Chuck Fields
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Protect your computer from Ransomware with automatic backups

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Are your files protected in the event of a hard drive crash or ransomware attack? Online backup services can help.

In this article we’ll look at how to set up automatic backups for your computers, at home and in the workplace. We’ll cover three main areas:

  1. Why you need automatic backups
  2. Automatic backup services
  3. How to setup automatic backups

Why you need “Automatic” backups

First and foremost, backups are important and critical. A backup service saved me a whole lot of frustration a couple of years ago one day as I realized my hard drive was crashing. By the end of the day I was able to replace my hard drive and restore all of my files from the backup service. What could have been a very bad experience and a huge waste of time turned out to be a good learning lesson and proof that the backup system I had in place worked. I’d like to help you avoid frustration as well. That’s why you need to setup an automatic backup service right away.

The operative word here is “Automatic”. Obviously, backups are important so that if something happens where you can’t access your computer, such as a virus or hard-drive crash, you need to be able to restore your files. But you can’t simply backup your computer manually every once and awhile by say, offloading them to a flash drive—you need to have a process in place that backs up your files automatically all the time. Backup should occur around the clock, especially whenever you add or modify files. This isn’t limited to photos and documents, but should also apply to emails as well.

It’s also important to save your backups to the right place. What do I mean? Well, say you connect your computer to an external hard drive for backups. But then a flood or fire happens that destroys both—then your backups are gone forever. Or let’s say you backup your files over your network to another drive, but then a ransomware or other virus corrupts all the files on your network. Everything’s lost. In another case, what if you backup files on a flash drive, but then lose it or it gets stolen? Then all your files could be viewed unless you took an extra step to password-protect them. There is a better way.

There are backup services that store your files offsite on another system outside of your network. Equally important, your files are encrypted as they are backed up to keep them private and secure. Let’s talk about some of the services available.

Automatic backup services

There are several services available that automatically backup files online for both personal and business use. These include: Carbonite, Mozy, Acronis and CrashPlan, to name a few. All of these services typically charge by the amount of storage you need and the number of computers which you need to backup.

Free Storage

Now some of these services offer free storage, which could be a very economical solution for your home or small business. These include iDrive, with up to 5Gb of free storage for an unlimited number of computers, to MozyHome, which allows up to 2 GB of free storage for up to three computers. Other services that offer free storage include SpiderOak One and OpenDrive.

Consider storage limits

However, note that whatever files you need to backup will increase over time, so it’s important to see what the storage limits are for the backup service you select. IDrive, for example, has a storage limit of 2 TB, while MozyHome caps storage at 50 GB. Services such as Backblaze, Carbonite and Crashplan offer unlimited storage.

Version History

Another important aspect to consider is something called “versioning”. Do you want just the latest version of a particular document backed up, or do you want a history of different versions? Sometimes it’s quite helpful to be able to go back a few weeks or more to an earlier version of a file, especially if a file was accidentally deleted or overwritten due to user error. Most backup services offer versions going back at least 30 days, with others offering a complete unlimited history. Obviously the further you want to go back for your files means you need higher storage limits, so consider that when you’re selecting a backup service.


Pricing obviously depends on which service you select, but can be very affordable. For example, CrashPlan for small business is currently just $10 per computer for unlimited storage—well worth it to keep your business protected. The free storage services such as iDrive and Mozyhome are great for your personal computers if you don’t need many files protected. Still others offer significant savings if you sign up for an annual plan, such as iDrive with plans currently about $75 per year for unlimited users and unlimited computers.

How to set up automatic backups

Once you select a service, setting up your automatic backups is pretty straightforward. This typically involves installing software on your computers which you want to backup. The software will walk you through configuring what to backup and when for your computer. Note that the first backup of all of your files can take several days. That’s not anything to worry about; it just takes so long since it runs in the background encrypting and uploading your files, but allows you to still use your computer without noticing all the work going on in the background. After the initial backup is done typically you won’t even notice the ongoing backup service from that point forward.

To ease your mind, you can usually view all of the files that are backed up, and can restore one or more as needed.

Note as an added service, some of the backup companies offer you the choice of restoring backups by downloading your files or getting the files overnighted to you on disk. That’s something you should consider, since, depending on how large your backup is it could take several hours or even days to download and restore all of your files. But either way, you’ll have complete access to getting your files back should the need arise. That means your business keeps going or your personal files are preserved, a great win-win in any case.

So take the time now to make sure you have an online backup service in place for your home or your business. It’s well worth the effort to keep your important files secure and make sure you can access them when you need to.

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