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The other day we got a call from a colleague whose hard drive had died. He lost a lot of information, largely because he had not backed up his machine. Equally embarrassing, some time ago we spoke with someone who had suffered a fire in his office, and both his computer and his backup disks were destroyed. While sophisticated corporations know they need to have offsite data storage, many small businesses and individuals simply don’t think about this.

We ourselves are big believers in offsite data storage, and an easy way to handle this is through the Internet. Our current favorite for on-line backup is IBackup. IBackup gives a number of browser based and downloadable application solutions for Windows, Linux/Unix, and Mac platforms.

• IDrive ASP is a specialized network drive for working with database like files directly on the servers. IDrive ASP supports QuickBooks, Act!, Access and others!

• There is a browser-based solution that allows you to upload and download files.

• IDrive Multimedia supports concurrent operations on a single file for many windows applications. It streaming ability for music and video, and is also recommended for databases.

• IDrive maps the on-line data so that it looks like an accessible local drive.

• You can use your FTP program. • IBackup for Windows allows both drag-and-drop between the desktop to the server, and automates backups.

For this article, our interest is IBackup for Windows. Once the IBackup software is downloaded and installed, backup is a three stage process.

First, you decide what you want to back-up. You can decide which specific directories and files should be backed-up. You can also choose categories, which include Outlook, Outlook Address Book, Outlook Express, Express Address Book. Desktop Items, My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, My Received Files, My Videos, My Favorites, MSN Messenger, Internet Explorer, Yahoo Messenger, Mozilla Firefox, Acrobat Reader, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Intuit Quicken, Intuit QuickBooks, Intuit Furbo Tax, Money, Access, Excel, Word, Powerpoint, OneNote, Autocad, Corel Draw, and WordPerfect. There is also a facility for backup and restore of SQL Server, Exchanger Server, and the system state.

The second step is to manually initiate a backup of these files, which will take some time, depending on how many files will be uploaded and the speed of your connection.

The final step is to schedule automatic backups. These are smart backups, and only transfer over new or changed files.

There is also the ability to synchronize the backed-up files with your computer, which will automatically get rid of on-line files that have previously been removed from your machine. There are other features available, but this gives a good overview of the system.

How much does this cost? Well, if you are an individual user, and need only five Gig or less it will cost you $9.95 a month or $99.50 a year. Ten GB is $19.95/199.50, and fifty Gig is $49.95/$499.50. Frankly, the combination of secure off-site storage, and the ability to access the files from anywhere we have Internet access makes this a good deal in our opinion.

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