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Everything You Have to Know About Online Backups

Here are the most popular questions

we got from users so far:


What is Online Backup?

Online backup is the automatic transfer to remote online storage of data from a PC, or other device on which it has been created or saved. It does this securely, and keeps the data in its transferred form, ready for when it is next required, when it can be downloaded at any time and from anywhere with an Internet connection.  All files that are backed up are kept, and any that have been downloaded and edited are backed up and saved, too.


I don’t really create data; should I use online backup?

You might not think you create data, but do you save photos on your PC or mobile phone? Do you scan important household documents and certificates, or write official or legal letters now and again?  Anyone who does this is creating data, and that data is at risk if the only place you keep it is on your computer, or backed up to a CD or USB, because all are vulnerable to damage, theft, loss, computer virus, or human error.


Why is online backup so useful?

Online backup is useful, not just because it offers somewhere safe to keep important items but, once in place, it will do the backing up for you. You won’t have to keep remembering to do it, as you would with a CD or USB.  It will even work when you are not using the computer at all.


How does it work?

Once downloaded and installed, the system sits in the background of your PC without interfering with anything else you do. It can be set up to back up data on a continuous basis, or automatically to a schedule that you have chosen. It even encrypts your data so that, while it is being transferred to its remote destination, and all the time it is being stored there, no-one else but you will be able to access or decipher it.


I have a dial-up Internet connection; will I be able to use an online backup service?

It depends on the speed of your dial-up connection, and the size of the data you want to back up.  The very first back up may take a long time to carry out, perhaps taking days rather than hours. Once that initial backup has taken place, subsequent backups will be quicker because they will involve transferring smaller amounts of data, and may take just a few minutes even with a slow connection.


Why is it so important to transfer data to remote storage; surely once I’ve saved it to my PC, it is safe?

Anything you save to your PC is safe, but only for as long as your PC is safe. Computers are vulnerable to all sorts of risks from accidental damage, theft or loss, to computer virus, and human error.


Well, I already backup to a CD; doesn’t that keep it safe if something happens to my computer?

CDs and other portable devices like USBs are subject to the same risks as computers; in fact, they are even more at risk because they are small enough to lose.


What can I back up?

You can back up and transfer to online storage just about anything from photos, videos, and music, to documents of all kinds including spreadsheets, Power Point presentations, scans, and photocopies.


Is it expensive?

Signing up with an online backup service is not as expensive as you might expect.  Some offer free services that provide a limited amount of data storage space; these are good for users who have very few online backup and storage needs.  Some provide different levels of storage, and users can upgrade from one plan to another if they find that they need more space. There are some services that provide unlimited storage; prices will vary, but there are some who provide unlimited storage at low cost.


Fortunately, most providers have recognised that storage needs differ from one user to another. Nearly all of them have plans that provide a fairly basic level of storage, but at a low cost that makes it easily affordable.  For example, you may find a service that provides 10GB (gigabyte) of storage for just a few dollars a month. 10GB will store a lot of data, so this level will be suitable for many people.


Is there any way I can try a service for free before I commit?

Yes; most online backup services offer free trials lasting from between fourteen and thirty days. They will offer very limited storage and few features, but will give you an idea of how the service works, and whether it will suit you.


How do I find out more about online backup?

You can look online for ‘online backups’ which will present you with lots of websites to look through and compare, or you can look, again online, for online backup reviews; here you will find lots of information. There are many websites dedicated to testing and rating online backup services, and this is a great way to see comparisons.  If you know someone who already uses an online backup service, you can ask them for their advice, too.


Is it safe?

The security that online backup providers use is the same as that used by major banks for financial transactions. It will already be working for you if you use ATMs to withdraw money from your bank account. It is tried and tested around the world. The same security is also used by theUSmilitary for protecting sensitive information.


The security employed by online backup providers is described as ‘industry standard’, and several levels are used, from 128-bit SSL (Secure Socket Layer – a cryptographic protocol that provides security for communications on the Internet), to 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard – an algorithm for the encryption of electronic data), or 448-bit Blowfish, a software encrypter. Generally, 128-bit SSL is used for the transfer of data, and either 256-bit AES, or 448-bit Blowfish is used for keeping data encrypted while it is in storage.


Some online backup providers allow users to create their own password key; this provides an even higher level of security but comes with the warning that the user must keep his password safe at all times. If he loses it, the online backup provider will not be able to help him to recover it, and his data will be lost forever.


Your data is kept safe at all times – during transfer to online storage, and while it is there. Data is kept on servers in data centers that are manned around the clock, and guarded against any event or disaster, including earthquakes up to a magnitude of 7.5.


How safe are my files during transfer to online storage?

Your data will be encrypted prior to transfer to its online storage destination. Encrytption ensures that it becomes unreadable to anyone who may intercept it without the user’s authority.


How safe are the data centers in which transferred files are stored?

Occasionally a data center can experience problems, although this is rare. Many online backup services have redundant data sites on which they store transferred files in case the data center itself is compromised. This provides even greater security, so it’s worth finding out if the online backup service you choose offers this extra peace of mind.


Is it reliable?

Online data backup and storage is as reliable as it can be.  The technology may sound complicated but in practise it is quite simple, and once the user has set up the service of his choice, he will find that he can leave it to do its work without having to worry about it.


How do I choose a provider?

The best way to choose a provider is to study a selection of online backup websites, and compare them for features, storage space and price, to look at some online backup review sites, and to keep in mind your own data transfer and storage needs.


How much data can I back up?

You can back up as much as your plan allows. For example, if you choose a plan that provides 10GB of storage, you can back up to that amount.  Big businesses will need a lot more than domestic users.  If a user finds that his current plan does not provide enough space, he can upgrade to an account that provides more. Some providers allow users to buy additional storage incrementally.


What is a gigabyte (GB)?

A gigabyte, usually shortened to ‘GB’ when talking about online backup storage, is a unit of measurement that indicates the amount of data that can be stored on a computer or other device. Other measurements you may come across while researching online backup services are MB (megabyte), and TB (terabyte).


What happens if I try to back up more data than my plan will allow?

Most providers will allow you to exceed your storage quota, and will bill you accordingly. You will get a message warning you that you are storing more than your quota allows, and that you will be charged. If you regularly exceed your quota, it may well be worth upgrading your account to one that provides more storage, especially if you want to keep your running costs fixed.


Is online backup easy to install?

Yes, with most providers it is very easy, just a matter of signing up to a particular service, then downloading and installing the software; it usually takes just a few minutes to do this.  Users will find that most services provide a simple-to-understand, easy-to-use interface that will even suit someone with little knowledge of computers.


Do I need to purchase any special equipment, or have my PC adapted in any way?

No, all that is needed for you to enjoy an online backup service is downloaded via the provider’s website.


How can I be sure that my computer will be compatible with the software that needs to be downloaded from the website?

Most computers will be compatible with the online backup software. Some Mac users may find that they have fewer providers to choose from at present, but they will not have any problems finding one because there are many services that are compatible with Mac, too.


How easy is it to use?

Most online backup services are simple to use. The developers understand that many people are not technically-savvy, so they have worked hard to make their services easy to install, and to use.  Once downloaded and installed, it will take just a few minutes to set up; step-by-step instructions are usually provided to take you through the whole process. Most services have video tutorials or user manuals that you can access for extra guidance, and many have online support by way of email, live chat, or a telephone number.


Once your service is installed, and you have decided on how you want it to backup your data, that’s all there is to it. The service will back up your files without any further input from you.  Any features included will be explained in simple to understand language, too.


Does file size matter?

Yes, it does, depending on the provider. Some offer a maximum file size limit, and some don’t. If you regularly use large files, it makes sense to choose a provider that allows you to transfer such files without any problems. Some providers allow for manual backup so that users can transfer files individually.


How can I work out how much storage I will need for my data?

Data comes in many sizes and quantities, so how much you need depends on the type of files that you will be backing up.  If you want to back up digital music files or high resolution digital photos and videos on a regular basis, you will need a service that offers unlimited storage, or at least a generous amount. Choosing one that provides, say, 5GB may not be enough. Most providers have a selection of plans, so it should not be difficult to choose one that meets your needs. If you are going to be backing up letters and documents on an occasional basis only, the amount of space will not be as critical.


What features can I have with an online backup service?

Many useful features have been developed to enhance online backup services; these include file sharing, file versioning, syncing across multiple PCs and devices, and mobile access. Some services provide a ‘Locate my PC’ option which will track and locate your computer in the event of theft or loss.


How can I get my data back?

Restoration of data is just as important as its transfer and storage. Services vary in the way they restore data but they all make it as quick and efficient as possible, in most cases by the user simply accessing his account and downloading the files he requires.  A small number of files will not take long to recover but larger files, or larger amounts of files, may take some time.


Some online backup services offer a CD restore option whereby they will courier to the user a CD onto which the data they require has been restored. This is particularly useful if a lot of data is needed. There will be an additional charge for this.


My son and his family live abroad; will an online backup service enable us to send photos to each other?

Yes, it will. This is one of the bonuses of online backup and storage. You will be able to email your son with a link to the photos you have in storage or, with the file sharing option that is available with many online backup providers, you will be able to allow him to access the data for himself.


I run a small business; will an online backup service be good for me?

As a small business owner, you will really benefit from online backing up. All the data you produce in the course of your work will be encrypted and transferred to storage, safely and in complete privacy. If you work between your business and your home, you will be able to access your data from either; this works well for small businesses. Any data that you handle for clients will be kept secure and, if you have a file sharing feature, you will be able to let them access it, too, if necessary.


I run a club; will it benefit from an online backup?

A club of any type will benefit from an online backup service. Clubs generate a lot of data; they need to list forthcoming events, members’ details, subscriptions, photos of events, publicity, and so on.


I run an online store: how will online backup help me?

An online backup service will work very well for an online store. You will be able to keep all your transaction details safe, and also photographs and write-ups of your products, as well as scanned copies of delivery orders, notes, and receipts, and all the documents you need to keep safe for tax and legal purposes.


I work with a team and we often work on the same project; can an online backup service make life easier for us?

If you choose an online backup service that will allow you to sync data to other computers, all your team members will be able to access and work on the same data; new documents, and those that have been edited, will be synced automatically, ensuring that everyone is kept up to date. Some services will tag documents with an ID symbol, so that everyone knows which team member has carried out any work. All data synced in this way, is synced to online storage at the same time.


I work from an office in two different countries; will online backup help me?

Online backup is perfect for someone in this situation. Choose one that allows you to access data from a mobile device as well as from your computer, and you will be able to work on your files while you are travelling between offices, and between countries, as long as there is an Internet connection.


Our office has several computer users – can we be linked up to share the same files?

This is where the file sharing feature works well. Instead of having to email a link to someone to enable them to access a file, you will be able to allow them to access it directly from storage.


How many computers can I have on one online backup account?

It depends on the plan you subscribe to; if your plan provides unlimited data storage, it will be limited to one PC only to avoid having to store vast amounts of data. Accounts that offer specified amounts of storage will allow more than one computer to be backed up.


Will I be able to back up my company’s servers?

Yes, with the right kind of service, you will be able to back up your company’s own servers. Look for an online backup service with a ‘business’ option.


Can I use my iPhone or iPad with an online backup?

Most online backup websites will list details of the devices they support, and many of them work with iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Android, and so on, enabling files to be accessed while the user is on the move.


Can I let others have the same access to my data?

Yes, you can with a service that provides file sharing. You will need to give your permission to those with whom you want to share your data.


What if something goes wrong?

All online backup services offer customer support but the level and quality of such support varies between providers, and from one plan to another. The user who opts for a free account will have little in the way of constructive support beyond access to a forum or FAQs. Paid-for plans offer more support, but this can still vary from basic to really useful. The best support includes the usual forum and FAQs, along with video tutorials and user manuals for extra guidance, but with the facility for a user to email, telephone or chat live with a real person whenever the need arises.


When comparing online backup services it is important to compare the level of support being offered by each one, because they can vary considerably.


Will my online backup service work even if my PC is switched off?

No; your computer will need to be on because the online backup service needs the Internet connection to be able to back up your data.  However, you can set up your service to do your backing up while you are carrying out other computer tasks like checking your emails. Once the initial backup has been completed on installation of the service, all following backups will take just a few minutes a day.


What happens if the backup is interrupted by something like a power cut?

If a backup is interrupted, most online backup services will detect this and, when power is restored, will continue the backup from the point of interruption.


What if I want to delete files from storage?

With most online backup providers, you will be able to control how much data is stored. The software will allow you to view all your files and remove them from the server if you wish. It’s important to bear in mind that, once a file has been deleted, it may be impossible for you to restore it at a later date.


How do I pay for my online backup service?

Most online backup services quote monthly charges, and users can pay by the month or by the year. In some cases, discounts are offered for long term plans that are paid for in advance. For example, the quoted monthly charge may be $4.95 but, if a user takes out a year’s plan and pays for it upfront, he could be charged $49.50, which gives him twelve months for the price of ten. Some providers offer plans that cover two, and even three, years.


How is my payment collected?

Subscription charges are generally paid via credit or debit card on the same day each month or, if over a longer term, the same day each year. The amount won’t change unless you have exceeded your storage quota; it’s a good idea to find out how much your provider charges for increased storage.


What happens to my data if my payment fails?

Occasionally, users may experience a problem with their payments. If this happens, most services will notify the account holder, and will probably make another attempt to collect the payment a few days later. If the payment fails again, your account may be suspended for a few days to give you time to sort out the problem, but it will be cancelled if payments stop altogether.


What if I want to cancel my service?

If you decide that the service does not meet your requirements, you will need to consult your provider to find out how to cancel your subscription. Some have a ‘Cancel Services’ link on their websites, but others may require you to call their accounts department.  Your files will be deleted from online storage once your account has been cancelled, so it’s a good idea to restore your data beforehand. Some services may provide a Recovery CD service.


What else do I need to know?

With any service, it’s always a good idea to find out as much as possible about it. All online backup services will have their own Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service (also known as ‘Terms of Use’, or ‘Terms and Conditions’). Reading these will give you an in-depth knowledge of how the service works, and what to do if issues arise.