Storage needs tend to run high because people keep accumulating more and more data. Hard drives can store terabytes of data, and people often use external drives to share the load or to easily transfer data between computers. Even though external drives are reliable, it’s best to backup data in the cloud, so we’ve compiled a list of the best online backup options for external drives.
Carrying an external drive with you is a bit tedious, but if you move data to the cloud, you won’t have to do it. Placing data in the cloud is even more convenient if you have multiple external drives to worry about. Not to mention that external drives can be stolen or that you can lose or damage them.
On top of that, cloud storage can help you reduce the risk of losing your files due to a hard-drive failure. That’s true even in the case of SSDs, which have a failure rate of less than 1 percent but are more prone to data errors than HDDs.
Another upside of cloud backup is that it lets you set up automatic backups, access your data remotely and perform incremental backups to speed up the process. Relying on the cloud in addition to an external drive is a good strategy to keep your files safe because it helps you implement the 3-2-1 backup rule.
If you’re here looking for a great overall service, take a look at our best online backup services comparison. Otherwise, you need to backup your external drive, and you’re in the right place (you can also check out our guide on how to backup an external hard drive).
When it comes to external hard drives, the Samsung T5 is one of our favorite choices. Before we get to the list, though, we’re going to talk about the criteria we’ve used to make it.
Updated IDrive’s pricing information.
Updated Carbonite’s pricing information.
Updated to remove IDrive’s discontinued free plan and add its new free 30-day trial.
Best Cloud Backup for External Hard Drive 2023
250GB - 20TB$4.97 / month(save 37%)(All Plans)
5GB - 1TB$4.14 / month(save 15%)(All Plans)
100GB - 1TB$2.99 / month(All Plans)
Unlimited GB$5.42 / month(save 22%)(All Plans)
250GB - Unlimited GB$6 / month(All Plans)
- : Yes but not on Basic plan (all other plans)
- : Yes but only on Safe Backup Pro plan
What Makes Online Backup the Best for External Hard Drives
First, we’ll look at whether services impose any restrictions on backing up external drives. They might include the number of drives you can backup, their size or whether they’re regularly connected to your computer or not.
Next, the subscription plans should provide a good value, which means they should offer more for less green. It’s also great if a service has several plans to choose from because that makes it easier to find one that fits your home setup. If your backup needs run high, though, read our best unlimited online backup guide.
It shouldn’t be difficult to use the service because most users want to backup their data and be on their way. To achieve that, the service should have an enjoyable and straightforward user experience. With that in mind, the service should work on most operating systems, as well as make it easy to backup and restore files.
It’s great if the service is easy to use, but that won’t help if it takes forever to upload files. Creating an initial backup may take a long time, but it shouldn’t drag on forever. It depends on how close you are to a server, the infrastructure of the backup service and your internet service provider. The block-level file copying algorithm will help with subsequent uploads.
The last criterion is cloud security. Its strength depends on the level of file encryption, the TLS/SSL protocols that protect files in transit, how safe the data centers are and more.
It’s best to have private, end-to-end encryption — or, zero-knowledge in the cloud — because it prevents anyone but you from reading your files. Two-factor authentication helps, too, if someone steals your password.
Best Online Backup for External Hard Drives: IDrive
IDrive launched in 1995, and that makes it a company with a lot of experience. Thanks to its many features, as well as its great value plans and unlimited device backup. Its features include NAS and external hard drives support. If you need to backup NAS, read our best online backup for NAS roundup.
On top of that, IDrive offers unlimited device backup, which includes computers, tablets, smartphones and external drives.
IDrive doesn’t offer unlimited backup, so the number of external drives you can backup depends on how much data they have. IDrive’s pricing lets you choose between two annual personal plans which offer the options of 5TB or 10TB.
The 5TB plan is $79.50 per year, while the 10TB plan will set you back $99.50 per year. There’s no option to pay per month, but you can get a big discount on your initial purchase.
If you think that IDrive is a service that you will use for the long term, you can pay for two years in advance to make that discount go further. However, if you’re not sure about IDrive, you can try its free 30-day trial to test it before subscribing.
If you need IDrive for your business, you can choose from several plans that don’t limit the number of users or computers you can backup.
Business plans start at 250GB for $99.50 per year and go up to 50TB for $11599.50 per year and have the same discounts as the personal ones. Business plans that offer 1.25TB or more of storage let you pay per month, but doing so is more expensive.
Other Reasons We Like IDrive
IDrive’s desktop client works on Windows and macOS, but not Linux. If you want that, read our best online backup for Linux. If you still want to use IDrive, you can rely on scripts or use the web client as a workaround.
The web client is simple and easy to use. The app’s start page shows your backup, sync folder, and share and web logs. It also shows your connected devices.
The mobile app is also user friendly because it has a minimal and intuitive design. You can use it to backup your phone data as well as access your backup and photo timeline. Plus, it can use facial recognition to spot individuals in your photos. Thanks to those features, it takes the top spot in our best online backup for mobile list, as well as a place on our best online backup for photos roundup.
IDrive holds its servers in secure data centers in the U.S. They’re equipped to withstand disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and fires. Alarms, surveillance and motion sensors protect your data against homo sapien intruders, too. Learn more in our article about data center security.
We’ve placed IDrive in the top spot thanks to its unlimited external drive support, great pricing scheme and strong security. If you want to learn more about it, read our IDrive review, and see which services are the best IDrive alternatives.
- Unlimited device backup
- Inexpensive plans
- Block-level backup
- No unlimited backup plan
Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office
Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office is pricey, but it can backup multiple computers and external hard drives. To accommodate that, you can choose between several pricing plans.
“Standard” is the first plan that gets you a lifetime license for Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office. However, it doesn’t allow you to backup your data to the cloud, though, only to local storage. Because of that, we recommend getting one of two annual plans.
First among those is the Advanced plan, which provides 250GB of backup space for one computer for $49.99 per year. You can increase the number of computers to three or five, but each increase raises the price by $20. It’s the same if you add 250GB of space.
The other plan, Premium, starts at 1TB for $99.99 per year. It protects the same number of computers as Advanced, but every addition raises the price by $50. You can also increase the backup space by 1TB up to 5TB, which sets you back $40 per bump. The plans are flexible but aren’t cheap.
Before deciding to pay up, though, you can use the free 30-day trial to make sure you’re getting what you need. If you like to have a lot of features, Acronis would pair well with Western Digital My Book, which is more than just a plain external hard drive.
Other Reasons We Like Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office
The desktop client has an attractive and intuitive design. It lets you backup your entire computer instead of selecting specific files and folders, even though your backup space isn’t unlimited. That means creating backups is faster, though. To make sure you use up all your space, you can exclude files from your backup. It works on Windows and macOS, but not on Linux.
Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office uses AES 256-bit encryption to scramble your files at rest and the TLS/SSL protocol protects your data in transfer. Plus, its innovative feature, called Acronis Active Protection 2.0, protects you from ransomware attacks. Unfortunately, there’s no two-factor authentication.
On the plus side, you can encrypt files using your password, and Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office can’t access it, which means your encryption is private.
- Fast backup
- Desktop & mobile backup
- Disk imaging & cloning
- No two-factor authentication
- No Linux support
BigMIND Home is a relatively new product from Zoolz that lets you backup multiple computers and unlimited external drives. It might not match the prices of IDrive, but BigMIND Home is still a fine offer.
That said, you don’t have to pay anything to use BigMIND Home because it has a free plan. It lets you backup one computer, one external drive and two mobile devices, but offers only 1GB of backup space. That’s puny, but enough to test the service and see if you want to part with your money.
Going forward, there are three premium plans to choose from, and they all require you to pay per year. All let you backup an unlimited number of external drives. The Personal plan gets you 100GB of backup space for $35.88 when paid annually, which translates to $2.99 per month. You can use it to backup unlimited external drives and three computers.
The Family plan is $83.88 per year and provides 500GB of storage space for three users, nine computers and six mobile devices. It’s a better deal, but it doesn’t offer a lot of space for such a number of users.
If you need more, you can get 1TB of cloud backup space for $155.88 per year by subscribing to the Family Plus plan. That’s better, but it still doesn’t represent a great deal. The plan lets you share space with four more users on 15 computers and unlimited mobile devices.
BigMIND is all about its modern features, which make it a good match for an SSD, such as SanDisk Extreme Portable. It’s also one of the cheaper external SSDs we reviewed, so that goes well with BigMIND’s prices.
Other Reasons We Like BigMIND Home
The desktop app is straightforward, attractive and is available on Windows and macOS, but not Linux. At a glance, it displays your backup status, the time that has passed since the last backup, when the next one is going to start and how much backup space is in use. You can also use it to launch the web client.
The web client’s home page is the dashboard, which shows your devices, activity stream, backup traffic, a pie chart detailing your data types, your media and how much storage you’ve used. It might seem overwhelming at first, but it’s clear and easy to use.
The service protects your files at rest using AES 256-bit encryption and the SSL protocol to protect them in transit. You have to enable it, though, by checking the “use SSL” checkbox in the settings menu of the desktop client. Plus, BigMIND Home has two-factor authentication to protect your credentials.
On the data-center side, BigMIND Home uses redundancy to protect your files, and its data centers undergo security reviews at least once per year. For more information about BigMIND Home’s security, read our BigMIND Home review.
- Free plan backs up various devices
- Multimedia features
- Social media backup
- No support on free plan
Backblaze has been around since 2007, and today it’s one of the most popular online backup services, thanks to its subscription plan that is both cheap and provides unlimited backup. Backblaze also lets you backup unlimited external drives, but it requires a bit of juggling on your end to make everything work.
For starters, Backblaze requires that you have your external drives attached once you finish your Backblaze installation. If you don’t, you will have to initiate a manual scan.
On top of that, you need to detach and re-attach your external drive to make Backblaze backup data on them. If you detach your hard-drive for more than 30 days, Backblaze will interpret that as though your data has been permanently deleted and will delete it from its data center. That’s tough if you’re going on an extended trip or prison.
A further complication is that, according to Backblaze, “you will want to make sure to keep your drives plugged in simultaneously as much as possible. Our system has a way of updating your drives, even if there is nothing remaining to upload.” You can read more about that here.
On the plus side, you can utilize Backblaze’s unlimited backup space to store a huge amount of data, as long as you don’t mind doing the extra work to keep it online.
To further sweeten that deal, Backblaze has a great pricing plan. We say “plan” because, unlike most services, there’s only one plan for personal backup, and it costs $6 per month. Plus, Backblaze lets you pay per month instead of per year.
If you pay for a year in advance, the price goes down to $5 per month, or even less if you pay for two. Plus, you can test Backblaze before subscribing by using its free 15-day trial.
Other Reasons We Like Backblaze
Backblaze’s desktop client makes it easy to create your backup plan because you don’t need to select files because Backblaze backups everything. That said, you can exclude files that you don’t want to backup using the exclusion tab of the settings menu. It works on Windows and macOS.
Backblaze’s transfer speeds are fast, and it lets you tweak transfer settings, throttle speeds and enjoy a block-level transfer algorithm to speed up backups after the initial one. If you want to reach faster speeds, you can increase the number of backup threads you run.
Read more about the service in our full Backblaze review, or check out its pricing plans for yourself and see which is the best fit. You can also see how it compares to our top pick in our IDrive vs Backblaze comparison.
- Unlimited backup
- Low cost
- Easy to use
- Deletes external-drive backup if drive isn’t reattached
- Requires simultaneous drive connection
- Limited to one computer
Carbonite is an interesting service because it provides three unlimited backup plans for personal users. The first, called Basic, can’t backup external drives. That leaves you to choose between the Plus and Prime plans, which can backup one external drive.
The Plus plan also provides automatic video backup for $71.99 per year. Prime is $89.99 per year and adds a courier recovery service on top of the Plus plan features. You can get a 5-percent discount if you subscribe for two years or 10 percent if you subscribe for three. Before taking out your credit card, you can test Carbonite by using its free 15-day trial.
Other Reasons We Like Carbonite
Carbonite’s desktop client works on Windows and macOS, but not Linux. It’s simple to use because it requires only one step to create your backup plan. It preselects the most common file types for continuous backup, so you can just start the backup process if you don’t need to tweak anything.
The experience using Carbonite’s web client is similar, but its design is drab. Its main page shows the computers you’ve backed up and lets you add a computer, view or restore your files, or reinstall Carbonite.
The mobile app is straightforward, but it doesn’t have as many features as other services on this list. You can use it to check your backup and enable files from it for offline access.
Carbonite is one of the slowest services on initial backup because it took more than an hour to upload a 1GB folder in our tests. On top of that, you can’t increase the number of backup threads to boost the speeds, but block-level file copying helps with later uploads.
As you can read in our Carbonite review, it uses AES 128-bit encryption to protect your files at rest. You can turn on private encryption, though, which makes Carbonite use AES 256-bit. The SSL protocol protects files during the data transmission process. Two-factor authentication is also available.
We’ve placed it last because the service is expensive and doesn’t offer unlimited external drive backup with its personal plans. The pricing plans that are good for server backup are more expensive and offer limited backup space. See how it compares to our top pick in our IDrive vs Carbonite comparison, and read our list of the best Carbonite alternatives.
- Unlimited backup
- Backup by file type
- External hard drive backup
- Could offer better deals
- No versioning for macOS
We’ve ranked the services on this list according to how many external drives they can backup and whether they place any other restrictions on it. IDrive came up on top thanks to its support for unlimited devices, great pricing plans and strong security.
Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office is another good option, but can’t match IDrive’s prices. That said, Acronis has many features that might make it a much better deal if you need them. That can apply to BigMIND Home, too, except that it is a bit more expensive. On the other hand, you can backup more devices using it.
Backblaze is near the end of this list, which is rare for a service that usually ranks high in our roundups (though the services listed are good alternatives to Backblaze). That’s due to the fact that you need to juggle your external drives in order to keep Backblaze from deleting your backups. Carbonite is at the tail end because it’s expensive and can’t backup more than one external drive. It’s redeeming quality is its unlimited backup. Read our Backblaze vs Carbonite comparison.
What do you think about these services? Which one seems like the best fit for your external drives? Tell us in the comments below. Thank you for reading.