Backup software package reviews: Features explained
Our computers are full of stuff that matters to us, such as photos and videos of family Christmases, hundreds of music tracks, and contact details. Some of these things, like the photos and videos, are meant to be shared with others; and some you may want to keep private.
Other things, like your music collection, may have cost hundreds of pounds in music downloads. All of these things are valuable in their own way and some of it irreplaceable.
With so much important data stored on your computer, it’s crucial that you keep a copy, or backup, of it. Then, if the worst happens and your hard drive fails, or you accidentally click it’s ‘ok’ to delete, you can restore everything from your backup copy.
Saving files and folders to an external hard drive, a DVD or a USB key (known as local backup), should be an important part of everyone’s backup regime. But it needn’t be the only option. Online backup services provide you with a way of keeping a copy of your information away from home – to protect it against fire and theft, say. Typically, these services also provide you with a way to access your data when you’re away from your computer. While an online backup service should never be seen as a replacement for a local backup, it is a great way to make doubly sure that your precious data is kept safe.
Not every backup program will support every storage medium. Surprisingly, some don't even support CDs or DVDs. Commonly supported types are floppy disk, network (or Internet) drive, hard disk, USB memory stick, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R/W, DVD+R/W.
Maximum file size
Whereas most software will back up the vast majority of files, some might choke on multi Megabyte or even Gigabyte files. Before you buy, make sure you know the maximum size (and then some) of the files that you intend to back up (such as videos) and ensure that the software supports it.
Typically, software will offer Help files, online FAQ , forums and webforms. Of course, if you have just seen your life's work disappear from your desktop computer or laptop, you may not feel inclined to wait for a return email if your back up software refuses to play ball. Telephone support and a calm voice is often much more preferable.
The software can double check that it is saving the data accurately as it goes along. It's no good finding out after the event that the data files were corrupted.
Encryption may be important to you if you are backing up sensitive data. By backing up unencrypted data onto a handy CD, you are making it much easier for a thief to steal your secrets.
Online backup services
Online backup or storage services host a copy of your files and folders on their own giant computers. They’re remote from your computer and you access them via the internet.
When you sign up to an online backup or storage service, you’re given a user name and password so that only you can access your data. You select which files and folders you want to save and then upload them via your internet connection to your chosen online storage provider.
With some services, the onus is less about backup and more about accessing and sharing data. Other services, incorporate automated backup features which save a copy of your files and folders to your online store whenever you make changes.
In all cases, the aim is to free your information from your computer, whether it’s to keep it safe, to access it away from home or to share it with others.