These days, online or “cloud” services are everywhere. Most of the attention is given to the syncing services, but there are a number of backup-only solutions as well. There is nothing inherently better or worse about cloud backup compared to local backup options, though naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that a cloud service provides the geographical diversity that is usually lacking in most local backup plans. Additionally, backing up in the cloud can reduce the risk of a disk failure. It can also be of great convenience if you travel a lot. While bringing an external drive on your travels may be reasonable for your situation, if your gear is stolen or destroyed, you’ll be glad to have a cloud backup in place. On the downside, cloud backups can often be much more expensive than a local approach, and a heavy backup may negatively impact the performance of your computer while it is running and will require a lot of bandwidth. This can make the process very slow (it took Shannon 11 weeks to do her initial 300GB backup) and is all the worse if you don’t have a very good Internet connection. To help with these concerns, look for a solution that provides incremental or differential backups, ideally using delta copying technology. There are many online backup services to choose from. Some companies provide services which backup to their own online storage and some choices are software programs that let you backup to cloud storage you purchase separately. Thus, while a couple of offerings are free, most require a subscription or one-time payment. If you are planning to purchase your own online backup space, here is a quick rundown of the main providers:
- Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) is the king of the jungle of online storage. Its pricing is very reasonable, though a bit convoluted. S3 is very reliable and is probably the most widely supported storage service.
- Amazon Glacier is an (even) cheaper offering from Amazon. It offers the same reliability but is meant more for data that is infrequently accessed. Thus, to get your data back from Glacier storage typically takes hours. Basically, you are trading cost for convenience. If you are using it just for archiving or backup with a very infrequent need to restore, this may be an acceptable trade-off. If not, go with S3.
- Google Cloud Storage is Google’s answer to S3. And just as Amazon offers its cheaper, less available Glacier service, Google offers something similar called Durable Reduced Availability Storage.
- Rackspace Cloud Files is Rackspace’s S3-like product based on OpenStack (in collaboration with NASA and others).
- You may come across other services like OpenStack, MS Azure, Nirvanix, and Zoolz (formerly Timeline Cloud). These are focused on corporate applications or specialty markets and not consumers like you and me.
If you choose online storage offered by a service provider, two features might be worth considering, both related to minimizing the hassle of transferring large amounts of data over the Internet. First, some companies offer a seed drive service where you can mail a hard drive (theirs or your own) to save time and hassle. Just as useful is a recovery drive option, for when you need to restore all that data. Second, some services make it easy to transfer backups from an old computer to a new one.
Popular Online Backup Services
Here’s the listing of major software and services currently available. I have also included some tools which let you easily view and manage third-party storage services like S3, since pure storage services don’t usually integrate into Windows Explorer. Note that, as this is a competitive market, prices are quite likely to change. Shaded listings are those I find particularly worth considering.
Adrive has been around longer than most of its competitors and has always offered an incredible 50GB of free storage. Free accounts come with ads and can only use a browser, Android or iOS. Paid accounts get a desktop tool for Windows, Mac, or Linux. Maximum upload file size is 2GB for free accounts and 16GB for paid accounts. Paid accounts provide 7 days of revision history and also support remote and secure transfers, multi-user accounts (divide and protect storage amounts), multiple concurrent sessions, collaboration, and WebDAV (to map your ADrive).
Pricing: 50GB for $6.95 per month, $69.50 per year; 100GB for $13.95 per month, $139.50 per year; 500GB for $66.95 per month, $669.50 per year; 1TB for $131.95 per month, $1,319.50 per year.
Amazon Cloud Drive is really two products in one. I believe it started out as a service to store the MP3s purchased from the Amazon music store, and it still serves that purpose. There is even a Cloud Player you can install so you can listen to that collection from anywhere. Your free account (you can use an existing Amazon account) includes storage of 250 songs and you can purchase practically unlimited song storage separately.
The second included service is backup storage (and retrieval) of your data. You can think of this as Amazon’s consumer-friendly approach to using its S3 storage service. Though it is often discussed along with services like Dropbox, it is not a sync service. Thus, there is no central folder that gets monitored and synced automatically. Rather, the application stays in your system tray and everything gets done from there or directly from Explorer/File Manager. To backup a folder or files, drag and drop to the system tray icon or right-click and choose Send to Amazon Cloud Drive. A notification dialogue will appear to keep you updated on the uploading progress.
Right-clicking the app’s system tray icon will let you open your Cloud Drive account on the Web, check and purchase storage space, and change options, notably the download folder.
Pricing: 50GB, 100GB, 200GB, 500GB, and 1TB buckets can be purchased at $10.00 per 20GB. Storage of up to 250,000 songs is $24.99 per year.
Amazon S3 FileSync is an open source Windows program that can synchronize files between two folders (e.g., computer to external drive) or between your computer and your Amazon S3 account. The application is portable and can sync data instantly with your Amazon S3 account without having to set up and configure the account settings. To get started, select a local folder and then choose either Another Local Folder or Amazon S3 Bucket. For S3 syncing, just enter your key (ID) and secret pass key, and then select a synchronization mode: Upload (Backup), Download (Restore) or Exchange (2-way). Once done, click Sync Files Now to begin synchronizing your data. Copying is done in 2 passes, uploading small (<5MB) files first, then larger files in a second pass.
Arq is a Mac-only program that lets you easily backup to and restore from Amazon S3 or Amazon Glacier storage. Just drag and drop a folder onto Arq to add it for automatic backup. Drag and drop from a backup to immediately start restoring. Your data is protected by a password and all data is encrypted on your computer before it is sent to S3. Arq keeps multiple versions of your files and backs up every hour or every day, depending on the schedule you choose. There’s also an iOS app to access your backups.
Pricing: $29 per computer
Backazon sells software to backup to Amazon S3. It is sold on a subscription basis. While it does include the software, updates, and support, backup technology just isn’t that difficult (see all the free options I have already listed), so to pay annually seems silly to me. Plus, it’s Windows only.
Pricing: $19.95/year for software + Amazon S3 usage fees; $35.91 for two year subscription; $51.87 for a three year subscription.
Backblaze (Windows/Mac) backs up everything on your computer except your operating system, programs, and temporary files. Use an external drive? Backblaze will backup that too. It compresses, and backs up incrementally to backup online as efficiently as possible. Have the same photo stored twice? Backblaze will de-duplicate to back it up just once; if you restore, it will be put back in both places. Change a file multiple times? Backblaze will only back up the changes. Backblaze keeps up to four weeks of file versions. Modified a file and need an old version? Just scroll back and pick a file from two weeks ago.
By default, Backblaze backs up all the time so you don’t have to remember, but if you wish, you can schedule Backblaze to backup at a convenient time or only when you click Backup Now. Your data is encrypted on your computer, sent over an encrypted connection, and stored encrypted. Want more security? You can add your own password for another layer of privacy.
Pricing: $5 per month per computer for unlimited storage ($50 for one year, $95 for two years).
Carbonite offers unlimited online backup. For home users there are three plans with different features: Home offers automatic backup with anytime, anywhere access and easy restore; HomePlus is Home plus external hard drive backup and mirror image backup (which includes OS files and programs); and HomePremier is HomePlus with automatic video backup and courier recovery service. Carbonite also has functionality to easily transfer backups from an old computer to a new one, even handling changes made in path names. Carbonite is mostly a Windows-only solution though for some reason the basic Home plan is supported on Mac.
Pricing: Home for $59 per year; HomePlus for $99 per year; HomePremier for $149 per year. Pricing is per computer.
Cloudberry offers multiple products. Cloudberry Explorer is a freeware client designed to run in a Windows environment. There are Explorer versions for Amazon S3 and Glacier, Windows Azure, Google Storage, and Rackspace Cloud Files. Each makes working with files on the respective storage service easy from your Windows Explorer. Pro versions with extra features are available also.
Cloudberry Backup Desktop Edition is a Windows program that automates encrypted and compressed data cloud backup. It comes with a user-friendly interface allowing setup backup plan or restoring data in a few simple steps and it supports over 15 public cloud storage including Amazon S3, Amazon Glacier, Windows Azure, Google Storage and Rackspace. Other features include scheduled and real-time backup, encryption, compression, cost estimates, local backup, virtual disk, block level backup, intelligent bandwidth scheduler, altering notifications, an API, a command line interface, and network backup. Missing features include pre- and post-actions, data de-duplication, and AWS import/export support
Pricing: Explorer is free and Explorer Pro is $39.99. Backup Desktop Edition is $29.99 and includes one year of updates and support; additional years cost 20% annually but are not required.
Cloud Turtle Free Cloud Explorer provides an easy interface for managing Amazon S3, Nirvanix and Timeline Cloud (now Zoolz) accounts. It has features specific to each of the storage services it supports (e.g., working with objects and buckets for S3). It also has the following general features: multi-task operations such as upload, download and delete; multi-threaded download and upload; pause and resume; auto retry failed tasks in case of a failed connection; throttle bandwidth usage; a complete history log; and a simple, dynamic user interface that can be changed to your preferred layout. See the AddictiveTips Cloud Turtle review for more information and screenshots. Windows only.
Concentsus is a Windows-only cloud backup service. It has no free plan and pricing is per computer. It does provide bandwidth throttling and incremental backups.
Pricing: 1-20GB for $4.99; 21-40GB for $14.95; 41-60GB for $24.95; 61-80GB for $34.95; 81-100GB for $44.95.
I reviewed CrashPlan in the backup-only options, but I include it here as well thanks to the CrashPlan+ online subscription plan.
Pricing: One computer + 10GB is $2.99 per month, $32.99 per year, $62.99 for 2 years, $87.99 for 3 years and $99.99 for 4 years. One computer + unlimited storage is $5.99 per month, $59.99 per year, $114.99 for 2 years, $164.99 for 3 years and $189.99 for 4 years. 2-10 computers + unlimited storage is $13.99 per month, $149.99 per year, $289.99 for 2 years, $399.99 for 3 years and $429.99 for 4 years. You can get started by mailing in a seed drive for $124.99. Likewise, you can have a drive sent to you to restore all your files for the same $124.99.
F-Secure is a fully automated backup and restore, access and share solution for Windows and Mac. You can easily restore your files, either automatically or by selecting the files you need. You can access your files securely from anywhere on the web and share them directly with friends through social media. It also keeps you up to date on your backup status with regular e-mail reports.
Pricing: 1 computer with 25GB online storage for $59.90 per year; it is unclear if you can buy 25GB extra for that price or if the service is limited to 25GB.
Gladinet lets you access pretty much any third-party storage available today as a local drive in Windows Explorer. The Free Starter for personal use gives you single sign-on to multiple accounts, deep explorer integration, transfer task scheduling, and upload or download folder structures. The Pro version also gets you automatic two-way syncing between local and cloud folders, enhanced security, cloud-cloud backup (e.g., backup Google Docs to SkyDrive), tech support, free minor version upgrades, a web portal, and support for uploading and downloading large folder structures. With Premium you get you all the benefits of Pro plus 10GB free Gladinet Cloud storage space, the ability to attach local folders to the cloud, sharing of local and cloud folders with others, Web access, support, and lifetime free upgrades. A Team purchase is also available for enterprises.
Pricing: Starter is free; Pro is $49.99; Premium is $59.99; Team is $9.99 per month (minimum three users). All prices are per user.
IDrive offers online backup for unlimited computers (PC/Mac), iPhones, iPads, and Android devices all into one account. IDrive retains and allows you to restore the last 30 versions of all files backed up to your account. Your storage is computed only for the most current version. IDrive works real-time and only backs up the changed portion of files. You can also backup external and mapped drives, and throttle bandwidth. IDrive offers file sharing and sync capabilities also, but for a focus on these, check out the separate IDriveSync service instead.
Pricing: You can get a free account with 5GB or a paid account (150GB for $4.95/month or 500GB for $14.95/month – two months free if purchased yearly).
Jungle Disk Simply Backup license covers an unlimited number of computers. Its unique Backup Vault feature makes backups more efficient and reduces storage costs with compression and a server-grade de-duplication technology that prevents users from backing up the same data twice. Restoring files as they existed during a particular backup is as easy as pointing and clicking. You can restore from last night or last week, with no limit to how long backups are kept. With Remote Backup Reporting, you can receive reports on the web or via e-mail and RSS. Finally, Jungle Disk lets you choose between Rackspace and Amazon for your storage needs.
Note that Jungle Disk also offers a Desktop edition that includes sync functionality and it is easy to upgrade to that and use the two together. Simply Backup is available for Windows and Mac while Desktop also supports Linux.
Pricing: Jungle Disk charges $2 per month and includes 5GB of storage. You pay for Amazon S3 or Rackspace Cloud Files storage (your choice) separately.
Keepit offers unlimited, daily, secure backup with 60 day versioning. All data is replicated between geographically separate locations for extra security. Keepit does not limit file size or throttle upload speed.
Pricing: $59.40 for one year or $108.90 for two years
KeepVault is brought to you by the company behind KeepSync. It features no per-computer fees and combines local backup with real-time, secure, and high-speed online backup. One drawback is that the file versioning and incremental backup features seems to be only available on the Pro & Business plan. KeepVault also only runs on Windows.
Pricing: Choose from a large list of storage sizes: 40GB for $46/year; 200GB for $199/year; 500GB for $480/year; 1TB for $930/year. Yearly prices are 10% less than monthly and two-year purchases are 20% less.
I covered Leo Backup in the section on local backup services but I list it here as well since it also supports backups to Amazon S3. Leo Backup uses incremental backups and you can encrypt and compress your files as well as schedule the backups. You are always notified of the backup results by e-mail message. Moreover, you can receive the detailed log about the performed operation.
Pricing: Standard version is free, Pro is $39.99. Compare here.
Livedrive offers an online, unlimited service to backup your entire computer (PC or Mac). Access up to 30 previous versions of your files from any browser or a mobile device. Restore deleted files for up to 30 days. Stream your music and videos too.
Pricing: $7.95 per month per computer (add a computer for $1.45 per month). Livedrive also offers two other plans, one a syncing service (Briefcase) with up to 2TB of data for $15.95 a month and another (Pro Suite) that offers Briefcase plus the backup plan for up to 5 computers for $24.95. All plans offer two free months if paid yearly.
Mega is brought to you by Kim Dotcom, the infamous founder of Megaupload, which was shut down by the FBI. Mega is clearly trying to differentiate itself with a very impressive 50GB of free storage. It also offers local encryption to provide extra security. Currently, you can only upload and download your files via browser, which is far from ideal, but with the availability of a public API, I imagine that explorer integration and third-party tools will become available.
Pricing: 500GB for $13 per month (1TB bandwidth), 2TB for $25 per month (4TB bandwidth), 4TB for $38 per month (8TB bandwidth). Save 17% if you pay annually.
Mozy is one of the older services and offers automatic or scheduled backups, 30 days of revision history, mobile access (iOS and Android), delta copying of files, tech support via live chat and tickets, file encryption, open and locked file support, bandwidth throttling, in-client and web-based restores, and web access to your files. Mozy used to offer only a backup service but now also offers file syncing between multiple computers with Mozy Stash (see the Cloud Syncing section) and you can split your data between the two services however you see fit.
Pricing: 50GB for $5.99/month, 125GB for $9.99/month. Get one month free if you purchase a one-year plan and three months free if you purchase two years. Add additional computers for $2 per month per computer and add an additional 20GB of space for $2 per month.
MyOtherDrive distinguishes itself by allowing one account to backup more than one computer (including network shares). Each computer keeps its own separate schedule, and what files to backup. You can choose automatic or manual backups. You can also set some backups to backup all files (including deleted copies) or to synchronize, keeping the files exactly the same on your computer and the cloud. MOD also offers public sharing (anyone can access), friend-based sharing (you control the access via permissions), and password-based sharing (you control access via passwords). If you have a large drive you would like to have backed up to MyOtherDrive quickly, you can mail it for the initial backup (no charge other than return shipping cost). You can also easily import your data from other online service providers. After initial backup, “delta” backups make maintaining the backups very fast.
Pricing: 100GB for $5/month ($55/year); 500GB for $10/month ($110/year); 1TB for $20/month.
Available on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, Pogoplug cloud offers unlimited backup for $49.95 per year. With their mobile apps, you can view your entire photo collection, listen to any song in your music library, access any file in your account and watch all your videos from any device, anywhere. You can also share files either publicly or privately. Pogoplug Cloud also automatically organizes your photos and videos into a timeline that’s sorted by month and year.
Pricing: $49.95 per year
SafeCopy allows you to backup multiple computers on one account. Backups are real-time and securely encrypted and files are archived even after deletion unless you manually delete them. Support for Windows and Mac, with an iPhone app and special access for other smartphones.
Pricing: $50/year for 200GB and $70/year for 300GB. You can add one to the other for a maximum of 500GB. A 10-20% discount is available for longer duration purchases.
SOS Online Backup lets you perform backups with unlimited file archiving for up to five devices, including PCs, Macs, Androids and iOS devices. It includes a smart scanner to help you choose which files to backup. You’ll be notified when your backups are running and you’ll also get an online backup report emailed to you. SOS Online Backup software encrypts your data locally, in transit, and at rest in the data center.
Pricing: 100GB for $9.99 per month, 150GB for $15.99 per month, and 250GB for $19.99 per month. Annual prices are 10x monthly price and a two-year purchase is 17.5x the monthly price.