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Easy Ways to Back Up Data

Option 2: Online Backup

Some of the newest backup companies rely on a high-speed Internet connection to keep your files safe. Services like Backblaze, Carbonite, Memeo, Mozy, Norton Online Backup, and others work by installing a small program (or "agent") on your machine that automatically funnels copies of your data to a secure Web site. The cost: around $50 to $60 a year.

As with backup software, you can just pick the types of files you want to back up and you're good. Some services, like Norton Online, let you schedule backups; others, like Backblaze, simply back up data constantly, waiting for moments when your computer is idle.

Upside: As automatic as DIY software, and your files are already stored off-site, so they're always protected in case of trouble.

Downside: To conserve space, most online services back up only your personal data and media files. That means if your hard drive crashes, you'll have to manually reinstall your operating system and other programs, and restore all your old settings, which is a hassle. If your Internet connection goes down, you may not be able to get to your files when you need to restore them (though Backblaze will overnight your files on a disc or an external drive for an additional fee). Some online backup services, like Memeo, can also save files to local drives, giving you the best of both worlds.

Best for: High-speed Internet users comfortable with reinstalling software in case of total disaster.