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CrashPlan backs up PCs, Macs, and more for free

Studies say more than half of Americans don’t back up regularly. As a result, it's no surprise that consumers are constantly losing precious photos, documents, videos, music and financial records.

The most common excuses are "I keep forgetting" or "it takes too long." The latest backup software, however, minimizes the inconvenience backing-up used to involve. And best of all, it's cheap!

CrashPlan, for example, provides simple, automatic and continuous backup. For locally-stored or remotely-stored backups, it is absolutely free. Furthermore, if you also elect to store your files "in the cloud," the cost is reasonable.

When you sign-up for the free version of CrashPlan, which works with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, you get a 30-day trial of CrashPlan+. The plus version features real-time backup, backup sets, Web restore, version retention, advanced scheduling, secure online storage, and enhanced encryption, all accomplished by uploading your files to CrashPlan Central.

You can back up personal files from one computer online (up to 10GB) for $2.50/month ($30/year). The price drops if you sign-up for more than a month-to-month arrangement. With a 4-year commitment, or example, the cost drops to less than $1.50 per month.

Unlimited online storage for one computer starts at $5/month ($60/year), and a family plan with unlimited data for 2 - 10 computers starts at $12/month ($144/year). Again, the price drops if you sign-up for a one-, two-, three-, or four-year commitment.

CrashPlan’s advanced backup engine makes backups as small as possible. In addition to minimizing bandwidth and storage requirements, reducing the size of backups lets the system work faster and invisibly.

If you have lots of files to backup, uploading everything to CrashPlan using your Internet connection could take a month or more. As a solution, the company offers "seeding," where for $125, they will ship you a hard drive to backup locally. You then ship the hard drive back to CrashPlan for uploading in their data center.

Once your data is online, CrashPlan running on your computer only updates any changes. You can even go back in time and choose to restore specific versions of files based on date. You can also tell CrashPlan where to save the files when you restore and rename them if you choose.

CrashPlan keeps your deleted files forever (unless you say otherwise.) No matter how much time passes after you delete a file, you can get it back. Files backed up to CrashPlan Central are retained as long as you have an active subscription.

The system uses Blowfish encryption to safeguard your backup. Combined with data de-duplication and compression, your computer backup archive is safe from view. Your friends can’t even see the names of the files you have backed up to them.

Other online backup solutions, such as Carbonite and Mozy, offer similar services, but CrashPlan has one of the most attractive plans I've seen, including
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