From the December 1996 issue of Entrepreneur

Internet Web Storage Service.

Busy entrepreneurs may have little time to consider what would happen if their hard drives crashed, but this is a nightmare worth some thought. Face the facts: Systems crash, and, furthermore, as hard drives have grown to 1GB and bigger, fewer users are regularly backing up their drives.

But what would happen if you lost payroll records, customer lists or receivable accounts? Reconstructing this data means laboriously inputting all the information by hand--if you have current printouts.

Two top-notch backup services on the Web offer a solution. Go to McAfee's Personal Vault (http://www.mcafee.com), a service that allows users to store up to 30MB in cyberspace for $9.95 a month--and do so with the confidence that McAfee is a premier provider of antivirus software. What good will 30 megs do you when you've got a massive hard drive? Plenty--as long as you use the space for storing only the data files you need to keep your business operating, no matter what disaster strikes your office.

To upload into the Personal Vault, McAfee recommends using its WebStor software ($65), which allows you to back up selected files at predetermined times and promises high compatibility with Personal Vault.

But McAfee's not alone in meeting this need for critical backups. A competitor is DataSafe (http://www.datasafe.com), which offers a $14.95-per-month backup service that gives you 15MB of storage space and throws in the software that daily (or on another schedule of your choosing) scans your hard drive, identifies files that have been altered since the last backup, and even handles the backing up in an unattended mode if you wish.

Tuning Up

Can you avoid a hard drive crash in the first place? You can if you subscribe to TuneUp.com (http://www.tuneup.com), an online service that provides subscribers with virus checking, disk speed optimization, warnings about lost clusters and other indicators of looming hard drive troubles. The cost is $3.95 per month, which includes PC TuneUp, a service that allows for regular visits to the Web site for online tuneups and other online help and advice.

TuneUp.com packages portions of the acclaimed Norton Utilities and Norton AntiVirus into its own easy-to-use software, so this is first-rate protection. Why not buy the Norton software and skip the Web site? Together those software packages cost about $150, and Norton Utilities, in particular, can prove daunting to less-experienced users. There's a valid place for the no-fuss maintenance provided by TuneUp.com.

Wire Service

America online (aol) may be the Home Box Office of the next millennium. Cable users are accustomed to paying premiums to get extra content from, say, HBO or Disney. Now Internet users can pay an extra fee for content provided by AOL and The Microsoft Network (MSN).

For instance: ATT WorldNet subscribers can now set up discounted AOL accounts--$7.95 for five hours monthly--and the only hitch is that access has to be via the WorldNet system. The plus for AOL? Its phone lines don't have to carry the load; AT&T's do (see (http://www.worldnet.att.net) for more information). And MSN now gives unlimited access to its content for $6.95 a month, providing you come to the site using a third-party Internet Access Provider (check (http://www.msn.com) for details).

It's a good bet the other online services--Prodigy (http://www.prodigy.com) and CompuServe (http://www.compuserve.com)--will follow suit. So if you want access to a particular CompuServe forum but aren't a member, check the Web site. You may find the doors are open.

Get The Fax

You travel a lot, but your fax is back at the office? As long as you tote a laptop computer, there's a way to read your faxes. Go to JFax (http://www.jfax.net), an ingenious service that promises to receive your faxes (at a JFax-provided phone number), convert them into e-mail, then route them to any e-mail account for your convenient retrieval. Much the same can be done with voice messages, too, although the advantages of converting them into e-mail seem slender. The cost of getting faxes as e-mail? Just $12.50 per month, plus a $15 setup fee.

Contact Sources

ATT WorldNet Service, (800) 967-5363;

DataSafe, (800) 353-3078, support@connected.com;

The McAfee Personal Vault, 2710 Walsh Ave., Santa Clara, CA 95051, (408) 988-3832;

Microsoft Corp., 1 Microsoft Wy., Redmond, WA 98052, (800) 386-5550;

Personal Telecom, (888) GET-JFAX, (http://www.jfax.net);

TuneUp.com, (415) 691-9411, pat@tuneup.com.