Offsite Backup and Data Storage Services

Anyone who has experienced a hard drive failure understands the value of backing up your data. Programs can be reinstalled, but data, once gone, is lost forever unless backed up elsewhere. You can back it up on an external hard drive or back it up offsite through an online service. Savvy users will do both.

We looked at over 50 offsite, online backup and storage services. We do not consider free "trial" periods to be truly free services and decided to list none of the services in that category; in the end we did list one, but we did so only because the trial period was one year and that might suit someone backing up a project, school year or simply needing temporary storage while evaluating the many choices out there. We only listed one that did not offer free, secure file transfers, but it offers 50 GB of free backup space and that will hold a lot of MP3 and MP4 files. In truth, we could have listed a dozen or more that offer 1 GB of storage and another two dozen that offered 2 GB; we listed none of the former and a few of the better picks among the latter.

We do not claim this to be a definitive examination. There are now hundreds of sites offering similar services, although the bulk of the newer ones appear aimed at the social networking scene; they offer 1 and 2 GB of space and are more designed for file sharing than secure, offsite, data backup.

ADrive Basic

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ADrive offers a whopping 50 GB of online storage per account, with file sharing, folder and directory uploading, file search, remoote file transfer, Zoho editor, and universal access. Their minimum paid service ($6.95 per month) offers all of that, plus file history, file history recovery, ADrive Desktop for Windows, Mac andd Linux, WevDAV support, multiple concurrent sessions, 24/7 support, no third party advertising, and SSL encryption during file transfers. This last feature, missing from the free service, gave us pause at listing this service; it may be okay for backing up your MP3 or video files, but I don't think I'd upload my personal or financial records without encryption. However, 50 GB is worth considering for non-sensitive files.

Download: Here
Systems: Windows (not specified), Mac, Linux


Buddy Backup

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Unlike other services, Buddy Backup does not actually provide you with any server storage space, but rather the software allows you to backup your encrypted data to one or more "buddies'" computers. In return you store the "buddies'" data on your computer. You can have an unlimited number of "buddies" and you agree upon how much space will be set aside for buddy storage.

The program works around such potential problems as a buddy not being online when you start a backup, if your buddy deletes your files or uninstalls the program, or if and when you need to restore your backed up data. It allows you to backup to a USB device and backup any type of media files.

Download: Here
Systems: Windows XP, Vista and 7


DivShare Free

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DivShare offers a free account that includes 5 GB of secure, online storage and 10 GB of downloads per month. This company is geared to social networking sites and applications. You can integrate the file sharing aspects of the service into your web sites, Wordpress blogs, iPhone, and social network (currently, Facebook). Features include embeddable files, password protection for sharing files/folders, branding options, removal of advertising (paid service only) and mobile (iPhone only) access.

Download: Here
Systems: Windows (versions not specified)


Dropbox

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Dropbox provides 2 GB of free, online space for backing up and sharing your files. You simply install the Dropbox client to create your online space, where you can drag and drop file folders as you would on your own computer. You transfer and store your files securely, of course, to backup, share or sync them with other computers. If you need to share files between a PC, laptop, work station, or browser-enabled handheld, this might be a solution for you.

Download: Here
Systems: Any system that runs a browser


IDrive Basic

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IDrive has several commercial plans, starting at 150 GB and jumping up to 500 GB. Their free plan, IDrive Basic, only gives you 2 GB of free, compressed, encrypted storage, but that 2 GB comes with all the features of the commercial plans, and the list is impressively large. The idea, no doubt, is to get you hooked on the program so you will upgrade, which I am sure most people will want to do once they become acquainted with what IDrive offers. It is one of the most complete services we found.

For starters, you get that 2 GB of backup space, automated continuous backups of any changed data every 10 minutes, versioning of your files (that is, it keeps up to 30 previous versions or file generations), 128-bit encrypted transfer and 256-bit encrypted storage, backups of Outlook (.pst), QuickBooks and Excel files, backup of mapped and external hard drives, synchronizing local and backed-up files on demand, search and restore from your PC or the web interface, optional time-line restoration of data sets, access backed up data from any computer, web-based backup management, and much more. You need to have Windows to use this service, since you have to install a Windows program on your computer to perform the backups.

Download: Here
Systems: Windows 2000 Server, 2003 Server, 2008 server, 2000, XP, Vista, 7


Mega

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Mega offers 50 GB of secure, online storage with their free file manager. While long on free storage space, their website is short on details and explanations of features. In fact, there was so little information on the servive, its features and how to use it that we did not even test drive the impressively large free offering. Online storage can be upgraded to 4 TB of space for 8.33 Euros per month with no bandwidth or file size limitations that we can notice.

Download (create an account first): Here
Systems: No clues offered, but presumedly Windows


Mozy Home Free

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Mozy Home Free provides 2 GB of space to back up your files. F iles are encrypted throughout the transfer from your computer to their server and are kept encrypted in storage. You can backup by schedule, automatically, or on demand. It supports incremental backup, backup of Outlook files , limited version restoration (up to 30 days), multiple restore options, bandwidth throttling to allow prioritizing your ISP throughput, and more.

That 2 GB will hold approximately 250,000 text emails, 200 MP3 files, or 300 photos. If that is not enough, they have unlimited storage for a small fee.

Download: Here
Systems: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, and Mac OS X


SpiderOak

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SpiderOak offers 2 GB of free online backup, synchronization, sharing, remote access, versioning, and storage, with zero-knowledge privacy; no user's password or their plaintext encryption keys are stored on SpiderOak's servers. The program's flexible design allows you to manipulate data from any Windows, Mac or Linux operating system or location (external drives, network volumes, USB keys, etc.) using just one centralized account.

Download: Here
Systems: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, Mac OS X, and Linux Ubuntu, Debian, and Fedora


Tilana Reserve Free

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Tilana Reserve Free offers 2GB of backup, sync, archiving and file sharing for an unlimited number of computers, but for only for 12 months. For this reason, we almost did not list it, but after trying it for a few weeks we decided it did have value for someone looking for temporary, secure, no frills, online storage. The free account can be upgraded at any time to a paid account, but expires 12 months after signup.

Download: Here
Systems: Windows 2000, XP (32-bit), Vista (32-bit), and Mobile 5 & 6


Windows Live SkyDrive

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SkyDrive is a file storage and sharing service that allows users to upload files to the computing cloud, then access them from a web browser. It uses Windows Live ID to control access to the user's files, allowing them to keep the files private, share with contacts, or make the files public. You can embed public or shared folders on Windows Live Spaces. Everyone can see what’s public, but only people you’ve granted permission can see your shared folders. Publicly-shared files do not require a Windows Live ID to access.

The service currently offers 25 GB of free personal storage. Optionally, an ActiveX-based tool can be installed to allow drag-and-drop uploading from Windows Explorer. Up to five files can be uploaded each time if the tool has not been installed.

Actually, the whole Windows Live environment is pretty incredible, and SkyDrive is but a small part of it. Here, however, it is the focal point. Best of all, it's free.

Download (Windows Live): Here
Sign Up (for Windows Live ID): Here
Systems: All versions of Windows