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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Use your online backup as cloud storage

While traveling over the holidays, I was still working--especially on a bunch of end-of-year podcasts. For The Incomparable, I was putting together a little five-minute teaser for next year's series of radio plays that we're doing. While we were in Southern California, I realized that I needed an outtake from one of our previous sessions. The problem was, that clip was stored on my iMac, which was powered down in my office back home.

I've written a bit about how I use Dropbox to move my files around, but I've only been using an iMac as my main system for a few weeks, and I'm out of the habit of making sure all my files are accessible from my laptop as well.

Digging up year-old podcast files in the CrashPlan mobile app.

So there I was in Orange County, without a specific audio file I needed. And that's when it hit me: I back up my iMac (and all my other computers) using an online backup service. Which means all of the files on my iMac are also backed up in the cloud. So even though my Mac at home is shut down, the files on it should be accessible to me.

Sure enough, I was able to log in to my backup service and restore the files. If you use CrashPlan, you can restore directly within the CrashPlan app, and files are saved right to your desktop. If you use Backblaze, you log in to the Backblaze site to specify files, and the company emails you a link with a zip archive containing the files you selected. (I prefer CrashPlan's approach here.)

Both Backblaze and CrashPlan offer iOS apps, as well, letting you access all your backed-up files from your mobile devices. So if you forgot an important presentation or document on your computer, and you couldn't connect to that device remotely, you could still open a copy from your backups.

When you think about this approach, it seems obvious--but the trick is, you need to think about it. It's easy to write off your online backup as a mysterious blob of data that's only there in case you have a disaster, but it's there all the time, and the tools to access it are getting more convenient all the time.

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