If you need more storage than the 2GB that Dropbox offers, and you don’t require mobile access, the 5GB of free cloud storage available with LaCie Wuala may be just the ticket. The service lets you sync files between multiple computers and share folders with friends, and it adds a welcome touch of security by encrypting all files before they leave your hard drive.
If you move between two or three computers on a regular basis, automatically synching user folders between them can be helpful. Services such as SugarSync and Windows Live SkyDrive can sync any folders you designate, no matter where they are on your system.
SugarSync offers up to 5GB of synched storage for free, which is plenty for storing Word documents and spreadsheets. If you want to include all your photos and videos, however, you’ll probably need more capacity. Pricing starts at $50 (£30).
If you prefer, you can transfer large files using a free tool such as FileZilla or YouSendIt.com. The latter is really intended only for occasional use; you’ll need to buy a subscription for more regular use.
Moving files from one drive to another can eat up system resources, cause your PC to slow down, and take longer than it should. TeraCopy reduces transfer times by optimising file data operations and permitting asynchronous transfers. It also lets you pause and resume large file transfers.
Don’t discount what came with your PC. Windows 7 is able to burn CDs and DVDs within Windows Explorer. For XP or Vista, try CDBurnerXP.
The cloud won’t necessarily be for you but, even if you store data locally, backing up a whole hard drive can take weeks. Once the initial backup is done, incremental backups take almost no time and run in the background. Restoring data is usually quick and painless if you want to recover a recent version of a specific file, but could take days if you need to run a total system recovery.
Plenty of online and offsite backup options are available that make use of a web connection to transfer files, but many people will prefer more than a simple password and username login to an online holding site.
If it’s your precious dissertation research or plans for expanding your business empire, you’ll want more reassurance that those documents are going to be accessible even if you temporarily lose web access. The obvious choice is a NAS drive or a protected external hard drive. The best of these feature in our Top 5 charts (page 141). Note, though, that the promised encryption and hardware locks do not always work outside Windows.
If you need to back up entire hard drives of data every week, look to a web-hosting company such as 1&1 Internet or Strato. As well as added security and guaranteed access to any backup you require, you’ll get your own domain for a small-business website. Such sites come with templates to help you set up an online shop (for advice on how to set up a shop using 1&1 MyBusiness Site, see here.
You may find a modicum of web space and, potentially, your own IP address when you sign up to a broadband package. To ensure that you and your customers are able to access your site at all times, it’s far better to stump up for a basic business-broadband package than to try to get by on a potentially flaky home-broadband solution. Should your business connection go down, you’ll not only get priority service in getting it back up and running, but you’ll be covered by a service level agreement (SLA), offering compensation for any lost earnings.