For quite some time I have been touting the benefits of having a portable backup sitting on your computer desk to securely hold your irreplaceable pictures, files and other items near and dear to your heart. Having this device at the ready allowed you to sleep well and fend off nightmares of the inevitable when you go to check your email one day and there is no sign of life coming from your computer. At this defining moment in your life, you are overjoyed that you listened to sage advice and bought a portable backup device, but consider this conversation I recently had with a new client. She told me she had backed everything up on jump drives and a portable hard drive. “I always thought two backups were better than one but thieves broke in the back door and stole not only my computer but also both my jump drives and my portable backup. Now I have lost all of my pictures.” What a sad tale. I recommended she use Carbonite or Mozy as an online backup solution.
Recently, a client wanted my opinion on a relocation of his office and a review of his current technology situation. He was told when he first moved into his current building that he needed a client-server type of network for his office and he wondered if that was still his best option since his server was older and the cost of maintaining his network was increasing. A few years ago I would probably have suggested he reinvest in a new server and continue to run his office the same way, but today we have cloud computing and anyone who spends hard earned money on a server is just wasting that money. I recommended he use a virtual server from Google and store all of his files on RackSpace to save a LOT of money in hardware and IT costs.
For the home user who just wants a secure place to store and possibly share pictures, there are a number of options, but one of the most popular is PhotoBucket. This is a free service that allows you to store your photos and share them with anyone you like. It also will share them with your Facebook friends with a click of your mouse. DropBox and Google Docs allow you to store and share files with friends or colleagues. If there is a project you are working on with others, Google docs or Wiki are ideal places to store files and allow those persons you authorize to read and modify documents, spreadsheets, graphics, etc. so that you can receive input from all members of the group. When replacing computers there is really no need to spend extra for the mega-hard drives. If you are storing files in the cloud, why do you need a terabyte of hard drive space?
Besides being incredibly convenient, reliable backup and up-time solution, cloud computing and storage also saves money in setup and on-going IT costs. Most cloud computing companies will setup your backup or your server sharing for you with very little or no cost. If you have any issues with your backup or server operation, these cloud computing companies are ready to help. For server sharing operations, many of these companies include a support package of varying levels depending on your level of sharing but in any case, they are generally cheaper than having an IT department or having to call a professional service to manage your network.
Backup companies like Carbonite and Mozy are inexpensive ways to allow you to rest well knowing your valuables are safe for when the unspeakable happens. They are very cost effective as well. The cost of a portable hard drive is about $150 while a cloud backup is about $5 per month. The life expectancy of a portable hard drive is about two years so you are money ahead with cloud backups.
Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services in Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (480) 753-7667.