Best Free Cloud Backup 2021: Security for Zilch

Aleksander Hougen
By Aleksander Hougen (Editor)
— Last Updated: 2020-06-12T13:41:15+00:00

Unlike more traditional cloud storage solutions — like Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive — backup providers rarely offer free plans of any significance. The few that do generally greatly limit the user’s storage space or lock away significant functionality. That said, there are some decent free options out there, so we put together this list of the best free cloud backup to help you pick one.

The most important factor in this comparison will be how much storage space is provided free of charge. Generally, this is 5GB or less, but there are some services on this list that offer more.

However, all of the regular criteria from our online backup reviews are also important. After all, a service with a lack of features, as well as terrible security, privacy and speed, isn’t made much better by offering lots of free space.

At the end of the day, your choices are fairly limited if you want an online backup solution for free. If you decide that protecting your data might be worth a few dollars a month, you can head over to our list of the best online backup services instead. This will widen your options to popular services like Backblaze and Acronis, neither of which offer a free plan.

You can also check out our best online cloud storage services for more details. If you’re not sure what the distinction is between these two categories, our guide on cloud storage vs online backup may be of use to you, and you can use our online storage comparison chart to make sure you get the best service.

The Best Free Cloud Backup Services

  1. CloudBerry Backup — Powerful backup solution with plenty of storage options
  2. IDrive — Flexible and feature-packed backup with great security and privacy, but poor speed
  3. Duplicati — Free and open-source backup service that can be paired with third-party storage
  4. Jottacloud — Simple backup process with servers located in a privacy-friendly country
  5. BigMIND Home — Easy-to-use backup with lots of features but small amount of free storage
  6. Memopal — Clunky and difficult to use, but still free
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    5 TB - Unlimited GB
    $ 4999
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    5 GB - 12.5 TB
    $ 497
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    5-Unlimited GB
    $ 658
    Save 17 %
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    1-1000 GB
    $ 299
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    3-500 GB
    $ 808

1. CloudBerry Backup (MSP360)

CloudBerry — rebranded as MSP360 — takes a different approach to backups from most other providers. Instead of offering both a client and server space, CloudBerry Backup requires you to pair its software with a separate storage provider. Luckily, there are several options with free tiers that you can use, such as Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

The latter is not to be confused with the more consumer-friendly Google Drive, as CloudBerry discontinued support for this cloud storage option (as well as other consumer facing services, including OneDrive and Dropbox) earlier this year. That said, you can still get 5GB of free storage from Amazon S3 or Google Cloud, and 10GB through Microsoft Azure.

CloudBerry-Provider-Options

In terms of compatibility, CloudBerry supports Windows, Mac and Linux, which is great. It also offers a mobile app for iOS and Android, but sadly it can’t be used to perform mobile backups and is just there for remote access to your stored data.

The software itself is very powerful and includes a bunch of features, from the standard backup options like disk imaging as well as scheduled and continuous backup, to slightly more unusual inclusions, such as a disk capacity tool and a wizard for creating bootable media devices.

CloudBerry-Tools-Tab

The backup features themselves are just as extensive, including support for hybrid and image-based backups, as well as multithreading and block-level uploads. Versioning is also unlimited, which is unusual for a free online backup solution. Its speed is also excellent, if you pair CloudBerry with a fast storage provider.

CloudBerry-Versioning

You can also set up throttling, notifications, custom retention policies and detailed scheduling for each individual backup plan, giving you plenty of flexibility.

CloudBerry-Throttling

Security and privacy is a bit of a mixed bag due to the nature of how CloudBerry functions. Although CloudBerry itself facilitates excellent encryption practices, if you’re using an online storage service like Google Cloud to provide the storage, there’s not much the software can do about Google’s atrocious stance on digital privacy.

CloudBerry-Encryption

Pros:

  • Flexible online backup
  • Lots of features
  • Users given a lot of control over backup process
  • Potentially large amount of free storage
  • Available on Linux

Cons:

  • Intimidating for casual users
  • Security, privacy & speed are reliant on storage providers
  • Not compatible with most consumer-facing storage

2. IDrive

IDrive tops our list of the best backup services, so it’s no surprise that it does very well on this list, as well. In fact, the only reason why it’s not our number-one pick here is because it offers only half of the free storage space that CloudBerry Backup pairs with Microsoft Azure.

Other than this limitation, IDrive does very well in almost every criteria we use to review online backup providers. Its security and privacy are both excellent, featuring two-factor authentication, AES 256-bit encryption for your data at rest and TLS to protect your files and folders from man-in-the-middle attacks while they’re in-transit.

IDrive-2FA

Perhaps more importantly, the encryption can also be made entirely private, which makes IDrive a zero-knowledge service. Essentially this means that you can opt to use an encryption key that only you can access, which makes it impossible for IDrive to decrypt your files in the event that they’re forced to hand your data over to the authorities.

IDrive-Private-Key

However, IDrive’s greatest strength is its wealth of features. It supports almost every type of backup, from hard-drive cloning to mobile and NAS devices, as well as servers.

The service is available on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, but not on Linux, so those who use that open-source operating system can check out our list of the best online backup for Linux to find an alternative.

The mobile apps available on Android and iOS provide you with remote access to your files, as well as a way to backup your phone or tablet. Like most online backup services, the mobile apps are limited to backing up pictures and videos, contacts and your calendar.

IDrive-Mobile-Backup

IDrive also offers a courier-recovery service that can be used for both backups and restores. This comes in handy if you have to backup a large amount of data, as you can have IDrive send you a physical hard drive with capacity that matches the size of your online backup.

So if you need to backup 2TB of files, IDrive will send you a 2TB external hard drive. Then you can transfer your files to the drive before sending it back. IDrive will then upload the data directly from the external drive, saving you significant bandwidth and time.

The backup process itself is also very easy to manage with IDrive. You have complete control over exactly what files and folders you want to upload, and the client gives you a lot of information about how a backup is going when it’s in progress.

IDrive-Main-Panel

IDrive does have a significant Achilles’ heel, though, and that’s its speed. Despite supporting multithreaded backups, both uploads and downloads to the service are almost painfully slow. Because of this, it takes many times longer to perform both backups and restores than your connection speed should warrant.

IDrive-Log

If you’re intrigued by IDrive and want to see how it stacks up against some other popular services, you can check out our IDrive vs Backblaze and IDrive vs Carbonite comparisons to learn more.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Feature-packed
  • Great security & privacy
  • Private encryption

Cons:

  • Painfully slow

3. Duplicati

Duplicati is another backup service that — like CloudBerry — doesn’t offer any online storage space of its own. Instead, it’s an open-source, free-to-use piece of software that needs to be paired with a separate online storage provider.

Unlike CloudBerry, Duplicati still supports plenty of consumer-facing cloud storage solutions, which means that you can use it to store up to 15GB of data for free, if paired with Google Drive.

Duplicati-Storage-Options

Besides Google Drive, Duplicati supports plenty of other storage providers — 21 in all — including other popular online storage services, such as Dropbox and OneDrive. If you’re not sure which of the big three you want to use, check out our Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive comparison to learn which one is best for you.

This does mean that Duplicati — like CloudBerry — is a bit more complicated to set up and use, compared to some other entries on the list, but this shouldn’t be a problem for power users.

That said, Duplicati is still quite a bit easier to get used to than CloudBerry is, in large part thanks to its clean interface and the assistance it provides in setting up authorization for your storage provider.

Duplicati-Auth-Key

The desktop client runs via your browser, so Duplicati functions on Windows, Mac and Linux, which essentially guarantees you’ll be able to use it regardless of your operating system of choice.

Despite all of Duplicati’s advanced options, there are some basic things missing. There’s no support for multithreading, nor image-based backups. There is also no mobile app available, which means that both mobile backup and remote access to the cloud from your phone is not possible.

Its upload and download speeds are excellent, provided you pair Duplicati with a fast service, such as Google Drive. Multithreading and block-level file copying are both included, which contribute greatly to the high speed.

Duplicati’s versioning is also extensive, as you’re given detailed control over how long to keep deleted files and how many previous versions you want stored on the server.

Duplicati-Versioning

Because Duplicati is open-source and free, the customer support is pretty lacking. It’s hard to hold this against the backup service, though, as there’s still a user forum and knowledgebase that you can consult if you run into any problems.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Feature-packed
  • Great security & privacy
  • Private encryption

Cons:

  • Painfully slow

4. Jottacloud

Jottacloud provides users with 5GB of free storage space, which is comparable to other services, such as IDrive. Although the desktop client looks a bit antiquated, it’s easy to use and everything is presented in a clear manner. In terms of operating systems, it’s compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux, which is great.

Jottacloud-Main-Panel

This online backup service is also among the few providers to offer full sync and share functionality, which is something more commonly found in cloud storage services.

Jottacloud-Sync-And-Share

Jottacloud also offers some pretty neat features involving media and document files. You can preview photos and videos directly from storage, as well as create and edit Microsoft Office documents directly through Office Online.

Jottacloud-Photo-Preview

In fact, the photo functionality of Jottacloud is very similar to Google Drive (which tops our list of the best online backup for photos), both in terms of what you can do with it and how it feels to use. You get an overall timeline of all your photos sorted by the date they were taken, as well as the ability to create custom albums that you can be share with other people.

Jottacloud-Albums

For the actual backup process, there are plenty of features, including continuous and scheduled backups, detailed throttling controls and limited versioning.

Jottacloud-Throttling

However, there is no block-level algorithm for uploads, which is something that almost every other online backup provider offers. This can mean wasting tons of bandwidth and time reuploading entire files, when only parts of them have changed.

Another problem with the process is that Jottacloud only lets you select entire folders for backup, with no option for individual files. Although this isn’t too hard to get around, it might require you to reorganize your files a bit.

When it comes to speed, we found that Jottacloud was fast enough, even if it could do a bit better.

Jottacloud also does well with both security and privacy. The encryption is strong, and even though you’re not given the option of managing your own encryption key, the backup service is based in Norway, which has pretty good digital privacy laws. This makes the lack of private encryption less of a problem than it is for services that store your data in, for example, the U.S.

Still, if you want your backup service to be completely zero knowledge, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Pros:

  • Lots of features
  • Strong security
  • Servers located in Norway
  • Available on Linux

Cons:

  • No private encryption
  • No block-level uploads
  • Can’t select individual files for backup

5. BigMIND Home

BigMIND Home is another decent option for those who are looking for free cloud backup software. It’s biggest weakness in this regard is definitely the amount of storage space you get for free, which is capped at a measly 1GB. Still, if you just need to backup a few critical files, then this might be enough space for you.

In terms of platform compatibility, BigMIND Home is available on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, but not Linux. So if you’re part of “team penguin,” you’ll want to check out one of the other options on this list, like CloudBerry or Duplicati.

BigMIND Home also comes with a bunch of features, all of which are available in the free plan. This includes integration with other services and social media platforms, like Dropbox or Facebook, as well as the ability to stream video directly from your cloud storage. However, this last feature is unfortunately limited to standard definition, unless you opt for a paid plan.

BigMind-Integration

There’s also an AI algorithm that creates categories of photos based on people and objects. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work all that well with recognizing individual people, but it manages to identify objects quite well.

BigMind-AI

For versioning, BigMIND Home hangs on to deleted files for an unlimited amount of time, but changed files are limited to 10 versions kept on file. This isn’t terrible, but it falls short of other providers on this list, like CloudBerry. You also get detailed control over throttling, including special modes to limit activity, for example, during presentations.

BigMind-Throttling

When it comes to the backup process itself, BigMIND Home is incredibly well designed and easy to use. You’re given plenty of information and control while your backup is in progress, and setting it all up is a simple task.

Multithreading and block-level uploads are both supported, which — when combined with Amazon’s data centers — results in perfectly acceptable upload and download speeds.

BigMind-Main-Panel

As we mentioned earlier, BigMIND Home also offers mobile apps on both iOS and Android. These apps let you remotely access your files from any backed up device, as well as provide the ability to backup your photos and videos, calendars and contacts.

BigMind-Mobile-Backup

Other than the low storage cap, BigMIND Home’s biggest problem is its security and privacy. Even though the encryption is strong, there is no way to manage your own private key.

In essence, this means that if the authorities compel the company to hand over your data, BigMIND Home will be able to decrypt that information in the process, something that wouldn’t happen if it was a zero-knowledge service.

This is made worse by the fact that most of the data centers that BigMIND uses are located in the U.S., a country infamous for its terrible digital privacy laws, as evidenced by things like the Patriot Act and PRISM.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Fast
  • Feature-packed

Cons:

  • Only 1GB of free storage
  • No private encryption
  • Servers mostly located in the U.S.

6. Memopal

To round out our list of free online backup services, we’re including Memopal, which we generally wouldn’t recommend too strongly. Memopal offers 3GB of free cloud storage, which is better than BigMIND Home but falls short of every other online backup service on this list.

Like Jottacloud, Memopal only lets you select entire folders for backup, which can be frustrating. You also have to manually override the exclusion settings for every file bigger than 500MB. Depending on how many of these large files are included in your backup, this can be quite a task.

Memopal-Setup-Backup

The client itself is also poorly designed and difficult to use. Even though Memopal has plenty of functionality, at first glance it’s incredibly unclear what features are located where, and even what parts of the client are clickable.

Although there is a mobile app available for Android devices, there isn’t one for iOS. It’s also fairly limited in that its only backup feature is for photos and videos.

Memopal-Dashboard

All that said, the web dashboard is designed far better than the desktop client, and if it was possible to set up your backups here, the service would actually be pretty easy to use. Unfortunately, this is not an option, as you need to use the desktop client to configure your backup.

Memopal-Web-Dashboard

There are a few positives worth mentioning, though. Memopal includes file sync and sharing functionality — which are features more common to traditional cloud storage — as well as support for unlimited devices. It’s also available on Linux, which several of the services on this list aren’t.

Memopal-Sync-And-Share

Pros:

  • File sync & sharing
  • Unlimited devices
  • Available on Linux

Cons:

  • No iOS app
  • Difficult to use
  • Can’t select individual files for backup
  • Requires manual confirmation for large files

Final Thoughts

That rounds out our list of the best free backup solutions. The top five choices on our list — CloudBerry Backup, IDrive, Duplicati, Jottacloud and BigMIND Home — are all great online backup services, regardless of whether you opt for their free versions or choose to pay for a plan.

Although Memopal made it onto the list, it’s not an option we’d really recommend, as it’s plagued by various problems, from poor security and privacy to terrible design. That said, backup services that offer free accounts are few and far between, which secured Memopal a spot on the list, despite its many flaws.

What did you think of our list of the best free cloud backup? Did we miss your favorite free cloud backup provider? Have you ever had poor experiences with the free accounts of our top picks? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.