Ideally, your computer system should have three copies: a physical backup on a external drive, a second, offsite backup and a cloud backup.
The first physical backup is extremely accessible and will be the first point of contact if files need to be restored. However, if there is more than a system crash, but a small catastrophe such as a theft or fire, the original and the first backup in close proximity are both vulnerable.
This is why an offsite backup is also recommended. Having a full system back up at a friends house, or other suitable location, which can be accessed if the data and main backup are destroyed is prudent.
But again, a larger catastrophe, or even something as simple as your friend being on vacation with the house keys could render you incapacitated.
Fortunately, the third cloud based backup remained immediately accessible at all times.
In its simplest form, backing up to the cloud simply means saving files online; this could be a complete backup or a backup of select files. It should also include the backup of other devices, their data and their settings. Devices like smartphones and modems, ideally, should make the backup list.
The simplest method is to email files to yourself. Cloud based email has become more sophisticated and many services have storage tied to the account. iCloud, Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive and SkyDrive all offer free online storage that can be used to backup important files up to a point.
Free storage is generally available from your Internet Service Providers (ISP) as well.
If you prefer to have your own cloud, advanced users can configure an external hard drive to be accessible over the internet at any time. Less skilled users can opt for a pre-programmed, pre-packaged personal cloud option like pogoplug.
If that is still too much for you, paid services like Dropbox and Carbonite can work in the background to ensure you, and your data, are covered.
When deciding on which option is best, nothing beats a free trial. Assess the option based on several factors including security and encryption policies, accessibility, scalability of space and multipoint syncing.
The first backup can take several hours and even days. Even the subsequent, incremental backups can take time. Especially without the benefit of a reliable, high speed internet connection. Ultimately however, cloud backup offers the most reliable, cost effective option to ensure full data recovery.
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