Back ’Er Up, Fellas

By Jonathan Plutchok

At the Tool Bar & Grill, we encourage all our patrons to cut calories, sample all the food groups in their proper proportions, eat plenty of fiber, and back up their computer files frequently. Everyone agrees it’s right, but how many really follow through?

Be proud of yourself if you bother to back up your files at all. Remember, though, if you copy your files to another folder on your hard drive, consider the consequences if your hard drive dies. If you back up to an external hard drive or to removable media (CDs, DVDs, etc.) and store them next to your computer, what will happen if there’s a fire or earthquake?

I know I would sure hate to lose all the letters and e-mails I’ve written to Shania Twain, so recently I started evaluating free backup utilities that make it easier to copy and store valuable data. I will report my findings in a future post.

The safest approach is to store file backups on safe media in a secure place other than where you work. One way to do that is to use the Internet. So today we review free Web-hosted backup and file storage services.

On-Line Data Backup

If you want secure off-site backup for free, consider the advantages of Web-based services: security (with encryption), immediate access from any computer, the ability to share stored files with others, and no need for buying, burning, and storing discs. On the down side, uploading lots of files can take a long time, especially for a full backup. (Later incremental backups take less time, and can be done in the background). And some sites limit the volume of file transfers or the total amount you can store for free, though you can always buy more.

Here are some of the major sites that are focused on backing up your data and are likely to be reliable. (The descriptions of all the sites assume you register for a free account.)

  • Xdrive: This AOL subsidiary provides 5 GB of on-line storage for free and gives you handy backup software that enables you to drag and drop files to Xdrive and to schedule unattended backups.
  • Mozy: Provides 2 GB of on-line storage for free and relatively flexible and efficient backup software.
  • MediaMax: On-line storage up to 25 GB, but transfer volume is limited to 1 GB per month. The backup software is in beta, and is not as feature-rich as some others.
  • BeInSync: This service is primarily intended for synchronizing specified folders on two or more computers, but also provides 1 GB of on-line storage and automatic backup software.

The following sites offer file storage but do not provide specific backup functions:

  • GigaSize: Unlimited storage for free, but for only 90 days. The size of any one uploaded file is capped at 1.5 GB, and downloads per day are limited. The provided file management software does not include automatic backup features.
  • Files-Upload: Unlimited storage, but uploaded files cannot exceed 1 GB each for FTP transfers (300 MB for HTTP transfers). Downloads are limited to 30 files at a time, and files are deleted after six months if left untouched.
  • MediaFire: Unlimited storage but limited to 100 MB per file.
  • RapidShare: Unlimited storage but limited to 100 MB per file.
  • 4shared: 1 GB of on-line storage, and basic file uploading software.
  • FileFactory: Limited to 10 files of no more than 300 MB each. Basic file uploading software is provided.
  • Gspace: If you have a Gmail account, you probably have over 2 GB of mailbox space lying around empty. Gspace is a FireFox browser add-on that enables you to store files in your Gmail account as if they were e-mails. Uploading is slow, though, and don’t upload everything at once because Google might block Gmail accounts with large data transfers (such as 1 GB in a day).

If your primary backup needs are photographic, consider using backing up your photos and videos to one of the many picture-sharing sites. Among those with relatively generous on-line storage policies:

Update Bulletin: ZoneAlarm Firewall for Vista

ZoneAlarm is one of the most popular firewalls, and deservedly so. Last week, ZoneAlarm released its newest version, 7.1, which now is compatible with Windows Vista. It is free for personal and nonprofit use, and you can download it from For users of Windows XP and earlier, I stand by my previous firewall recommendation, Comodo Firewall from

We care about your health and your computer’s health here at Jonathan’s Tool Bar & Grill. Please send your comments and suggestions to ]]