Patrick Marshall answers your personal-technology questions each week.
Q: CrashPlan, my current cloud backup provider, is going out of the home computer backup business. CrashPlan had this clever system whereby you could backup several other computers to your main computer over your Wi-Fi network (which they call “computer-to-computer backup”), and then backup the main computer to both the CrashPlan cloud and also to your own external hard drive. All backups were automatic.
I am considering another cloud backup provider that does not offer computer-to-computer backup. I would like to automatically backup my laptop to my desktop (i.e., computer-to-computer) over my Wi-Fi network, and also backup my desktop (which would include my laptop backed-up files) to the cloud provider. Finally, I want to automatically backup my desktop (which would include my laptop backed-up files) to my external hard drive. So both computers would be backed-up both locally and in the cloud. I would appreciate your advice.
— Allen David, Seattle
A: When you refer to “backing up” one computer to another it sounds like you’re just talking about your data files and not also your applications, custom settings, etc. If that’s the case, all you need to do is subscribe to a cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive that allows you to replicate files stored from one computer to other computers. I have all of my data files stored on my office computer. All of those folders are configured to automatically replicate to Microsoft OneDrive.
I also have OneDrive running on my laptop, but I want to save space on the laptop’s drive so I don’t replicate all the data files to it. If I need a file on the laptop that I haven’t replicated, I can still access OneDrive through a browser and download it. For all the directories and folders that I have configured to replicate to OneDrive, any changes I make on one computer are automatically made available on other computers.
And that works as long as the computer is connected to the internet. If changes are made on a computer that isn’t connected to the internet, the files will be synced as soon as the computer does connect to the internet.
I still do copy files to an external drive periodically, but that’s only to guard against getting infected by ransomware. Unless you pay extra for “business-level” cloud storage, which includes versioning — or multiple time-stamped backups — if you are infected by ransomware it can encrypt not only files on the infected computer but also on any files across the network, including the cloud. In short, if you backup to an external drive it, too, is vulnerable unless you disconnect it from the computer and the network after backing up.
If you don’t have a lot of data, you may be able to get by with the free storage offered by vendors. Microsoft offers 5 gigabytes of free storage on OneDrive while Google offers a more generous 15 gigabytes on Google Drive. And if you don’t mind an addition layer of management, you can install a cloud storage management program — examples are Jolicloud, Multcloud and Otixo — that will let you combine free storage from multiple vendors.
Q: Thanks for your note on placing the Outlook Search tool in the Microsoft Outlook ribbon (Sept. 30 column). You must have been referring to some version other than Outlook 2007, because those instructions don’t work at all for me. Under File, there is no Options choice, so that’s a dead end. Under Tools, I find Options, but nothing there about customizing the ribbon.
What I do find, under Tools, is Instant Search, so I can search from there, but it would be nice to have this functionality showing as a button on the bar at the top of the page. Any other suggestions?
— Roger Lippman, Seattle
A: You’re right that Outlook 2007 didn’t have a built-in ability to customize ribbons. (And yes, unless I specify otherwise I’m either referring to the current version of programs or the version specifically cited by a reader.) The good news is that Microsoft did create a downloadable extension that you can install to get that capability. Here’s where you’ll find detailed instructions: http://st.news/microsoft-ribbon.