By Joe Hutsko, Barbara Boyd

Backing up your Mac’s important files to an off-site storage service virtually guarantees that you’ll never lose your data. Keep in mind that doing a complete remote backup will be slower than a USB 2.0 flash drive and your ISP may limit file transfer sizes. You may want to use an external hard or flash drive for complete backups and then store particularly important documents on remote backup sites.

Low-cost (and even free) off-site storage options are available for Mac users. Many companies sell off-site storage space for a monthly fee. However, to entice you to try their services, they often provide a limited amount of free space that you can use for an unlimited period at no cost.

To get your free off-site storage space, sign up with one or more of the following off-site data-backup sites, each of which offers a paid version with more storage space; most have a free option that offers from 2GB to 10GB of storage and then paid options for more storage or multiple users:

iCloud is fairly Apple-specific when it comes to online storage. Although iCloud offers 5GB of storage space free, plus up to 1,000 photos and any purchased media, apps, and books, it isn’t a true Mac backup option. iCloud does automatically synchronize the contents of the Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, and Notes apps, as well as Safari bookmarks.

iCloud also syncs documents created with an iCloud-enabled app, such as Pages or Numbers, and stored on iCloud between multiple Macs or between your Mac and your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Windows PC. Even if you don’t sync with another device, you can turn on the iCloud services and store your data remotely.

However, iCloud doesn’t back up apps not purchased in the App Store or Word documents or that 1,001st photo, so you should consider iCloud as a syncing tool for your Mac and a backup tool only for iOS devices.