Finding a decent cloud backup solution that won’t cost you a dime is a little like searching for a needle in a haystack. While there are plenty of great low-cost backup providers, free online backup isn’t nearly as common as free cloud storage.
Still, that doesn’t mean the cupboard is empty. We scoured the backup market, including revisiting some of our own online backup reviews, to compile our list of the best free cloud backup solutions. The catch is that all of the options we found offer a only a limited amount of backup space, meaning you’re really only in luck if looking to backup just a few critical gigabytes.
In most cases, you’ll be getting diminished feature sets, too, by not going with a paid subscription. We suggest giving our best online backup guide a glance. Some of the solutions mentioned there are very budget friendly, and will save you from having later invest in a data recovery tool should your hard drive go kaput.
If, on the other hand, you’re sold on free, keep reading to find our picks for gratis backup.
Best Free Cloud Backup 2018
What Makes the Best Free Cloud Backup
The premise of this article is “free,” so the first criteria we looked for was just that. We didn’t bend the definition, even if there are some providers that can almost justify doing so, with unlimited backup for $5 per month from Backblaze being the best example.
It’s important to understand, however, that free backup is generally free for a reason. As we mentioned, if you’re going this route, don’t expect to be able to backup several hundred gigabytes of data. In fact, it’s a stretch to say that you’ll even be able to backup several gigabytes.
Another sacrifice you should be prepared to make is that of feature set. For example, Backblaze can automatically backup files based on file type, saving you loads of time (and, hey, time is money, too). You won’t get that with a free backup tool. Backblaze also offers private encryption, backup scheduling and multithreaded backups, more features that many free backup tools won’t have.
To find the best free options for the most people, we balanced total storage with available features. The results are slim pickings, but for the bargain hunter without many files to protect, the solutions we did find will get the job done.
CloudBerry Backup ranks one of our favorite online backup tools for business users, and made our best backup for personal use list, too. While the desktop tool is reasonably priced $49.99 for a perpetual license, for those looking for no-cost backup, there’s also a freemium version available for non-commercial use.
We need to point out the the freemium software lacks several key features of the paid version, including image-based backup, file compression and private encryption. That latter miss is a big one given common cybercrime threats like data breaches and man-in-the-middle attacks. Sometimes free comes at a price.
However, CloudBerry Backup freemium is otherwise the same great product, with a desktop client that supports hybrid backup, backup scheduling, block-level backup and customizable retention policies. You can discover more available features by checking our CloudBerry Backup review.
One of the things that makes CloudBerry different is that rather that lock you into its own cloud infrastructure, the company lets you pair the backup client with over 50 different cloud services. While most of those, like Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure, will cost you a pretty penny, there are some free options, too.
The most generous of those free options is Google Drive. Anyone who creates a Google account gets 15GB of free cloud storage. With CloudBerry Backup, you can easily turn that free cloud storage into free cloud backup.
All you need to do is choose Google Drive as your cloud backup destination, sign into your Google account and then complete the rest of the steps for creating your backup plan. The CloudBerry Backup client will walk you through it all, so it should be pretty simple.
If you don’t want to use CloudBerry to facilitate your backup, the Google Drive app, called Google Backup & Sync, can be used instead. From the desktop client, you can pick which folders you want to continuously backup to Google Drive. However, there are no backup features beyond that, making for a clumsy and thin backup experience.
Pro Tip: Low-Cost Google Drive Alternative
If you don’t mind spending a little money, we recommend upgraded to the paid version, CloudBerry Backup Pro, and pairing CloudBerry with a cheap cloud infrastructure service. Wasabi is a good choice that will only set you back $0.0039 per gigabyte per month. That works out to about $4 per terabyte. Read our Wasabi review for more details.
Alternatively, if you want to stick with Google, there’s a 100GB plan offered that costs $2 per month. We cover all of the subscription options in our Google Drive review.
- 15GB backup space (w/ Google Drive)
- Fast backups
- Customizable retention
- No private encryption (freeware)
- No image-based backup (freeware)
- No file compression (freeware)
IDrive ranks as the most feature-packed backup service in this article, at least when only considering free iterations. Unlike with CloudBerry Backup, a free IDrive plan still encrypts files sent the the cloud, both in-transit and at-rest, and lets you opt into private encryption.
IDrive also has advanced scheduling features, block-level backup, file versioning and supports image-based backup. You can even use your subscription to backup your smartphone, something very few other online backup services allow.
The issue with IDrive’s free plan is that it just won’t take you very far. You only get 5GB of backup space to work with, one third of what you’ll get if you go the CloudBerry with Google Drive route.
A 2TB IDrive plan, which we cover in our IDrive review, only costs a touch over $50 per year. That price is just for the first year, after which it jumps up to close to $70. That’s not quite as good a deal as Backblaze, but it isn’t bad. Add to that the fact that IDrive gives you 2TB of matching file sync space, and for some the value will be greater.
- 5GB free backup
- 5GB free sync
- Private encryption
- Slow backup speeds
Once upon a time, Zoolz was offering free 100GB accounts for life, which included 25GB of hot storage (Amazon S3) and 75GB of cold storage (Amazon Glacier). Now, you can only get 10GB (all hot).
Zoolz features a smart select option that backs up based on file type, although with only 10GB to work with, you’ll probably have to be more selective about what you can protect than that feature allows.
Manually selecting files is more manageable, and Zoolz will provide an estimate of how much space you’ll be using as you tag selections for backup. Zoolz can also backup social media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram. Again, though, 10GB of space limits the value of those particular features.
Other backup features include backup scheduling, hybrid backup, private encryption and multithreaded backup. The service also has some interesting “smart” features, including optical character recognition, that we go over in our full Zoolz review.
- 10GB free backup
- Private encryption
- Social media backup
- Slow backups
Like IDrive, Jottacloud gives you 5GB of free online backup. Unlike IDrive, Jottacloud is so feature-poor, that it’s almost not worth the cost. Missing features aside, the landscape for free backup is so barren that Jottacloud makes our list with relative ease.
Capabilities of note include a backup scheduler, continuous backup and file versioning. Jottacloud Photos might be the feature that sets the service apart the most from run-of-the-mill backup options. This feature is optimized for photo backup, and doesn’t compress media like many other services, resulting in higher quality previews.
However, the lack of file compression also means you use up backup space more quickly. Adding to that issue, you can’t backup individual files with Jottacloud, just folders.
Jottacloud also doesn’t provide an option for private encryption or local backup, or perform block-level or incremental backup. The backup client, which we look at in our Jottacloud review, isn’t very user friendly, either. Oh, and its slow and the customer support is less than stellar.
Overall, it’s just not a very attractive backup service, even for free.
- 5GB free backup
- Jottacloud Photos
- Continuous backup
- Slow backups
- No private encryption
- Bad user experience
Last and, in this case, least, is Elephant Drive, with a scant 2GB of free online backup. Elephant Drive Lite, as the freebie plan is called, also limits you to file upload sizes of 100MB. Of course, with 2GB of file space, you can only backup 20 or so 100MB files anyway.
The service does, at least, provide an option for private, end-to-end encryption, so you can keep those 20 files safe. Backups can be set to run continuously, or you can schedule daily, weekly or monthly backups.
While putting together our Elephant Drive review, we ran into a few technical issues when trying to restore files. On top of that, there’s no option to restore from the desktop client. Instead, you’re forced to use the online GUI.
We won’t harp on the service’s flaws too much, though. After all, they say you should never look a gift elephant in the mouth. Or something like that.
- 2GB free backup
- Private encryption
- Continuous backup
- 100MB file size limit
- Buggy interface
- No desktop restores
The advantage of using a dedicated online backup service to protect your files rather than using cloud storage is that most such tools are designed to almost effortlessly protect your entire hard drive with features like automatic backup by file type and backup schedulers.
As such, we don’t normally recommend using cloud storage for backup purposes. It’s just too much work and too prone to errors.
However, if you’ve stayed with us this long rather than deciding to checkout some of the “practically free” mentions we dropped, chances are you don’t have many files to backup anyway. In that case, using cloud storage to safeguard your precious files makes some sense.
The good news for you is that there are many more free cloud storage options out there than free backup, which we detail in our best free cloud storage article. We recommend pCloud, which, as noted in our pCloud review, gives you 10GB of free storage, expandable to 20GB with recommendations.
Sync.com, which gives you 5GB of free storage plus has an unlimited referral program, is another good choice. It’s also our pick for best zero-knowledge cloud storage. Our Sync.com review discusses some of the reasons we also think it’s the top option for secure file sharing.
The truth of the matter is that there are no truly great options for free online backup. CloudBerry Backup freemium paired with 15GB of free Google Drive storage is an easy winner, but even that approach has many limitations.
It makes sense, of course, that that’s the case, since backup companies can’t pay the bills by offering their services for nothing. Again, we’d advise considering some of the value-based backup services. Backblaze, IDrive and Carbonite all fit the bill, and we even have a comparison article to help you pick between them.
That’s our advice, anyway, which as always is free of charge. Don’t think we’re on the money? Offer your two cents in the comments below, and thanks for reading.