If you’re frustrated with shuffling flash drives between the office and the field, online data backup and transfer services may be the answer to your thumb drive woes.

The need to streamline data transfer hasn’t gone unnoticed in the agriculture market. Automated data transfer is an important component of ag-specific services available through Raven’s Slingshot system (www.ravenslingshot.com) and Trimble’s Connected Farm package (www.connectedfarm.com).

But if your hardware and/or software aren’t compatible with these offerings, dozens of general-purpose online data backup services can provide a data transfer conduit between the office and the field.

To make farm-to-field online data transfer a reality, you’ll need to procure a data backup service. Unless your controller is Internet-capable, you’ll also need to carry a smartphone or a cellular-enabled laptop, handheld or tablet computer that’s able to capture and transfer files to and from the controller or yield monitor.

Even if your primary motivation is precision agriculture data transfer, don’t ignore the potential value of backing up key data on your hard drive. That’s the foundation of these services, with data transfer and data synchronization between computers as a side benefit.

If you conduct an online search for data backup services, you’ll find a wealth of options from which to choose. The three options highlighted here provide a taste of what’s available.

Dropbox (www.dropbox.com) is designed to automatically back up designated files or your entire hard drive, with options to synchronize data across multiple Windows, Mac and Linux computers. Backed up files are available for online viewing — or downloading — from any computer or mobile device. Dropbox offers a free application for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and iPad that lets you access and manage stored files on the go. The service is free for up to 2 gigabytes (GB) of stored data. Storing 50 GB costs $9.99/month, with 100 GB of storage selling for $19.99/month.

Like its competitors, SugarSync (www.sugarsync.com) continuously backs up files to a secure Web site, where all data are then encrypted to assure security. Files can be synchronized across multiple computers and accessed remotely with a Windows or Macintosh computer or an Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Mobile, iPhone, iPad or iTouch device. SugarSync offers 5 GB of storage free of charge. Storing 30 GB costs $4.99/month or $49.99/year. Storing 100 GB costs $14.99/month or $149.95/year.

Carbonite (www.carbonite.com) continuously and automatically backs up data files on your hard drive but does not synchronize data on multiple computers. Like similar services, after the initial backup, the software operates in the background, so it doesn’t noticeably sap computing resources. Multiple versions of high-value, frequently changed files can be kept up to three months. Files can be accessed from any computer or from Android, BlackBerry and iPhone smartphones. Carbonite offers unlimited data storage for a flat fee of $54.95/year/computer.