Recently a client advised me they had spent $3,000 to try to recover data they lost and I've seen many status updates from friends and family on Facebook saying they have lost data. Most of this can be avoided by using one of the many online backup solutions and most of them offer a free personal account with options to upgrade to add storage space or features.I thought that I would highlight some of the many providers that offer from 1 gig to 50 gig of free online backup that you can start using today and reduce the impact of losing everything.Concerns about Cloud reliability?All the chaos that surrounded the recent Amazon EC2 issues caused a lot of start-ups to re-evaluate their cloud solutions but most of it is overblown. The reason is that the cloud based data centres where your data is stored features more security, redundancies, trained staff and technology than your company or office could ever possibly match. Simply just as you focus on running your business they focus on ensuring the utmost reliability and superior performance possible for all their customers.Close proximity negates external backupWhile it's a great policy to back up documents, photos and videos to an external hard-drive unless the process is automatic we all get lazy and end up losing data when things go wrong. The other issue is that many people leave the external hard-drive connected to their computer so a lightning strike, break-in or fire will still result in loose of data.If you are using a cloud based solution you can be assured that your data is located far enough away from your office to escape any local hardware faults, natural disasters or nearby terrorism attack that may happen at some point in the future.Dual solutions offering both hardware and softwareOne of the interesting movements forward is the dual product from Hitachi offering customers a free allocation of cloud backup on their new range of premium Touro hard-drives. This is a smart move as it provides a dual benefit as it increases the attractiveness of their larger premium HD products for business but also slows the potential growth of competitors hosted only products. Going forward solutions offered by Hitachi make commercial sense and add piece of mind to those buying their products but also provides a new possible revenue stream as customers want to upgrade to move than the included 3 gigs.Many providers such as Norton Anti-virus have long offered online backup servers but it's not been such a perfect fit as the recent Hitachi offering.Cloud solutions can be sharedAnother big benefit of using cloud based solutions is that data archived can be made available to anyone that has your security login details or virtual security certificate. This allows for franchise operations or multiple locations to centralise data backup solutions but can also allow easy sharing of backed up data between different locations or staff. You accounts department can update end of year financial documents ready for the auditors or those staff working on the road don't have to stress as much if their laptop is lost or stolen.Offsite Security IssuesThe other issue is the external data can be a potential security breach as often the backup will be unencrypted and relies of staff keeping the external drive safe and not leaving it in the car sitting in the hot sun, in the back of a taxi, on public transport or in a bar after a big Friday night out in town. Most cloud based solutions offer products to larger corporates and government departments so offer military grade encryption as standard but at a basic offer far beyond what most hackers are able to crack.Hardware failures happenLast month I was lucky as when my old Toshiba laptop blew up, I didn't lose any data and was able to copy the data from the old hard-drive to my new laptop. I was also able to reduce my worries because I had been using Mozy for the previous 3 months so would have only lost a few items. The incident with Amazon EC2 issues showed that you benefit from having local access to data should the cloud experience access issues.Some backup platforms like Mozy offer due benefits as they allow you to back up to USB so you have you data secure in 3 different solutions should one of them fail.Device Support?Most of the platforms support any platform through their web-based applications but they mostly also offer a great desktop app but many offer multiple mobile device support.What can you do now?The best solution is to bite the bullet and actually do something, starting with trialling at least one of the many providers that offer free data listed below. If you want more data or more features at a later stage consider those that offer flexible upgrades to paid/premium solutions.Leading cloud based solutions offering free data storage?
- 2 gig free with application available for Windows & iPhone devices. Learn more about Cloud based backup solutions like Mozy.
- 50 gig free with basic features available for personal use only. Learn more about ADrive here
- 25 gig free with SkyDrive which includes 5 gig free storage space included with Windows Live Mesh. It's also can be automatically synced with WindowsPhone devices. Learn more about Windows Sky Drive
- 5 gig free with application available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows mobile, Symbian with sync to multiple devices.Learn more about Sugar Sync
- 5 gig free with application available for mobile access. Learn more about Box.net here
- 3 gig free with application also available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Mobile. Learn more about MemoPal here
- 3 gig free with any new Touro Hitachi hard drive. Learn more about Hitachi Touro here
- Asus's 2 gig free with application also available for Windows, Android and iOS. Learn more about Asus here
- 2 gig free also available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Learn more about Spider Oak
- 2 gig free with application for Ubuntu and Windows. Learn more about Ubuntu here
- 2 gig free with unlimited folders and upto 2 computers. Learn more about Snycplicity here
- 2 gig free with application available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and Palm Pre. Learn more about ZumoDrive here
- 2 gig free with application available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and Blackberry. Learn more about DropBox here
- 1 gig free with OS integration. Learn more about Wuala here
The only platform that I've use consistently is Mozy but I have played around with Microsoft's platform with some success when it was first launched but haven't made much use of it since then. The downside was the speed of the Live Mesh application was weighed down by Silverlight, the upside is the massive amount of data that is provided free for anyone with a Live account.