Thursday, December 12, 2013

Online Backup and Data Syncing Options

Do you need online backup? The obvious answer is yes if you are concerned about having your data saved in case anything goes wrong with your system, but there are a other reasons as well. For me:
  • I used to carry USB drives around everywhere (and I still use them as an alternative backup), but with online storage, I can access my stuff from any internet-connected device, including my smartphone.
  • An online syncing service gets rid of the multiple versions of files. I work at home, and when I go to work, the latest version of the file gets synced. 
  • If you have a large file you want to send to someone, rather than trying to email it, it's much easier to store it online and share.
  • If I have taken a bunch of photos at some event that I want to share with a group, it's easiest to do it this way. (
  • I needed a way to keep the notes I make in BibleWorks in sync so that whether I added or edited something on one machine, it would show in the other.
For at least a couple years, I've recommended Sugarsync for online backup. The reasons for doing so were because A) it was free, B) you got 5GB free which was more than most were offering at the time, and C) and most importantly, unlike other such services, Sugarsync allowed you to choose which (sub)folders to sync rather than forcing you to put everything in a designated folder. With BibleWorks, that meant that you could do the normal installation, then use Sugarsync and point to the BW9 subfolders you wanted to sync. Sweet!

Sugarsync has now announced that they are discontinuing the free service and only offering paid services. You can't blame them, and it's not terrible expensive, but it is clearly geared for somewhat larger operations, since the minimum account starts at 60GB. If you are wanting to back up a bunch of pictures in addition to your data, it might be a good deal. For me, I'm backing up all my BibleWorks notes and some other related data along with all my daily working stuff, and I have less than 10GB. (I have external hard drives for backing up all the big stuff like pictures and music.)

So, if you are looking for a free online storage option, there are a few things you want to consider:
  • Cost
  • Amount of storage
  • Focus of service: Is it intended simply for backup up data (and not necessarily sync)? How easily does it sync? Is it mainly intended for online document collaboration? How easy is it to share documents or folders with others?
  • Does it have a desktop application to help make things easier to manage?
  • What other platforms does it support? All of these are available through any web browser, but some have apps for Android or Apple mobile devices.
  • How does the syncing work? This is important. Dropbox and Box have their own folder, and you need to put things in that folder to have them sync. Given the way you probably have your folder structure organized, this can be very inconvenient. SugarSync was easiest in allowing you to simply point to any folder in your existing structure to sync. Copy does have a different but still easy way to leave your folder structure intact.
If you mainly wait free backup and storage, consider these, and note that Google Drive and SkyDrive also work well for collaborative editing and sharing:

  • Amazon Cloud Drive – 5GB free - You can save any digital content here, but it is not intended as a syncing service. 
  • Google Drive – 15GB free - Not really a syncing service, but you can use Insync to do so. I have used Google Drive a lot in my classes for students to work collaboratively on documents, create forms and surveys, etc.
  • SkyDrive – 7GB free - Part of Microsoft's online suite. If you are using Microsoft Office, this is a good way to share docs and collaborate on them. It also is a nice way for letting students see your PowerPoint slideshows.
 If you are also interested in syncing your data, consider these:
  • Dropbox – 2+GB free - Dropbox really needs you to keep things in its Dropbox folder. (It is possible to make this work with the set folder of my BibleWorks note, but you would need to move your BW folders into Dropbox and then change a bunch of file paths by editing the bs900.ini file. Or, I suppose you could create symbolic links, but that's a pain too.) Apps for Android, Apple, BlackBerry, and Kindle.
  • Box – 10GB free - Like Dropbox, Box wants everything to sync in its own folder. You can set a different default folder, but it requires that you edit your Windows registry or do the symbolic links thing. Not ideal... (Looks to be similarly tricky on a Mac.) Android and Apple apps are available.
  • SugarSync - My old favorite... $75/year for 60GB of storage. Easy syncing; apps for desktop, Android, and Apple.
  • Copy - 15GB free - This works well and 15GB to boot! Has its own syncing folder, but you can create shortcuts (Win) or aliases (Mac) to other folders, and simply put them in the Copy folder. Apps for Apple, Android, and Windows.
How do I keep all these services straight? Here is the best tip of all for you.
  • Jolicloud – This is an online site that provides a way to aggregate all your accounts (including FB, Google+, Flickr, Picasa, etc.... but not Copy). You can even use it to view your docs or pics or listen to music right from that web page. Free (for now, at least!) and highly recommended.
BOTTOM LINE: I use GoogleDrive for collaborative work. For online storage and syncing Copy looks like an outstanding solution. Then use Jolicloud to keep track of where you've stored all your stuff!