Online (Cloud) Backup

Last Updated: May 15, 2023

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.

cloud thumb - Online (Cloud) Backup

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 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.

I don’t know which online backup service was the first, but there are now many 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 S3 Glacier is a cheaper S3 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 Archive Storage.
  • You may come across other services like Backblaze B2, Microsoft Azure, OpenStack Swift, and Rackspace Storage. 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 a 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.

ADrive

ADrive has been around longer than most of its competitors. Features include: anywhere access; file sharing; folder upload; edit documents online; search tool; remote file transfer; international character support; file sizes up to 16GB; SCP, FPT, SFTP and Rsync; public file expiration; public file password; file history recovery; WebDAV; multiple concurrent sessions; no third-party advertisements; and online collaboration.

Pricing: 60-day free trial; 100GB is $2.50 per month ($25.00 annually); 250GB is $6.25 per month ($62.50 annually); 500GB is $12.50 per month ($125.00 annually); 1TB is $25.00 per month ($250.00); 2TB is $50.00 per month ($500.00); 3TB is $75.00 per month ($750.00); 5TB is $125.00 per month ($1,250.00); 10TB is $250.00 per month ($2,500.00). Note that discounts are available for multi-year purchases.

Arq

Arq for Windows and Mac offers block-level, incremental backup using compression and de-duplication to an external drive, cloud account you already have, or NAS (or a combination of those), with strong, end-to-end encryption. Arq uses snapshot technology to make point-in-time backups of your files, even if your files are changing during the backup process. It keeps multiple backups of your files so if you discover a file was corrupted, or accidentally deleted, or encrypted by a ransomware attack, you can go back and get the old version. Arq lets you back up hourly or daily and restore right from the app — no downloading of zip files. Other features let you prevent backup while on battery power, limit bandwidth usage, limit retention to reduce storage usage, and add custom file/folder exclusion rules. You can also purchase Arq Premium, which is a subscription that includes a license for Arq on up to 5 computers plus a built-in, managed cloud storage option. It includes web access to your backups.

Pricing: $49.99 per computer with one free year of app updates (after your first year of updates, you can subscribe to additional years of updates at $25 per year per computer or just purchase an upgrade of another year of updates whenever you feel so inclined); Arq Premium is $59.99 per year and includes 1TB of storage (additional storage is $.0059/GB per month).

Backblaze

Backblaze Personal Backup (Windows, Mac) backs up, online, everything on your computer except your operating system, programs, and temporary files. You can also configure it so it ignores specific folders or file types if you prefer. Backblaze can also back up your external hard drive(s). Personal plans include unlimited storage. The software compresses and backs up incrementally to work as efficiently as possible, and you can even adjust how much of your network bandwidth it will use. If you have the same photo stored in more than one location, Backblaze will back up only one copy but if you restore it, copies will be put back in all original locations. If you changed a file, Backblaze will only back up those changes. Backblaze keeps up to four weeks of file versions which you can easily access. You can also pay extra to extend that retention to a year or forever.

By default, Backblaze backs up all the time so you don’t have to remember, but if you wish, you can schedule it to work 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.

For recovering files, you can download from the Backblaze website or you can have your files mailed to you on a hard drive (up to an 8TB) anywhere in the world. There is a fee for mailing the drive, but it is refunded when you return it.

Pricing: $7 per month per computer for unlimited storage ($70 for one year, $130 for two years).

Carbonite

Carbonite offers unlimited online backup but details vary based on the plan you choose. The “Basic” plan offers automatic backup for one computer (one drive only) but won’t automatically back up video files (you can back these up manually). The “Plus” plan adds support for one external hard drive backup and includes automatic video backup. The “Prime” plan adds courier recovery service. Note that any files larger than 4GB will not be backed up automatically, but can done manually. Carbonite also has functionality to easily transfer backups from an old computer to a new one, even handling changes made in path names.

Pricing: Basic is $83.99 per year; Plus is $119.99 per year; Prime is $149.99 per year. As of this writing, new users get 30% off the prices listed here.

Degoo

Degoo offers secure online file storage and sharing for all your devices, including auto upload of your phone’s photos. You can encrypt your files with a passphrase which is not stored on Degoo servers and your data is encoded into chunks and spread out to data centers in different countries.

Note that some premium features (e.g., maximum file size greater than 1GB) require an in-app upgrade and also note that are a lot of negative Trustpilot reviews. One of the common complaints is the fact that your account will be canceled if you leave it inactive for a year. Another complaint is that even paid versions have ads.

Pricing: Free plan offers 20GB; Pro (500GB) is $2.99 per month; Ultimate (5TB) is $9.99 per month. Note that StackSocial often has discounted lifetime plans on offer. For example, a 10TB plan is on sale for $99.99 as of this writing.

ElephantDrive

ElephantDrive has been around since 2006. It backs up your data from Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android devices using AES 256-bit encryption to keep your data safe, secure, and private. External drive and NAS device backup is also supported as is file sharing and collaboration. Elephant Drive can also back up open and locked files. Note that besides price and total storage, some other features (e.g., maximum file size) differ depending on which plan you choose.

Pricing: Solo (1TB) is $10 per month ($100 annually); Family (2TB) is $20 per month ($200 annually). $10 per 1TB.

G Cloud Backup

G Cloud Backup lets you back up multiple devices with a single account but it only supports mobile devices, which is a pretty big limitation. Your data is stored on the Amazon AWS Cloud. You can organize data chronologically in one location to easily access your memories and you access your content from either the app or from a web browser. You can also share, view, play, and listen directly from the cloud.

As of this writing there are only two Trustpilot reviews, one of which is bad, but considering the parent company is Zoolz I would be wary.

Pricing: 100GB is $1.99 per month; 1TB is $3.99 per month; Unlimited is $5.99 per month. Note that there are often sales on StackSocial.

GoodSync Storage

GoodSync has a backup software program which I mentioned earlier and it also has an online storage option. Features include: no bandwidth throttling, block-level data transfer, and instant recovery following a connection loss.

Pricing: A free 30-day trial is available but otherwise you will need to pay for this service (100GB is $19.99; 1TB is $99.99; 2TB is $199.99; 4TB is $349.99; 8TB is $699.99)

Icedrive

Icedrive (Mac, Windows, Linux, Web, Android, iOS), based in the UK, makes your cloud storage feel like a physical hard drive with its drive mounting software. Access, manage and update your cloud storage as if it were attached to your computer, but without taking up any space. Icedrive also offers a backup wizard, media streaming, file sharing (with expiration dates and password protection), unlimited file size, and client-side encryption. Note that each plan gets a set amount of bandwidth. I didn’t see those limits specified but in a thread in the user forums, a team member wrote, “the more appropriate term would be ‘Public Transfer,’ since it only counts against your shared files—it does not affect your personal cloud use at all.”

Pricing: Offers monthly, annual, and lifetime plans. 10GB free plan; Lite (150GB) is $1.67 per month ($19.99 annually); Pro (1TB) is $4.17 per month ($49.99 annually); Pro+ (5TB) is $15.00 per month ($179.99 annually); lifetime subscription fees were on sale as of this writing for $99 (regularly $198), $499 (regularly $749), and $999 (regularly $1,499).

Koofr

Koofr is a simple cloud storage service, accessible through the web, mobile, and WebDAV (with the Koofr Desktop App). You can upload, access and share any file with no size limit and you can view all your files in one place by easily connecting to existing cloud accounts (Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon, and OneDrive). Once you subscribe to a Koofr storage plan, you’ll get access to Koofr Duplicate Finder to help you find and remove duplicate files inside your account. You can manage your files and account with an advanced renaming option and link appearance customization option, as well. Other features include: file versioning, automatic mobile media backup, two-way synchronization, a Facebook media transfer tool, a browser extension, and both public and private file sharing.

Pricing: 10GB for free; 10GB is €0.5 per month; 10GB is €0.5 per month; 25GB is €1 per month; 100GB is €2 per month; 250GB is €4 per month; 1TB is €10 per month; 2.5TB is €20 per month; 5TB is €35 per month; 10TB is €60 per month; 20TB is €120 per month. Note that StackSocial often has lifetime Koofr subscriptions on sale. For example, a 1TB plan is on sale for $139.99 as of this writing.

Leo Backup

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 a detailed log about the performed operation.

Pricing: Free version exits; Professional is $39.95 per computer; Enterprise is $44.95 per computer with discounts for additional licenses.

LetsUpload

LetsUpload (Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS) provides online backup and file sharing with desktop (WebDAV) and mobile access. You can upload files up to 120GB in size. Accounts offer unlimited storage, no ads, and full-speed downloads. Note that files are only kept for 30 days, which I don’t understand and isn’t explained on the official site.

Pricing: $14.99 per month, $29.99 for 2 months, and $39.99 for 3 months.

Livedrive

Livedrive offers an unlimited service to backup your entire computer (PC or Mac but no mobile devices), a 2TB “briefcase” service to backup your mobile devices and to access and edit files anywhere, or a bundle of those two services (includes five computers and 5TB of storage). All three services let you access files via mobile and desktop apps, restore deleted files (for up to 30 days), and access up to 30 previous versions of your files. You can stream your music and videos too.

Pricing: Backup is $8.99 per month ($89.90 annually); Briefcase is $16 per month ($156 per year); Pro Suite (Backup + Briefcase) is $25 per month ($240 per year).

Mega

Mega offers secure backup and file syncing, either on their cloud storage, or (upcoming as of this writing) on Amazon S3. You can also share your files with friends (with password protection and expiry dates) and have secure and private conversations (chats and meetings). 100 file versions are maintained and soon you will be able to recover accidentally deleted or changed files. You can get started with a free 20GB plan. Note that Mega was developed by Kim Dotcom, the infamous founder of Megaupload, which was shut down by the FBI. Perhaps because of those origins (as solely a file sharing service), Mega imposes limits on transfer bandwidth that other services don’t.

Pricing: 20GB free plan; Pro Lite (400GB storage, 1 TB transfer) is €4.99 per month; Pro I (2TB storage, 2TB transfer) is €9.99 per month; Pro II (8TB storage, 8TB transfer) is €19.99 per month; Pro I (16TB storage, 16TB transfer) is €29.99 per month. There is also a Flexi account where you can select the amount of storage and transfer quota and get a custom price.

MiMedia

MiMedia (Mac, Windows, Web, Android, iOS) focuses on photos, videos and music. It can sync documents as well, but that’s not its focus, as seen by the lack of features usually found on other services (e.g., file sharing). You also have little control over what gets synced as there is no centralized folder like Dropbox and you don’t specify which folders to include. Instead, the service automatically scans for supported files and shows you a list of folders that contain them. They are preselected by default, but you can pick and choose. One interesting feature that sets MiMedia apart is that you can upload photos from social media and other cloud storage (e.g., Dropbox, Facebook, Flickr, Google, and Instagram).

Pricing: 10GB free plan; Basic (500GB) is $7.99 per month ($85 annually); Plus (2TB) is $9.99 per month ($100 annually); Premium (2TB) is $15.99 per month ($160 annually).

Polarbackup

Polarbackup offers lifetime, unlimited cloud backup (utilizing Amazon AWS) for Mac or Windows computers and external hard drives. A separate mobile backup solution (G Cloud Backup) is also available. You can manage, sort, locate, and preview files. Uploads are limited to maximum 4GB file size with the basic plan, but users can upgrade to unlimited upload size by purchasing an upgraded plan. The official site claims you can also restore your data with just a click but the FAQ page claims that files will be ready to download and restore within 3-12 hours from the time of the request being made.

Note that the Trustpilot reviews are awful for this service, which makes sense since it is owned by Zoolz and all of their products get terrible reviews.

Pricing: I can’t find any standalone Polarbackup purchase link, though the special bundle offer page say it is $48 for one computer and G Cloud Backup is $59.99. It is unclear if that pricing is per year or one-time but I suspect per year since the Unlimited Backup Bundle (Polarbackup, G Cloud Backup, and Gentie Timeline Home) is $54.99 per year. If that’s the case, I don’t know what the “lifetime” claim on the main page means.

Proton Drive

Proton is a Swiss company with several privacy-focused applications (VPN, encrypted email client, and encrypted calendar). Proton Drive (Web, iOS, Android) isn’t as feature-rich as its competitors (e.g., no desktop app, no versioning, limited file syncing, no collaboration feature) but it may be of interest if you are interested in the company’s other products as they all come bundled in a single account.

Pricing: 1GB free plan; Drive Plus (200GB) is €3.99 per month (€47.88 annually); Proton Unlimited (500GB) is €9.99 per month (€119.88 annually) and also includes the full suite of Proton products. A small discount is offered if you prepay for two years.

S3 Browser

S3 Browser is a free Windows client for Amazon S3 and CloudFront. S3 Browser comes with a simple Folder Sync Tool allowing you to upload or download only new and changed files and thereby significantly optimize your bandwidth usage and save you time when performing backups to Amazon S3. Currently it works in one-way synchronization mode also known as mirroring, you can define the Source and Destination, which could be the Local Folder or the Bucket/Folder on Amazon S3. The minimal piece of synchronization is the file. If some part of a file was changed in the source folder, the entire file will be transferred to destination folder. S3 Browser uses file size and modification date to compare the files. An alternate comparison criterion is the file hash which works slower but allows you to detect file changes even if the modification date is incorrect.

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