At least once a year, I take a call from a friend or family member who is despondent because they've lost pictures or video or other critical data stored on their computer. Sometimes they accidentally delete a file or folder. Or worse, a hard drive dies, taking all their data to the grave.
I listen and try to have empathy. I really do, yet I can usually predict the answer to the question I'll ask next: "Do you have a backup of your files?" It's probably a good thing they are explaining their situation to me over the phone when they tell me, no, they did not have a backup.
When I worked in sales and customers asked me for my advice on data backup, I would tell them to purchase an external drive from us at the same time they order a new computer. That way, our technicians will configure the backup service in Windows 10, and all you have to do upon delivery is connect the drive to your computer and turn it on.
I'll bet most of you reading this article have a backup of your most important files. But I'll bet you have friends and family who don't, and that's what I want to talk about today. Before you take that dreaded call that data has been lost, you might be able to help them by recommending one of these three online backup services, all of which have a no-cost plan:
My Top Pick: Dropbox Basic
The free version only gives you 2 GB worth of storage. Of all the other services I've tried, this is the easiest to use which makes it my first choice for friends and family who aren't backing up anything today.
You install it, point it at a folder and it does the rest. Give it 30 minutes or so and your files will be backed up to the cloud and available from any browser or smartphone. I can't tell you how many times Dropbox has come to my rescue.
My 2nd Place Pick: Microsoft OneDrive
OneDrive is part of Windows 10 so you probably already have it. Microsoft gives you 5 GB of free storage which is great!. If you use Office 365, Microsoft gives you a full 1 TB of storage. I use OneDrive as a backup to Dropbox, just in case. I still find Dropbox to be easier for beginners to configure and more intuitive to use, but OneDrive continues to improve and is now a good alternative to Dropbox.
My 3rd Place Pick: Google Drive
The best part of Google Drive is that you get 15 GB of free storage. I find it to be more confusing to use than Dropbox or OneDrive, but if you are a fan of Google's service like Gmail or Photos, this might be a good option given its tie-in to those and other Google products.
All of these options include mobile apps for Android and iOS and all make it easy to share files with Mac users. OneDrive and Google Drive are excellent products and worth the effort if you are drawn to their other products.
But for most people who do not have a backup solution, I recommend Dropbox. At the very least, get started with a Dropbox Basic account and backup 2 GB worth of your most important files. That's a start and that's often the hardest part of any project.
For what it's worth, I also backup my computer to an external drive. But if my computer or drive are destroyed or stolen, I'm covered with Dropbox.