Laptop Data Backup Approaches: Local Copies Vs. Online Services

by Rod Dunne on April 3, 2011

in Backup Software, Laptop

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The two principal ways to do a laptop data backup are to make a local copy (e.g. synchronize the laptop data to an external hard drive) or upload data to a backup server. Here I look at the pros and cons of both approaches to show how each can be suited to different types of uses and users.

Local data backups
Involves: Using synchronization software (e.g. Final Sync) to clone data from your laptop hard drive onto USB drives, external hard disks, etc.


  • No Internet connection is required. Backups can quickly be restored from the local copies. Great for home use.
  • You have complete flexibility about which files to backup and how frequently.
  • You only have the once off cost of the software and backup hard drive.
  • You have virtually no volume limits (dependent on the capacity of the external HDD). This makes doing a full ghost image of the laptop possible.


  • This becomes a single point of failure if the laptop and backup disk is stored together. That is, both could be lost or damaged in a single incident (e.g. theft or fire damage).
  • There is still a certain amount of manual intervention to kickoff the synchronization process. This can however be automated using a task scheduler.

Suggested software: Final Sync – Backup solution that allows you to copy/sync files between multiple pieces of hardware (laptop <-> external drives <-> USB memory sticks).

Online data backups
Involves: Subscribing to an online service (e.g. iDrive) to provide you with client applications that synchronize and upload your laptop data backup to their online servers.



  • You can access the data on the backup server via password-protected interfaces. Excellent for doing a laptop data backup/restore while traveling.
  • The client applications can be automated to back up data continuously or as often as you wish.
  • Duplicates of your data are stored on multiple backup servers. This redundancy ensures that damage to one online server does not result in your data being lost.


  • You will need a fast Internet connection to upload larger files.
  • Internet bandwidth might be constrained while the process runs.
  • Ongoing cost of service subscriptions.

Suggested service: iDrive/My Live Drive – Provides 2GB of space for a full laptop backup. Data is stored online so doesn’t require external hard drives to store the backup data.

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