Beware of “Sneaky” Features.

It’s not that online or cloud backup providers necessarily mean to be sneaky, or evil.  It’s just that sometimes the consumer can sign up for a “great” deal without getting all the facts.  There are a couple of selling points that online backup companies use that, when examined under the microscope, might not be so attractive.

For example, almost all of the online or cloud backup vendors offer a “free” model.  This is great.  Everyone loves free. However, here’s the sneaky part.  It’s only free for a limited period of time.  Then they start charging you or they delete your data.  “Real” free means that it’s free and it’s forever.  Now, obviously, free unlimited capacity would be a rip-off for the provider, so there has to be a storage limit, meaning you might have to be selective about what you store online, but you don’t have to worry about an invoice showing up unexpectedly.  But be aware.  With free may come a lot of advertising.  That’s what makes the free part possible. So if you can’t live with the vendor having a profit motive, don’t go for a free plan.

Another thing to be wary of is automatic syncing.  While this sounds like a convenient feature, it has one major drawback; when you delete something on your home computer, the automatic sync will trigger a deletion online.  That’s just the opposite of why you have online backup in the first place.  Imagine deleting something very important because you’re positive that your online backup service has a copy, and then finding out that when the backup synced with your computer, your file was deleted. So, look for a vendor that does not delete anything unless you initiate the deletion. Like its trained namesake, ElephantDrive knows how to follow your instructions, and won’t delete anything until you tell it to.

Finally, there’s the issue of access.  All companies claim universal access, but the question you want to ask yourself is “Can I access my files from any computer anywhere in the world?”  This is critical.  You might be working on your Master’s thesis when your neighborhood is hit with a massive power outage.  Or, it might be something as simple as going on an overnight trip and forgetting your power supply. The thesis is due in five days, so you have no time to waste. The right online storage option will allow you to go anywhere that there is a broadband Internet connection (can you say, “Library”?), log onto a website and access and work on your scholarly masterpiece.  When you need it, your work will be waiting for you, ready to download onto your new computer.  And remember- not all online backup providers are hardware or operating system agnostic.  You need to be able to work cross-platform for true universal access.

So, reading between the lines is essential.  Don’t just pick the first online backup provider you hear about, and don’t necessarily just pick the one that’s the most well-known.  Do your research and don’t be fooled by features that are not all that they’re cracked up to be.

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