The Problem

My main computer is a desktop Windows PC on which I keep a huge amount of stuff but I’m particularly concerned about 8,000 files that are contained in about 1,000 folders. Most of these files are Word documents but there are also spreadsheets, PDFs, pictures, email message files (.msg) and a variety of other file types. The total size of the 8,000 files is around 1.5 GBs. 

During a work day for example I might create or amend a number of Word documents. The new or amended documents will  either be in new or existing folders.

At the end of a work day it is too much trouble to try to figure out which files I created or amended. This forces me to backup the entire 1.5 GBs (and increasing) every time I start to feel guilty enough about not having backed-up for a while.

I’m not keen on setting up a local automated backup system and having the hassle of carrying around storage devices. I’ve also personally seen too many instances of automated backup systems letting people down when it came to the crunch.

The Solution

Not long ago someone told me that they were backing up their documents to a cloud service called SugarSync and that it was costing them $5 per month. That’s cheap, I thought. I better check it out.

Now, after a few days of trying out SugarSync, I am starting to feel that this is a great solution for my backup problem. 

With SugarSync you choose which folders you want to sync to the cloud. When I create a new subfolder, a new document or amend an existing document in a synced folder, it automatically uploads and replaces the previous version. 

I no longer need to think about which files I have created or amended. The incremental backup works automatically. My main concern now is about making sure that I create or save new items within one of the synced folders.

The first sync obviously took the longest. I’m not sure how long because I let it run overnight. It ran for maybe 12 hours uploading the original 1.5 GBs of files and folders. 

Bonuses

Not only do I now have a viable backup system but I can also access every file at SugarSync over the web. I can also access my documents at SugarSync with my Blackberry – after having installed the SugarSync app.

There are many other functions which I am in the process of testing out. These include creating folders and files that can be shared with anyone. For example, you can create a URL to a file or folder which can then be emailed to someone who can use it to access the item.

As an alternative to uploading, there is also the ability to email files (as attachments) to the service.

What Problems it Doesn’t Solve

It may not be suitable as a backup solution for databases such as the type that are used for accounting or practice management systems and it may not be suitable as an automated backup for an Outlook PST file.

I don’t want to get into an explanation of why it may or may not be suitable for backing up certain files. You are welcome to contact me for my limited opinion or even better, contact a real tech person.

On the subject of backups in general, the key principle is redundancy.  The greater the number of copies, in different locations, the more you are minimising the risk of data loss. For this reason it is probably a good idea to continue doing a local backup on a physical device every now and then.

The Cost

The cost is one of the best parts about the service. I initially signed up to a free 5 GB account. In theory I could have managed with just this account but the yearly 30 GB price that was offered soon after sign-up was inconsequential. I didn’t need to think twice about reaching for my credit card. I’ll use much of the extra space to backup photos and movies.

You can check out the latest pricing at the SugarSync website or even better click this link to get free storage space and I’ll also be rewarded with bonus space because of the referral.

WARNING: With this and all online syncing services, do not make any assumptions about how it works. Take it slowly and experiment with it. SugarSync has both syncing and backup type features. It is important to understand the difference between syncing, backup and archiving. To avoid accidental data loss or unexpected outcomes, experimentation is the key.