Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, I’d like to wish you a very merry backup. As I did last year at about this time, I want to urge you to give your friends, family, co-workers, employees, clients (check all that apply), and most of all yourself the gift of backups.
Free Online Backup
If you’re strapped for cash, try sitting down with your loved ones and setting up accounts for them on Mozy. Of course, the ones who just got new digital video cameras for Christmas are going to need more than the 2GB of storage that comes with a free account, but for many people, it’s plenty. And it has the advantage that once you’ve set it up, it runs automatically and you don’t have to think about it again unless you use up your storage quota or need to retrieve a file. (There are other online backup services, and I’ll mention some of them next week, but Mozy is the one I have the most experience with.)
Bear in mind that the first backup with any online service will take several hours, and it’s definitely not suitable for people with dial-up connections.
Free Backup Software
USB Flash Drives
USB sticks (also known as key drives or thumb drives) are ubiquitous and cheap. They don’t make good long-term storage, but they’re still better than having no second copy of your data at all, and you can easily store them in a safe deposit box away from your office. You can also get them branded with your company logo. Your employees and customers are sure to find them more useful than pens or key chains.
External Hard Drives
Capacities are going up and prices are coming down. Large-capacity external drives make good gifts for people who take thousands of digital photos, have massive music collections, and make videos of every event in their children’s lives. (For these people you might even want something that acts as a media server.) All those things can take up a lot of space.
If the intended recipient travels a lot, one of the smaller external drives like the Western Digital Passport, Maxtor OneTouch Mini, or Seagate FreeAgent Go is probably a better choice. The Ur-guru has a good half-dozen of the Passports, all in shiny (fingerprint-attracting) black. I’ve got one each of the Seagate and Maxtor drives. All of them come with backup software pre-installed.
If you have technophobes with new laptops on your list, it could be worth investing in a Rebit. They’re pricier than ordinary external hard drives, but they’re very simple and they run continuously in the background without noticeably hindering performance. And they’re cute. Like the online services, though, Rebit takes a long time to create the initial backup.
If you have multiple computers in one home or office, a network drive may be the way to go. I’ve written extensively about my Maxtor Shared Storage II (also pictured above–it’s the one that looks like a cinder block). Other options include the Buffalo Linkstation and Western Digital’s My Book World Edition. The My Book has a little problem with multimedia files, though: it doesn’t want you to upload them to the Internet, even if you made them yourself and own the copyright.
Network drives tend to be on the expensive side, not to mention being a bit large to fit in stockings, but they can be very useful.
Merry Backup to all, and to all a good night.