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Tech Review: Backup and Sync from Google

By Ron Scopelliti

Like many freelancers, I work out of an office in my home. And while this offers many perks, it also has one major disadvantage – a lack of off-site computer backup. Back when I had an office, I would consistently back up files to a portable drive, and take it with me when I went home. That way if one site suffered a fire or break-in, my data would be safe at the other location.

While I have made some half-hearted attempts to use Dropbox as a makeshift back-up app, I recently decided to get more serious by trying out Backup and Sync from Google. If you’re a regular user of Gmail, you’ve probably received several offers to download the application.

Anyone with a Gmail account can use Backup and Sync for free, though there are also paid accounts available for businesses and individuals who need more than the standard 15 GB of cloud storage.

The 1.1 MB installer took seconds to download and less than a minute to run. Once installed, the application leads you through a simple setup procedure that allows you to select which folders you want to automatically backup. Once selected, any file in the folder that you save or modify, will automatically be updated on your Google Drive.

Other options offered are the ability to automatically sync files across devices, and the option to compress your photos, which lowers quality slightly, but allows you unlimited photo storage. While I opted not to use the compression option for professional purposes, it could be just the thing for saving casual photos.

Since I have separate Gmail accounts for myself and for the book-publishing business I’m involved with, I set up separate Backup and Sync accounts for each. And, since I regularly use both a laptop and a desktop computer, I’ve got both computers linked to each account. One folder on each computer backs up files to my personal Gmail account, and one folder on each computer backs up files to my Greyledge Press Gmail account.

Though this entanglement of different computers and different accounts may sound complicated, once it’s in operation, Backup and Sync is practically invisible, showing up only as a toolbar icon which you can open to modify settings, or access your Backup and Sync cloud folder. The app also installs desktop shortcuts to Googles Docs, Slides, and Sheets apps. And it runs just as well on my increasingly-antiquated Windows 7 laptop as it does on my Windows 10 desktop. The initial upload of files from my laptop did take quite a while – three-and-a-half hours to back up 3 GB worth of files, but that type of large upload is the exception, rather than the rule.

Apart from my personal issue of remembering which password goes with which account, I haven’t run into any glitches. If I start to run up against the 15 GB limit, it’s only $1.99 a month to upgrade to 100 GB. And if I do choose to switch over to a different backup solution, the structure of Backup and Sync from Google is pretty straightforward, so it shouldn’t pose a huge problem.

While it may not offer the features or the power of a product like Carbonite, if you’re looking for a free option to back up a limited number of files from a limited set of sources, Backup and Sync from Google is worth a try.