Peer-to-peer offsite backup
Rather than paying a company a monthly or annual fee to store your data on its servers, you can get the main benefits of cloud backup simply by backing up over the Internet to a disk stored at a friend’s house. The best-known way to do this is with CrashPlan; install the free app on their computer (where they can define where they want backups to be stored and how much space to allow you) and then on yours, define them as a backup target, and then just let it run. Indeed, you can do the initial backup to a disk connected to your computer first, and then attach it to the computer at your friend’s house, to speed up that initial backup process.
Of course, as a courtesy, you probably want both to offer them the option of backing up to you, and also offer them a hard disk so that you’re not taking up space on their own internal (or external) drives. This drive could be a RAID or disaster-proofed drive for extra protection.
Your data is encrypted on the backup drive, so even if you don’t entirely trust your friend, they can’t see what you’re backing up!
Good because: Gives you the main benefit of cloud backup—that your data is protected from theft or local disasters—but without the ongoing cost.
But be aware that: Your friend’s computer needs to be on for backups to happen, most of the limitations of backing up over the internet detailed above still apply, and you have fewer guarantees about your data’s safety as you would have with a commercial cloud backup service.
Other backup options
We’ve detailed the main types of backup that are relevant today; there are others, such as backing up to DVD, using a rotating offsite tape system, and doing smart things with rsync to synchronize local and remote directories, but the ones we’ve talked about are the most useful to most people now.