Organizing Computer Files: Choosing a Backup Solution That Works for You

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Whether your computer holds business documents, personal records or photos, backing up your files is an important — and often neglected — task.  We’ve all heard from people who’ve had their hard drive crash and lost all of their data. A friend of mine lost all of the photos from her son’s first six weeks of life. She was devestated, as you can imagine!

There are many reasons that we put this task off week after week and year after year. The cost of external storage, while significantly less than it’s been in the past, can still be a strain on a tight budget. Other times, we put off setting up an online backup account simply because we really don’t think it will happen to us — until it does.

There are dozens of different options available for reliable and secure backups, but today I’m going to touch on just five of them. My hope is that you’ll take a few minutes this weekend to set up your backup so that you don’t write to me in six months or a year and tell me that you wish you had because you just lost everything!


Mozy was the first online backup solution I came across, and I used it faithfully until we moved to a house that only had satellite internet, making picture backups painfully slow. At $5 a month, this service is inexpensive enough to justify the cost in almost any budget. Even better, if your data consists of mostly documents and spreadsheets rather than pictures and music, you can set up a free account with 2 GB of storage space.

Mozy automatically backs up the latest version of a file after even the smallest change. Their data is encrypted and secure during transfer and while in storage. Backups can be scheduled so that they run automatically, and maintenance backups are generally very fast (unless you’re adding a lot of pictures or music in between them) as Mozy searches for and backs up only the files that have changed since the last backup.


Carbonite is another online backup solution. They do not offer monthly payment plans, but their yearly plan is the same as Mozy’s (essentially $5/mo with one month free) at $54.95. An important difference between the two plans is that Carbonite also gives you remote access to your files from any computer anywhere with your username and password!

USB Thumb Drive

If you’d prefer to have your backups physically in your posession, USB thumb drives are a popular alternative. Starting under $10 (for a 2GB thumb drive), thumb drives are a great choice for someone who is backing up documents and spreadsheets and wants their files to be portable and easily transferred between computers.

An obvious danger of any physical backup is that the hardware can break or get lost or stolen. Another downside of using thumb drives is your backups are no longer automatic and you’ll have to take the time every day or every week to do them manually.

External Hard Drive

External hard drives (like the Seagate FreeAgent Go I’m currently giving away!) are a more sophisticated alternative to thumb drives. While you still deal with the negative aspects of having hardware that can get broken, lost or stolen, the FreeAgent Go also has a docking station and proprietary software package that allows you to set up scheduled backups. External hard drives also hold significantly more data and allow you to easily access and transfer your files between computers.


Finally, in the absence of any of the above backup solutions, you can simply back up your files to CD or DVD. Chances are that you’re not going to want to do this daily, and you’re probably going to end up with dozens of discs fairly quickly, but something is better than nothing when it comes to backing up files!

If you currently back up your files, what service or hardware do you use? If not, what’s stopping you?

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About the Author

Mandi Ehman

Hi. My name is Mandi and I’m an organizing junkie. I’m also a wife, and Momma to four little girls (5, 3.5, 2 and a new baby!). I've worked at home since our oldest was a baby, and like a lot of other moms, my life is a constant balancing act of caring for my family and my home, meeting my obligations and finding time for hobbies in there somewhere. Oh, yeah, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m somewhat of a kitchen dunce and I only like to pretend that I’m crafty. Read more here!

3 Responses to “ Organizing Computer Files: Choosing a Backup Solution That Works for You ”

  1. It should be noted that Carbonite will not backup external hard drives. I tried them first and then went to Mozy because I have all of my pictures on one external hard drive and wanted those backed up.

    In the interest of full disclosure, however, I couldn’t justify the expense and length of time necessary to backup off site, so I’m winging it with local backups!


  2. We’re using Mozy to backup 3 computers & nearly 200 GB of data. We’re also using the IDrive portable to do local backups. We’re broken down the pros & cons of Online Backups vs. external drives. Over many years, online backups may cost a bit more, but they’re so much simpler and I feel better having my data offsite.

    There are plenty of online backup coupon codes available, giving substantial discounts.
    Online Backups Review´s last blog ..Mozy to Power eYun Online Backups in China My ComLuv Profile


  3. I use SuperDuper and two external hard drives – one of which I keep in my purse. SuperDuper lets me create a bootable hard drive – if I ever need to, I can connect the drive to another Mac, and be back in business immediately.
    Jeri Dansky´s last blog ..How to Shop So You Don’t Wind Up with Clutter My ComLuv Profile


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