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Head in the Clouds: Back Up Your Data!

Recently I was back at home in St. Louis, helping my parents out with some spring cleaning, when I found a cache of old computer accessories. There was a box full of floppy disks containing my all-time favorite computer game, Master of Orion. There were stacks of scratched CDs I burned in high school. There was a mysterious zip disk on which I had written “SECRET” in red permanent marker. I was doing everything I could to back up the data that was most important to me at the time, whether that was save files, music, or petulant pre-teen poetry. And that trend continued:  in 2010, I was in graduate school, and my data was saved on my laptop, desktop, and on an external hard drive. I was set! I was safe! Or so I thought.

Within a week, my desktop and laptop both died. No need for tears, they lived long, happy lives. I bought a used netbook on the cheap and, when I plugged in my external hard drive –



And my data flashed before my eyes. All my music! Pictures! Movies! All the writing I’d done in 2.5 years of graduate school! All the writing I’d ever done, ever! Poof.

Hard drives can fail, and retrieving data from a dead hard drive can cost thousands of dollars. This is why I’ve switched to the cloud. Backing up my data on the cloud is easy, secure, and gives me peace of mind.

While hearing me espousing “the could” might make me sound like a delirious hippie, I assure you I’m not referring to an ephemeral suspension of condensed water vapor hanging perilously high above the ground. When you talk about “the cloud,” you’re referring to a network of servers which are used to store data. Cloud storage is inexpensive and user friendly. Once you have a system in place, your data will be regularly backed up, and all the thieves, house fires, and juice-wielding toddlers in the world won’t come between you and your data.

These are some of the best cloud storage options available, all of which offer free storage:

Google Drive

  • 15GB of storage 
  • vailable in OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android 
  • If you use other Google services, you’ll appreciate how tightly integrated they are with Drive.


  •  Plans start with 2GB, but you can get way more than that via referrals, mobile app use, photo and video uploads, or by using an EDU address. 
  • One of the most popular options available


  • Microsoft's cloud storage service, especially good for those who use Windows 8 for desktops and tablets, and if you use Office 2013 
  • With 7GB of storage, 10GB if you're a student, with the option to buy more storage if you need it or run out. 


  • Detailed synching options
  • 5GB for free
  • Desktop apps for OS X and Windows and their mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.


Does the idea of your data living on some server somewhere make you nervous? Why not set up your own server and keep your data right where you want it? If the idea makes you nervous, make a list of local computer service and repair shops, and reach out to them. You’ll be able to find someone knowledgeable who is as excited about the project as you are.

Regardless of your choice, make sure your data is backed up. You’ll sleep better!


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