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How to build a bulletproof cloud backup system without spending a dime

Rick Broida | May 2, 2013
The no-cost guide to backing up photos, documents, and more.

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who have lost critical data, and those who will. In other words, if you use technology long enough and neglect to back up your data, you're guaranteed to have at least one extremely bad day. Whether it's theft, loss, fire, flood, corruption, or some form of malware, a single incident can destroy the lion's share of your family photos, personal documents, address books, years-in-the-making music library, and more.

The solution, of course, is to back up everything. You probably know how to purchase an external hard drive and plug it in to your computer to make regular full-system backups, but that can be an inconvenient, time-consuming task. What's more, that drive is vulnerable in the face of fire or burglary.

Backing up to the cloud--for fee or for free

That's why many users turn to the cloud, relying on services like Carbonite and MozyHome to archive their critical data. These are good solutions, but they'll cost you. Carbonite, for example, charges $59 per year per computer. If you want protection for yourself, your spouse, and maybe a couple of kids, you're looking at a potentially hefty annual bill.

Thankfully, you have other options for making backups. If you're willing to spend a little extra time, you can protect all your data--both locally and in the cloud--without spending a dime. The key is creating what I call a diversified backup: One that puts different kinds of data in different places.

Start with your bookmarks

I've spent years amassing a library of bookmarks. Losing it would be devastating. Luckily, all my Internet favorites are already preserved even if my PC crashes. That's because I use Google Chrome as my browser, which syncs my bookmark data across multiple devices--passwords, too. Whenever I need to add a device, it's a simple matter of installing Chrome and signing into my Google account. Like magic, all my favorites appear.

Sync your Chrome bookmarks to your Google account, and you'll be able to access your favorite websites from anywhere, no matter what happens.

Firefox offers this feature as well. Getting it set up requires a bit more work, as you have to create an account first, but in the end you'll have the equivalent of an automated backup of your bookmarks, history, passwords, and even installed add-ons.

If you use Internet Explorer or Safari, you can accomplish much the same thing by installing Xmarks, which syncs your bookmarks (and, if desired, your open tabs and history) with the Web and your other PCs. It works with Chrome and Firefox as well, but I see little reason to choose it over those browsers' built-in tools.


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