How Exactly Does Online Backup Work?

Do I Have to Copy My Files to a Website Somewhere?

Illustration of online backup

How does this online backup thing work, exactly?

Usually when you upload something to a website you have to click buttons and find files - is that something you'll have to do when you sign up for a backup plan?

The following question is one of many you'll find in my Online Backup FAQ.

"I don't understand how online backup works. Do I have to copy my files somewhere to keep them backed up online?"

Absolutely not. You don't have to do any copying or moving or anything like that. After an initial configuration, your data is automatically and continuously backed up.

In general, getting started with an online backup service looks like this:

  1. Purchase an online backup plan.
  2. Install the provided software on your computer.
  3. Tell the software what drives, folders, and/or files you want to keep backed up.

You only do those things once! After the initial upload, changes to data you've selected, as well as new data added to locations you've selected, are all backed up automatically and, with most online backup services, almost instantly.

Automatic and incremental backup is the big differentiating factor between online (like Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) and online backup. See Why Aren't Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Etc. In Your List? for more on this.

Below are some additional basic online backup questions that I tend to get:

Here are even more questions I answer as part of my Online Backup FAQ: