THE GREAT BACKUP IN THE CLOUDS

MiMediaWe have so many pitches from manufacturers who want us to write about their backup systems, that we’re, well, pretty backed up. Now we can look at them from a distance.

Bob recalls reading that Gay Talese of the New York Times would sometimes tape his stories to a wall before he turned them in. He would then read them through binoculars from the other end of the news room. He felt this would literally give him perspective. So here’s our perspective (sans binoculars):

Like most things, there are two way to look at this. You can back up your files and some programs to an external hard drive sitting on your desk, or you can back them up to a drive out there in the cosmic ether. The advantage of backing up to your own hard drive is that it’s right there in the office. It’s also cheaper. The disadvantage is if a disaster destroys the office, it’s likely to get the backup drive too. If you leave the office and leave the backup drive, you’re out of touch.

Backing up everything to an online service is the probably the safest way to go, even if you also use storage drives. Of course it costs more, and it takes more time — at least the first time: It can take more than 24 hours if you need to store 100 gigabytes.

MiMedia has a postal solution. (The Post Office lives!) First they mail you an encrypted drive which you plug into your computer and choose what you want to store. You mail it back and they put it online for you. Once the first transfer is complete, the software automatically backs up additions without any more trips to the Post Office. It works with smart phones too. There’s a 30-day free trial at MiMedia.com.

Bob doesn’t like the deal. The cost, for instance, is $49 a year to store 25 gigabytes. For $99 a year, they let you store 100 gigabytes. Of course, for $99 you can buy a hard drive that stores five times as much and you only pay once. Our MiMedia online files were painfully slow to load, and we didn’t like how they were organized: Our least-used folders were all on top and we couldn’t find our favorite pictures. A lot of non-video files showed up in the video category

There are several online backup services and a Google search will reveal them all. The most popular right now is Mozy.com. They charge $6 a month to store 50 gigabytes. That’s a little more expensive than MiMedia’s price for 100 gigabytes, and you have to do the uploading yourself — no postal deals. They have discontinued their unlimited storage service, since unlimited these days is way big. You can store 2 GB free if you download a small utility from mozy.com/home/free .They store your files with the same security online banks use during data transfer, if that makes you feel better.

Our favorite backup system is the “Clickfree” drive from GoClickfree.com. They have several sizes, and prices range from $99 for a 250GB small portable size (comes in red) to $250 for a one TB (terabyte) drive that can be used either with a cable or wireless. For $130 they have a 32GB solid state drive the size of a credit card. You can slip that one in your wallet. It’s a high price, but that’s because of the software.

Clickfree starts backing up files as soon as it’s plugged into a computer, Windows or Mac. They also make a tiny cable connector for $80 that turns any external hard drive into a Clickfree system when you connect it to a computer, iPhone or iPod. Web site is goclickfree.com.

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