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How to back up a Mac: Four types of backup all Mac users should be using

David Fanning | March 8, 2016
What's the best and most secure method of backing up a Mac?

Since Dropbox launched in 2009, it seems every major international technology company wants in on the game. Currently Microsoft, Amazon, Google and even Apple are offering some kind of free online storage. Which is great, but a little confusing. So here's how to choose the best fit for your needs.

First of all, how much stuff do you need to secure? If you're already using another backup system, it shouldn't be too much, as it only needs to be documents you are currently working on. If you are never working on more than 15GB of data in a day, and if you are diligent, and careful, live backup can cost you nothing.

For the less disciplined, or people that work on larger amounts of data in a day, a paid service is sensible. The good news is that the paid services are reasonably priced. You just need to figure out how much storage you need.

The best way to answer that question, is to look at the current size of your documents folder, and allow for a little expansion in the future. One of the great things about a live backup, is that it is kept synched with multiple computers. So if you are using multiple computers, perhaps consider the size of the combined documents folder, again with some room for expansion.

If your requirements are between 20GB and 200GB, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon all have good deals, ranging from £6-£36 per year. If you think it's likely you'll tip over the 200GB mark, Microsoft appears to have the best deal at the moment, offering 1TB for just £7 per year (at the current exchange rate, as it's charged in dollars at $4.99 per month), but that's still not necessarily the best option. If a laptop is one of the devices sharing the live backup folder, it's unlikely there would be room to take advantage of the whole 1TB. So iCloud and Dropbox Pro are both strong contenders at £83.88 and £95.88 respectively. As they both have features that might tempt Apple users.

If over 500GB of storage is required, and I think that's something of a rare requirement for the average user, things can get pretty pricey. With Amazon charging £1,000 per year. So for those users, the budget conscious would choose Microsoft's bargain offering. Others looking for a more fully featured experience would certainly be best off with Dropbox. Although if you happen to be using Microsoft Office 365, its yearly subscription license for Office, you actually get 1TB included.

The third line of defence: Remote backup

We've covered the quick ways to recover from a failed drive, and we've discussed live backups for the files you work on day to day. But a live backup won't restore a whole drive, and a local backup is still susceptible to bigger disasters, like fire, flood and theft. So to be absolutely sure you'll never lose a file, no matter what flavour of disaster, an off site backup is essential.


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