How to Backup Your Documents Online for Free

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2012 Update

Disregard everything below (it was from 2006). Instead, if you want to backup your computer online, I recommend the following:

For PC: Dropbox gives you 2mb free and 50mb is reasonably priced.

For Mac: Dropbox gives you 2mb free and 50mb is reasonably priced. If you are going to pay for a plan, Backblaze gives you unlimited backup for one computer, which is great if you have a lot of music and videos that take up extra space.

Original Post from 2006

Most law students know that losing their notes from a computer crash in the middle of a semester can be devastating. Fortunately, backing up your notes and documents is now easier than ever.

I recently tried two free online backup services. They were great:

Xdrive.com is currently was my favorite. It offers 5 gigabytes of free online storage. It also provides a little utility to schedule automatic backups (this might not be available for Mac owners). This allows you to automatically back up your computer daily or weekly from anywhere connected to the internet. APRIL 2007 UPDATE: Unfortunately, I have had trouble logging in, Xdrive consistently fails to complete the backup process, and I have read a number of reports that when people try to restore their backed-up data from Xdrive, the data is corrupted.  What good is a backup if you can’t rely on it to restore your files when you need them.  For these reasons, I no longer use or recommend Xdrive.com. Xdrive was recently purchased by AOL, so maybe these problems will get fixed.

MediaMax.com (aka streamload.com) offers 25 gigabytes of storage for free! But it doesn’t have the utility to schedule backups that Xdrive has, so it’s not as convenient for busy law students. However, for students who need a huge amount of backup space, this would be perfect.

The one catch with MediaMax.com is they restrict restoring from your backup. That is, you can only download 1 gigabyte per month unless you pay for a small subscription. This means that if your hard drive crashes, you may need to buy a subscription to restore the entire 25 gigabytes at once.

How Much Storage Do I Need for My Backup?
Most law students keep their notes and class documents on Microsoft Word files. So they need less than 10% of a gigabyte. In other words, Xdrive’s 5 gigabytes is far more than they will ever need to backup their class notes. Videos, music, and powerpoint presentations may use more space. But still, 5 gigabytes is the equivalent to about six CDs.

Are Online Backups Needed if I Already Backup to CD or DVD?
Online backups have some benefits over traditional backup methods. First, if there is a fire and your CD backups burn, your notes are toast. Second, Xdrive some services can run automatically while you sleep, so you never forget nor need to take time to do the backup.

Are There Other Restrictions?
Most online backup services require compliance with copyright laws, which mean students with unauthorized mp3 files cannot back those up.

Final Advice
These backup services allow you to save your files in a private folder or public folder. Be sure to select a private folder if you don’t want the world to have access to your personal documents.

A Simple Online Backup Method
If you want to backup a very important document you are working on — for example, a take-home exam essay — another simple backup method is e-mailing the document to yourself using Gmail. Gmail will not delete the e-mail message unless you choose to delete it. When I am working on a very important document, I e-mail it to myself every few hours to ensure my work is not lost should a crash occur.

Update for April, 2007:

Currently, law students have a number of online backup service options:

See more free online backup services compared here: Online Storage Services with Free Account Option

For law students interested in a traditional backup solution (backup to a hard drive, CD, FTP, etc.), law student Legal Andrew recomends the free SyncBack Freeware software.

This is part of a series of articles highlighting Web 2.0 websites for law students.

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5 Responses to “How to Backup Your Documents Online for Free”

  1. Andrew Flusche Says:

    Thanks for the great article! I think I used something like Xdrive a while back, and it was totally unsatisfactory. However, due to your article I am trying Xdrive again. So far, it is doing a great job for me. I use a Seagate Mirra server at home for constant backups, but I want to have an online method for off-site storage. Yep, I’m paranoid. Too many hard drive failures and close calls in the past.

    Take care – Andrew

  2. » Law School Guide - Law School 1L, 2L, and 3L Says:

    [...] How to Backup Your Documents Online for Free [...]

  3. The Frugal Law Student - » Law 2.0 Says:

    [...] How To Backup Your Documents Online for Free [...]

  4. windy76 Says:

    For general purposes file and email backup, you definitely want to try DriveHQ. DriveHQ is my favorite online storage and FTP hosting website.
    They have a nice flash demo of the online backup application. Take a look at the demo or the screenshots:
    http://www.drivehq.com/Backup/

  5. john Says:

    http://www.syncplicity.com/ is awesome

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