The term “the cloud" can mean many things but for the purposes of this article, I’m talking about a service provider who allows you to back up data to their facility. This has several benefits over just using a local USB drive at your home. If you were to have a fire at home, you could lose your USB backup as well as the computer you are backing up. Why spend money on extra hard drives that are prone to failure?
Before you get started, you need to pick a cloud service provider. You can take a look at a roundup of free cloud storage providers here on Brighthub.com. I can also recommend services such as CrashPlan, Backblaze and Carbonite. CrashPlan, Backblaze and Carbonite all offer a yearly plan under $60 with unlimited data storage. This is important –especially if you plan on backing up large video files.
Since I personally use CrashPlan, I will show you how to get started and how to backup and access your files. Other providers will be similar, but be sure to read the instructions specific to your provider.
Backing up Using CrashPlan
To get started with a service provider like CrashPlan, visit their site and pick out a plan that’s right for you. In the case of CrashPlan, you can pay month-to-month or sign up for a subscription for one year or more. The longer the term, the cheaper the monthly cost is. Once you have signed up, you’ll need to download the backup client and install it on the computer you want to back up.
Once installed, you will typically need to enter your subscription credentials into the backup program to link it to your subscription.
Next, we need to pick what we want to backup. Will you backup everything on your computer or just important files and folders? Using the Backup Tab, we’ll click the Change button to select which files and folders to back up (Figure 1).
It’s also a good idea to look at the settings tab and determine when backups should be performed. In the case of CrashPlan, we can tweak things like CPU use and whether or not to do backups when a user is using the computer (Figure 2). The backup tab will let you specify when backups will run. CrashPlan lets you do continuous backups so as file changes are detected, the client will add them to the backup queue. You can also tweak your network settings under the network tab.
Once you have made your selections CrashPlan will start backing up. If you have a lot of data (1TB or more) be prepared for the backup to take weeks or more. Once things are uploaded to the cloud, only changes will be uploaded again so once CrashPlan catches up with the initial set of backups future backups will go much quicker.
Most cloud backup providers will allow you to restore files from either their web interface or from the client installed on the machine you are backing up. Note that restoring via the web is typically best for retrieving a few files or folders – not for a massive restore. The main benefit of doing a web restore is the convenience that you can access your data from any internet computer. To do a web restore from CrashPlan, navigate to their site, log in and click the Restore button next to your computer. You will be presented with an explorer view where you can select the files you want to restore.
Using the installed client is a bit easier – just click the restore tab and select the items you wish to restore. You can also perform a search based on file name (Figure 4).
I hope you have found this article useful. Don’t be left wondering why you didn’t back up your files to an external source. Look into doing some kind of cloud based backup – whether you use the free services provided by Google or Microsoft or if you want to have some automation built in and use a provider like CrashPlan.