All the cool kids are going paperless. Filing cabinets are so old school. Save the trees! I’m going to write about the pros and cons of going paperless in an upcoming post. For now, don’t even think about it unless you’ve got this in place first.
Automated, Remote Backup System
Automated means you don’t have to think about it. It runs on schedule daily. Time Machine on my iMac keeps hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups prior to that. It backs up everything to an external hard drive. But honestly, that’s not enough if you really want to protect your data. If we were victims of theft, theives could easily swipe my external hard drive along with the computer. Gone forever would be over 17,000 photos I’ve taken since 2001. Just the thought of it makes my stomach churn. What you really want is a remote backup system. It’s off-site, so if theft, fire or flood took out my computer along with the external drive sitting right next to it, I’m protected.
Many Options Available
I looked at the major players for remote backup and chose Carbonite. The other contender, Mozy, was more expensive – $125 for a two year subscription – and capped at 50 GB of storage. You could of course purchase an additional 20 GB of storage space for just $2 per month, but with Carbonite I got unlimited storage and a three year subscription for $139. Setup was quick and painless, but expect the initial backup to take several days to complete. It took my computer nine days to complete a full backup. Don’t worry, it runs in the background, and you don’t even notice it.
I have iCloud. Isn’t that enough?
iCloud is Apple’s new suite of wireless sync and backup services, which aims to keep your devices – for example your desktop iMac, iPhone, and even a PC, up to ten devices total – all on the same page, 24 x 7. It’s important to note that iCloud only works with iCloud enabled applications. This is great for keeping your Address Book, Calendar, and Mail programs synchronized wherever you go, but it won’t backup documents unless they were created in iWork Pages, Numbers, or Keynote. (For those who aren’t familiar, these applications are the Mac versions of Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and Powerpoint). This means that all your PDF file bank statements will not be stored in iCloud. Your photos will, but only the last 1,000 photos, and only for 30 days. Then they drop off the PhotoStream. Think of iCloud as a useful tool for synchronizing the apps you really need when you’re mobile, but not as a replacement for a remote backup system.
What About Dropbox?
Dropbox is a file hosting service that lets you store and share files and folders with others across the Internet using file synchronization. It offers both free (up to 2 GB of storage) and paid subscriptions, with various options. It’s automated, in the sense that whatever is in your Dropbox folder will be synchronized, but you have to remember to drag and drop important documents and photos there first. I’ve used Dropbox for sharing video files that are too big to send via email. It’s a great tool – but not my first choice for a comprehensive backup solution.
An automated, remote backup system is an essential component of digital life today. If you’re considering a paperless home office, or want to protect your priceless photos, home movies and music, then don’t wait. Set up was easier than I anticipated, and the price is worth the peace of mind.