1 GB of on-line storage and automatic backup software. http://www.beinsync.com/

The following sites offer file storage but do not provide specific backup functions:

  • GigaSize: Unlimited storage for free, but for only 90 days. The size of any one uploaded file is capped at 1.5 GB, and downloads per day are limited. The provided file management software does not include automatic backup features. http://www.gigasize.com/
  • Files-Upload: Unlimited storage, but uploaded files cannot exceed 1 GB each for FTP transfers (300 MB for HTTP transfers). Downloads are limited to 30 files at a time, and files are deleted after six months if left untouched. http://files-upload.com/
  • MediaFire: Unlimited storage but limited to 100 MB per file. http://www.mediafire.com/
  • RapidShare: Unlimited storage but limited to 100 MB per file. http://www.rapidshare.com
  • 4shared: 1 GB of on-line storage, and basic file uploading software. http://www.4shared.com/
  • FileFactory: Limited to 10 files of no more than 300 MB each. Basic file uploading software is provided. http://www.filefactory.com/
  • Gspace: If you have a Gmail account, you probably have over 2 GB of mailbox space lying around empty. Gspace is a FireFox browser add-on that enables you to store files in your Gmail account as if they were e-mails. Uploading is slow, though, and don’t upload everything at once because Google might block Gmail accounts with large data transfers (such as 1 GB in a day). http://www.getgspace.com

If your primary backup needs are photographic, consider using backing up your photos and videos to one of the many picture-sharing sites. Among those with relatively generous on-line storage policies:

Update Bulletin: ZoneAlarm Firewall for Vista

ZoneAlarm is one of the most popular firewalls, and deservedly so. Last week, ZoneAlarm released its newest version, 7.1, which now is compatible with Windows Vista. It is free for personal and nonprofit use, and you can download it from http://www.zonealarm.com/. For users of Windows XP and earlier, I stand by my previous firewall recommendation, Comodo Firewall from http://www.personalfirewall.comodo.com/.

Note To Readers

This week I started experimenting with contextual advertisements in the blog text. When you mouse over the double-underlined terms, you will see advertisements for products that are relevant to those terms. The advertising supplier warns that it might take a few weeks to discover the most relevant links, so please bear with me. And please feel quite free to click on any of the ads in or alongside each blog posting!

We care about your health and your computer’s health here at Jonathan’s Tool Bar & Grill. Please post your comments and suggestions below, or write to jonathanstoolbar@gmail.com. And check back here next week for another roundup of helpful tools.


  1. We have gone against the online trend with a product that resolves the search and physical media library issues with backup / archiving to removable media.

    The main issue is searching them later to retrieve the data and managing the physical media library. The same with flash cards, you never know what’s on them.

    Our product is called Datacatch Librarian. We have successfully extended the Windows file management system so that you are seamlessly searching for files stored on removable media within Windows.

    So you search for online and offline data in the same standard Windows search; you even browse the thumbnails of photos stored on your DVD’s. You manage the physical media in exactly the same way your put a Word document in a newly created folder, you locate your discs in a storage container icon on your desktop AND it tells you what slot their in.

    Because it looks and feels like Windows there’s nothing new to learn, it just the same as searching and organizing folders in Windows, very cool and worth a look.

    It’s also worth noting that it’s a hell of a lot cheaper and easier to archive to gold quality DVD or Blu-ray than paying 9.99$ per month to store one DVD of data online.

  2. Thank you for clueing us in to your product, Lindsay. I'm sure many of my readers will want to try it out.

  3. Another reader e-mailed this comment: "Hey Jonathan! You should check out www.divshare.com, which you didn't have on your back up post. Unlimited everything! Really cool. Okay, see ya!"
    Dear reader, thank you for this tip. I am preserving your anonymity, but please feel free to take credit for your tip in this Comments section.

  4. I just found your website due to a response you made in Cnet forums. I think its a really good site and will be putting a link to it on my blog. Thank you for all you efforts.

  5. Another reader e-mailed this comment:
    "Things I appreciate: Your blog. Non bloatware. Fast shutdowns. Thank you for your blog. Saving time in shutdown sometimes becomes critical here due to fast moving lightning strikes in the area. I will be trying Slawdog's utility shortly. I know AOL and WinXP like to back up everything I've done, but I really don't care about loosing a bit of data if I can protect my OS."
    Dear reader, I am grateful for your kind words, and delighted if my blog is helpful. Please feel free to take credit for your comment in this space if you wish. And please tell all your friends about my blog!

  6. Thank you too, Catmoves, for your compliments, and for linking to my blog on yours. I'll check your blog out soon.

  7. Hi Jonathan
    I, too, have recently come across your blog (via Editorium, I think). Although I'm not really in the same line of business as you - I'm a professional translator for my sins - I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog: I find it extremely useful and interesting - and I will certainly mention it in my own blog. My blog is scarcely a thing of beauty; I "cover" a variety of topics with occasional forays into your territory. Something which interests me a lot is the subject of autocompletion, a good and often neglected addition/alternative to the likes of Smart Type Assistant.
    Many congratulations on your excellent blog.

  8. Barnaby, thanks very much for your compliments. I hope my blog will continue to be useful and interesting to you. And I really appreciate the link from your blog. Can you give us the address of your blog so I and my other readers can enjoy it?

  9. Hello Jonathan
    I was hoping to be able to add to your post on On-Line Data Backup but you seem to have covered everything!

  10. Thanks for your comment, Barnaby. I tried to be thorough. However, my next post (#27, July 1) discusses a new file storage site, DivShare, that another reader pointed out.

    Readers, I encourage you all to check out Barnaby's eclectic blog at http://capeldunn.blogspot.com.

  11. Mozy has gotten many good reviews. However, I looked at it and didn't like it. See my blog postings about Mozy



    Michael Horowitz

  12. I am flattered that Michael Horowitz read my blog! Mr. Horowitz is a well-known blogger on "Defensive Computing" for the authoritative C|Net. I recommend everyone to read his thoughtful, detailed analysis of Mozy and to apply his insights to evaluating every other backup service (something I could not do in my brief survey of such services). Thank you very much, Mr. Horowitz, for your contribution to my and my readers' understanding.

  13. Hmm... I cannot find anywhere in Mozy site that there is 2G of free space.

    Expired already?

  14. Fadzlan, look halfway down the left-hand column at http://mozy.com/home. There's an orange box for "MozyHome Free" that offers "2 GB of 100% free backup space." The offer is still good.

    Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you'll visit frequently, and tell all your friends!