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News from our Suppliers: Online back up options & which is the best for your business


Francesca Geens of Digital Dragonfly tackles in this Q&A one of the key needs for businesses to ensure continuity in the case of a computer / network failure: Online back up. This is also one of the topics that Francesca will cover in her upcoming workshop hosted by AWAD on 25th June, ‘Top tech tips for the art dealer on the go: Improve your productivity, flexibility and security’. To book this session that has very limited availability click here.

Q. I’m confused about the various online backup solutions on offer! How do I decide which one to use?

This is a question I tackle almost daily with my clients. We are all increasingly reliant on cloud services in one way or another but many clients are still not sure on how best to use the cloud for business and a surprising number of people still don’t have any backup plan in place at all. It doesn’t help that there are an almost endless list of cloud backup services on offer and it can be difficult to differentiate and decide on the best one for you.

My golden backup rule is that if your data is mission critical you need to have it in more than one place. The cloud is perfect for this and I always recommend you backup to a removable hard-drive as well as the services listed below.

Also think about the different types of data that you have. For example work documents are different from your music collection or your photographs. This article is focused on your work documents.

*** Disclaimer This is such a fast moving area of technology that some of the features and pricing changed from when I started writing this article to when I finished it (I did update this article) – but it may be out of date again by the time you read it. ***

Backup, sync or share?

First of all it’s important to decide what it is you want to do with the data you put into the cloud. I’ll answer this question in 2 parts.

Part 1 will focus on syncing and sharing and in part 2 will look at backing up. Different services offer different functions and will charge you accordingly. Depending on how much data you have and how you work you may need to do both. If you don’t have much data and can get away with a free offering you will have the best of both worlds! 

If you’re a photographer please ignore the above since you’ll produce so much data that you’ll need a different strategy.

1. Syncing and sharing

Syncing basics

-install the software on your desktop and laptop if you work across devices

-get the app on your phone or tablet

-share folders and documents with clients and associates and stop emailing each other documents and being stuck with the wrong version


You guessed it – Dropbox is top of this list. Why? Probably because you are already using it but perhaps not to its full potential. If you are just using this to share the odd file with a client then look again.


-2GB of free data (which you can increase through referrals and by automatically uploading your photos through your phone)

-Easy to move files and folders to Dropbox location on computer and save direct to Dropbox

– $9.99 for 100GB

– Generally iPhone and Android apps integrate well with the software

– Works well if you are synching with computers across a network since it does not need to go to the cloud to get the latest file updates (LAN sync)


– Sharing means the person you share with can delete your files

– There is no document locking (though there is versioning) so you can accidentally work on the same document at the same time

– (At the time of writing) No native app for Windows phone users

– If somebody shares a folder with you and they fill it up – then this eats into your allowance.

Sky Drive

With 7GB of free data this is the first of the new kids on the block and is worth checking out. You can bet this will be heavily integrated into the Microsoft Operating systems and Microsoft Office now and in the future.


– The generous free space

– iOS, Android and Windows phone access

– Online editing of standard Microsoft Office Documents at the same time as others

– Easy to share with others (they can edit at the same time too)

– Relatively cheap solution compared to Dropbox at £6 per year for 20GB, £16 per year for 50GB and £32 per year for 100GB

– The new Word and Excel Web Apps look pretty cool


– Can’t buy more than 100 GB

– If you’re privately sharing documents the other person needs a Microsoft Live ID and not everyone has one (so they will need to sign up).

Google Drive

Another new kid on the block and a great offering with 5GB of free data.


– Easy sharing and collaborating

– Available across all platforms

– Most people now have a Google account so sharing is easy

– Relatively inexpensive upgrades with $2.49 a month for 25 GB and $4.99 for 100GB.

– Can increase storage up to 16TB

– Integrates well with iPhone and Android Apps


– You can only edit native Google Doc files in the browser

– Google Docs looks a bit dated now compared with the Office Web Apps (though I’m sure this will change soon) 

2. Backup

I have over 100GB of data (admittedly this includes a large family photo archive) so I combine Dropbox with a service like Crashplan that offers me unlimited data for a fixed fee. I use Dropbox to access business documents across devices (I regularly work from 2 different laptops, my phone and tablet) and share a folder with my business partner. For the family photo archive which I don’t access daily but need to have peace of mind that it is offsite I use Crashplan. 

My business partner has gone a different route and uses Skydrive for all his personal photos and documents, iTunes Match for music, Google Drive for work documents and Dropbox for sharing files. Might sound a bit messy but separating out the different areas seems to work for him.



-Excellent customer service

-Unlimited backup

-Family plan which allows you to backup several machines

-Confirmation emails of your backup status

-Can also manage backup to a removable drive (and the email prompts are very useful to remind you to plug this in!)

-Ability to create backup sets if you want to send different data to your hard-drive and cloud

-pricing from $1.50 per month for 10GB and from $3 per month for the Unlimited plan


-A very similar offering which has an unlimited backup plan for $59 a year for one computer.

-Some plans offers Mirror Image backup (though note not yet for Windows8) which includes all your operating system and software and not just your documents and data.


Mac users note that not all plans are Mac friendly so check carefully first if you want to backup a removable hard-drive

Crashplan and Carbonite have now all also introduced business offerings which includes all your business machines and some also server backup but my focus above has been for individual users.

So what are your next steps?

1.Establish how much data you have and what kinds (ie daily use documents vs archive files)

2.Does this data need to be shared or synced to other devices? If so look at suggestions made in part 1.

3.Is this bulk data you just want to backup? Have a look at the suggestions in part 2.

4. You may want to combine the 2.

4. Assuming you have more than what gets offered for free do some quick sums to see how much you will be paying monthly/annually

5. Sign up and start backing up today.

6. Any questions? Just get in touch.

Francesca will cover this and other related topics in her upcoming workshop hosted by AWAD on 25th June, ‘Top tech tips for the art dealer on the go: Improve your productivity, flexibility and security’. To book this session that has very limited availability click here.

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