Computer Backup Options | Choosing Local Versus an Online Computer Backup

by Rod Dunne on December 21, 2010

in Articles, Backup Software

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Doing a data backup should be a critical part of every PC owner’s regular computer repair and maintenance activities.

There are currently two computer backup options to choose from (a) using an online computer backup service and (b) local backups that use computer backup programs to synchronized files.

Here, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of each to show how they can be suited to specific user types.

Online Computer Backup

It is only in recent years that PC users have become comfortable with uploading large volumes of personal files to online services for safe-keeping. In addition, faster broadband speeds make this more attractive to modern computer users (and much faster to use than in the days of dial-up connections).

Example: The iDrive online service allows up to 2 GB of data so is ideally suited for backing up personal data and work files. The data backup software can also run continuously to automatically upload file changes as you work.

Take a FREE trial of the iDrive online backup solution.


  • You can access your data using any web-enabled device you wish to use.
  • There is no need for additional hardware to store the data.
  • Your data is duplicated to multiple online servers. If one server experiences a broken hard drive then your data is not lost.
  • Automation plays a big part in these services so you really only have to configure the service and it automatically runs a data backup for you (without needing to be manually run).


  • If you have a slow broadband connection then this can be a laborious task to upload files to the service (especially on the first instance; subsequent uploads only synchronize new/changed files). You should also the download time required if you needed to restore lost data or even the entire backup contents at a later date.
  • You have an additional monthly/yearly cost of using the service which may increase depending on the data sizes you want to store.
  • Not usable to restore a crashed PC if the web connection is lost. See our post on the top seven issues that crash PC machines.

Best Suited To: Of the two computer backup options, this is more convenient for users on-the-go who need to access their data online, perhaps while traveling and don’t want the hassle of carrying around backup hardware for completing a laptop backup.

Computer Backup Programs And Local Storage
The old school approach of using computer backup programs to copy data to a locally located storage device (DVD, external drive, tape backup, etc) is still popular and widely used, especially as the cost of such storage devices has decreased in recent years. Our post on how to choose the best backup solution differentiates between HDD/DVD in more detail.

When using this approach, follow the guideline used by businesses for offsite tape storage and keep your computer and backup copies stored separately (at least in different rooms) to reduce the danger of both being damaged/stolen. You can also password protect folder contents on the duplicates so that others cannot read or use your documents.

Example: Final Sync is a simple to use application that easily allows you to synchronize data between multiple devices (computer, drives, flash, etc.).

Find out more about Final Sync synchronization/backup software.


  • You only have the once off cost of purchasing the storage device and software.
  • Flexibility to use any storage device type (tape, external HDD, NAS backup, etc.) you wish.
  • It is always going to be faster to transmit files to a local storage system than across the web. For example, in photo backup where large file size can take a lot of time to upload.
  • Your data is highly protected (as it is not going out onto the internet).
  • You can recover lost data even without an internet connection.


  • The backup software usually has to be manually invoked to start a data backup (although, this could well be automated with a task scheduler). If you do a lot of data entry at home then forgetting to backup data is easily done and results in a lot of lost work.
  • The onus is with the PC owner to store the computer and backup copies separately. If both are lost/stolen then so is all your data.

Best Suited To: Of the computer backup options listed here, this is better suited to users that are wary of putting data online and have slow/intermittent web connections. In many larger workplaces, a similar approach using SAN backup servers is used to mirror/copy shared directories on the network. Suitable for a laptop data backup when you want a ghost image of the entire hard drive (which requires a large capacity backup device).

Related Posts:
How to speed up my computer through upgrades, maintenance and repairs.
How to speed up my laptop | Checklist of performance improvements.
The evolution of website backup options, scripts and technologies.

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