Too many times in my experience has lightning, in inopportune power brownout, or a hard-drive failure led to big trouble. As today's farms have gotten more tech savvy, the investment in computers and the data they store has gotten more valuable. If you've accumulated 10 years of soil maps and yield data, what would happen if it all just went away.
Many readers are saving backups of that information on secondary devices, from CD-ROMs to hard drives that hook to your computer. As more Farm Futures readers get high-speed Internet connections, it might be time to consider a true off-site solution. There are now several Web-based companies that can back-up your data automatically and store it on secure servers at a remote location.
Some offer limited storage for no charge to entice you to try out the service. Once you know how they work, subscribing to an unlimited data plan would make sure all the data on your computer can work.
Basically, here's how these services work. You visit the Web site and sign up. The site has special software that is downloaded into your computer. This software automatically sends updated data from your computer to the service whenever your computer is turned on.
This works best for readers with always-on high-speed connections. The software works in the background saving your data to a remote service without you worrying about it. Should the worst happen, you get the computer replaced/fixed, log into the service and bring back your data.
The software allows you to determine what kinds of files are backed up - usually data files, not the programs - and you can set when the services will get information from your computer. If you do subscribe to such a service, knowing your data requirements before hand would help, but given the rising use of graphics in agriculture you'll probably be looking at a high-level data contract. These can cost from $19.95 a month and higher.
You have to determine how valuable your information is and the importance of getting it back. With the rise in flooding, tornadoes and other office-destroying events lately, a truly off-site backup solution might be the best choice.
Here are a few to check out - beside the link for each I've included comments that ran in a recent PC Magazine article about these kinds of services.
Carbonite - unlimited backup for under $50 per year, limited problems restoring a large amount of data files.
hp upline - no Mac version, but well reviewed by computer magazine editors who liked the interface and the way the custom software worked in the background. Up to three PCs can be covered in one account.
IDrive - a little challenge to start, but reviewers note it has more services and features than others. It does not allow Web restore under
Mozy - called MozyHome, you can get up to 2 gigabytes of storage for free - which is quite a lot of data. Pay service is unlimited.