Data Storage, Backup, Sync, & Transfer

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Your Computer Will Die Before You Graduate.

The average life of a hard drive belonging to a Yale student is less than 4 years. If you back up your data regularly (especially automatically~) then not only will you never lose data, but repairs will be faster too.

There are two kinds of backup, and you probably want both of them:

  • External hard drive - one which can hold everything, but only syncs when you plug it in.
  • Online storage - one which syncs constantly, but may be smaller.

External Hard Drive

Copy-pasting works of course. For automated backup (when you plug in the external HD):

  • Mac - TimeMachine is definitely best
  • PC - SyncBack

To buy one for cheap, you can use a student discount at:

Online Storage

Dropbox is everybody's favorite, but there are SO MANY services that do this. This article is the best summary.

Previously, the most popular ones were Dropbox, Spideroak, and Sugarsync. These three are all awesome!

  • For a free account (<5GB) I’d choose the encrypted SugarSync or Spideroak.
  • For a paid account (>20GB) I’d probably go with Dropbox.


  • SugarSync and Spideroak let you choose which folders you want to have sync’d.
  • Dropbox creates one folder on your computer which gets sync’d.
    • You can get around this using symbolic links.
    • You could also make your My Documents this folder and that's pretty useful.

Uploading Security

To most people without sensitive date like health information, this doesn't matter.

  • Sugarsync and Spideroak encrypt data client-side, so they’re more secure.
  • Dropbox isn't encrypted, but it is smart at only uploading modified files when it syncs, which is much more efficient. The speed difference is particularly noticeable with large amounts of data.

How To Signup starts out with 5GB. starts out with 2GB. starts out with 2GB. Try to be referred by a friend so they can have more space~

Other Online Storage

  • EliApps GoogleDocs can store any type of file.
  • InSync creates a folder on your computer (like Dropbox) which is sync'd with your GoogleDocs. You can put any files in here and it'll upload.
  • Windows Skydrive - is it the same as Dropbox/Spideroak but 25GB? Not sure what limitations there are here, I don’t know anyone who uses it.
  • Mount Yale Pantheon- Great for dropping files into your laptop and accessing them instantly from any cluster.
    • This option is being phased out by Yale, and it could disappear as soon as next July.
    • It will sorta be replaced in function by GoogleDocs (on EliApps we get so much space!).

Google Cloud Connect

Google came out with this awesome thing called Google Cloud Connect that allows you to sync all of your Microsoft Office documents with your Google Documents, creating instant back-ups and documents that are available anywhere you go. Download it here and it easily adds a toolbar to your Office Suite (which you can hide). Get it here:


  1. Backups = protection
    • If you don’t use Dropbox, this is a great way to back up files without having to deal with the (while somewhat improved) clunky GDocs interface.
    • If you use Dropbox, you now are doubly-protected should anything go wrong!
  2. It integrates right in with Microsoft Office, easily. You can set it to sync manually or all the time.
  3. The website itself also has a lot of information and videos about how awesome it is:

A couple problems:

  1. If you’re editing a document using track changes, when it syncs, everything disappears! You’ve been warned!
  2. The plugin takes a long time to load. You may want to disable it from loading when you open Microsoft Word, and only enable it when you're working on an important document that you need to sync.

File Transfer

Yale File Transfer

More versatile than email-attachments. 2GB filesize limit. WinRAR can help you shrink and split big files if you really need to.

Scratch Space

For transferring huge files (of legal not-stolen stuff) you can use Scratch Space