Have you ever thought about how much time and effort you would have to go through replacing all of the files and information that you have on your computer? Even if you are just a casual computer user you probably have all sorts of music, movies, and pictures stored on your computer. If you have given this some thought you may have backed up your information to a DVD or CD or some other storage device as a precaution. But what would happen if your house burned down? I don’t think those crispy black CDs would be much of help when it came to restoring your priceless pictures. Or what happens if a crafty cat burglar cut a circular hole in your window with Mission impossible style lasers and suction cups then made way with your computer, external hard drive, and software collection?

October 11, 2008 update…I am still using the software to backup my computer however I found another software package that is not free but accomplishes the same tasks as this software does plus other bells and whistles Like backing up the following: remote databases, remote websites, local disk partitions, Outlook data files, etc.  See this article for more info http://www.wesedholm.com/?p=220

If you run a small business and have accounting, inventory, customer and other business-critical files backed up locally but not in a remote location there is a small chance that you could find yourself up a proverbial shit creek without a backup.

Given the situation you do have a few options; you could do daily backups and then bring the external hard drive or backup CDs home with you at night or if you are connected to the Internet you can use a remote backup service. I did some research on remote backup services and found lots of companies that will install some software on your computer that automatically backs up all of your files every day and upload them to some place on the Internet. This means no matter what happens to your computers or data in-house you can always buy another computer and download your information from the Internet back to your local computer and get back to business as usual.

I backup my Outlook files, time sheets, photos, Photoshop and fireworks layouts for web design customers, my mind manager maps, my desktop wiki files, and many other files and folders that would be very easy to restore in the event of an unfortunate unforeseen event.

The remote backup software that I use also allows me to backup files from other computers on my network. It allows you to create individual backup job for files and folders with lots of different options for full control. It allows you to define which Web host to upload the data to as well is what kind of encryption you want to use for your data. If I need to restore a file I connect to my Web host via FTP, download the files or folders, then use the backup program to decrypt the files. You can only decrypt the files if you have the password; I use a 26 character long password that would take a supercomputer several weeks of hard work to crack.

Once you have uploaded your data the first time it will only upload the files that have changed.

If you are backing up a lot of data from several computers you will need lots of web hosting space; again I recommend Dreamhost because of the insane amount of hard disk space they offer.

Here are the steps I would need to go through in the event of a complete computer meltdown:

  1. Install the backup program on the new computer.
  2. Make sure I am connected to the Internet.  Broadband recommended.
  3. Connect to my Web host and download my files using an FTP program.
  4. Use the backup program to decrypt my files.
  5. Open up the files to make sure everything looks okay.
  6. Send the software creator a donation.

Now that I think about it this software does not sound it easy to use for a novice; I don’t even think that it is it easy to use and I am more of a power user. But once you get through the learning curve it is easy and I know my data is safe. The software I am using is called Black Moon; here is the link: Cobian’s site – The home of Cobian Backup

This software is totally free but I ended up giving the guy a donation anyway.

If you don’t have the time to go through the learning curve or have money coming out of your ears and just want to get your data backed up remotely no matter what the cost then I recommend you check out the commercial services available online.

October 2008 update: while this article deals with backing up the local machine to a remote location I have also written a couple other articles about backing up your remote information in databases down to your local machine. If you need to download/backup an MSSQL database automatically on schedule please see this post. Or for my SQL databases see this article.

Technorati Tags: Remote backup , hosted backup , encrypted , data security , open source , desktop , off-site