Drive imaging tools enable you to back up your entire Windows installation
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s we discussed at the beginning of this feature, backing up to the internet is an excellent idea, either as your primary backup or as a fail-safe option. It ticks all the right boxes, including the all-important one concerning keeping at least one backup of your data in a secure location well away from your PC.
The growth in broadband connections make online backups a practical option to consider, and as a result a number of online back-up providers compete in a crowded marketplace for your business. At first glance they appear to offer much the same thing, but look a little closer and you'll find certain providers can give you options not found elsewhere.
If you don't have a lot of data to back up - less than 2GB in total - then it's madness not to take advantage of Mozy's free 2GB account. Other back-up providers offer more space for free, but Mozy allows you to use its own back-up client to manage your backups, which loosely translates into enabling you to set up your backup once and then let Mozy take care of the rest.
Should you require more space, or you discover that 2GB isn't enough for your needs, you can then upgrade to one of three plans: monthly, annual and bi-annual. Prices start from US$4.95 a month, with generous discounts if you pay for a year or two's protection.
The key thing to remember about online backup is that you're limited by two things: one, the speed of your broadband connection, and two, whether your connection is capped or not.
Upload speeds are traditionally much slower than download speeds - you can expect your download speed to be typically at least three times that of your upload speed. That means if you've got 40GB of data to back up you won't be protected in the space of a few hours; instead, the initial backup is likely to take weeks or even months to complete. With this in mind, consider splitting your backup into multiple jobs so you can upload in manageable chunks, ensuring at least one sub-set of your data is protected.
Also, some broadband packages are "capped", which means if you exceed a certain amount of uploading and downloading within the space of a month you'll be charged extra. Even on unlimited connections a measure of "fair usage" applies, so you may find yourself having to explain the situation to your ISP or even enduring a period where your connection speed is capped at a lower level.
Back up multiple PCs
One of the limitations found in many online back-up providers is that the service is tied to a single PC. That means you can't protect both your laptop and desktop from the same account, never mind the rest of your family. One back-up provider that does allow you to back up all your family's computers is Diino. £39.95 gives you unlimited backup for a year, although you are limited to 100GB when it comes to sharing files with others.
The step-by-step guide below reveals how it works - unlike other back-up providers, Diino doesn't automatically update backups in the background, but performs scheduled updates, so there is a small risk of data loss if files are lost between being edited and backed up. Click here to find out more and sign up, then follow the step-by-step guide below to discover how to configure your first backups.
Back up a folder with Diino
1. CREATE NEW BACK-UP JOB
Double-click the Diino icon in the Notification area of your taskbar and log in if necessary to bring up the main screen. Click the Configure Backups button to bring up the screen above, then choose Edit > New to create a new back-up job.
2. ADD FIRST FOLDER
Click the Add button to select one of the preset options, or choose Select to browse to your choice of folder. Click Select to pick your folder and click OK.
3. EXCLUDE SUB-FOLDERS
A list of all sub-folders within the folder you've selected will appear. Untick any you don't wish to back up; if any sub-folders contain more sub-folders you'll see a small arrow next to them - click the arrow to reveal their contents, enabling you to remove more unwanted folders from your backup if you so wish. Click OK when you're done.
4. SET SCHEDULE
Verify Enable Scheduling is ticked and click Configure to set which days and at what time the back-up job will run. Unlike other online backups tools, Diino doesn't automatically back up files as soon as they've been changed, so unless the folder rarely changes, you're probably best left running the backup at least every other day.
5. FINAL TOUCHES
Give your backup job a suitable name and click Calculate to see how big the backup will be - even a folder of just 1GB can take the best part of a day to upload, so it pays to know how long you'll have to wait until your data is safely backed up. Finally click OK.
6. RUN BACKUP
It's a good idea to take your first backup immediately, so right-click the back-up job you've just created and choose Run Now (alternatively, simply select the back-up job and press [Ctrl] + [B]. Diino should tell you it's started backing up the folder - remember, the initial backup will take some time, but subsequent backups should be quicker unless numerous files have changed.
Other back-up providers
We also have personal experience using Carbonite, which offers unlimited backup for a single computer, and which keeps multiple versions of your files, enabling you to roll back your changes. Click here for more information.
You might also want to consider using Windows Live Mesh (here), a free service from Microsoft that enables you to synchronise data effortlessly between two or more computers. Part of the service includes 5GB of online storage, which is where a spare copy of your files is kept. This enables you to keep your computers synchronised without having to worry about them being switched on, but a side benefit is that a back-up copy of your files are stored on the Mesh servers. It's still in beta, and a little flaky, but we'll be featuring it in more detail in a future tutorial, which we'll flag here in due course.
If 5GB isn't enough space, but you like the idea of being able to synchronise between your PCs, sign up for Humyo (click here), which offers a monthly service for £4.59 (it's £45.99 for the whole year). You're limited to 100GB in total, but you can access your online storage as if it was a drive attached to your PC, which can be useful.
Back up your email
Some providers like Mozy can automatically detect your email accounts, enabling you to back them up with no problems. Other back-up tools - including Mozy - need to be configured manually, so you need to identify which folder your email is stored in.
Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail and Outlook Express users should open their mail program and choose Tools > Options > Maintenance tab (OE) or Tools > Options > Advanced tab > Maintenance (WM and WLM). Click Store Folder to see where your messages are currently stored - copy and paste this folder path into a Run dialogue box (press [Windows] + [R]) and click OK to see the folder prior to pointing your back-up tool towards it.
Microsoft Outlook users should right-click the top level folder in Outlook itself, choose Properties and click Advanced to locate the file. Finally, Thunderbird users should locate their profile folder, inside which their mail messages are stored - click here to find out where it is.