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Back Up Your Files Online Without Even Trying

Use online services to create automatic backups of your files while you work on them as usual.

I'm sure that by now all of you back up critical files weekly or even daily, and religiously refresh your full-disk-image backup once every few months, right? No? Well, you're not alone. And while there's no substitute for a genuine backup strategy, the move toward desktop-caliber online applications has made it easier than ever to get some degree of backup protection without even trying.

New, mostly free online services with snazzy features allow you to effectively get backups for many of your irreplaceable files just by doing what you normally do--but with a twist. Through such services, you can ensure that your text documents, spreadsheets, browser bookmarks, digital pictures, and music files not only survive a catastrophic crash but also become more accessible to you and anyone you choose to share them with.

Of course, using a company's online storage means you'll have to be comfortable with the site's stability, Web security, and privacy policy--or those of any company that may buy that site. Real backups and perhaps a RAID mirror on a second hard disk are still the best solution, and, like car insurance, they can make the difference between a bad day and a disaster. By using some or all of these Web services, however, you can easily gain some measure of backup in case of catastrophe, or add another level of redundancy to the backups you already have.