Best Online Backup for Students

Contrary to popular belief, college isn’t just about partying, fraternities, sororities and having a wild time. A big part of it is studying. A lot of studying requires you to use a computer or go online, but computers can malfunction, leaving you without your notes, reports and essays. To combat that. we’ve compiled the best online backup for students, with Backblaze topping the list.

Online backup helps you backup your personal computers and external drives. If you do that, you can be sure hard drive crashes or other software glitches won’t affect your files. Backup doesn’t move your files to the cloud, so it won’t save space. Rather, it mirrors the structure of your files in the cloud.

Cloud storage, on the other hand, makes you use a central folder, called a “sync folder,” to synchronize your files to the cloud. That’s the main difference between cloud backup and cloud storage services. That said, some backup services on our list feature sync and file sharing, which are staple cloud storage features.

They can’t compete with the proprietary cloud storage services, though. If you think you might benefit more from cloud storage than cloud backup, read our best cloud storage services roundup. If you want a quick comparison, read our JustCloud vs. Backblaze vs. SugarSync article.

If your primary criterion when choosing a cloud backup is price, read our cheapest online backup article. We made our picks for students, including our top pick, from our best online backup list. Before we start with the rundown, let’s talk about the criteria we used to rank them.

Best Online Backup for Students 2019

cloudwards rating
$ per month
top features

What Makes Online Backup the Best for Students

Value is our chief criterion because most students are short on cash. That means getting the most out of online backup for cheap. The more cheap plans the service offers the better because that increases the odds of finding a suitable one. Free plans will work for some, so we’re going to consider them, too. If you want free backup, read our best free online backup article.

The service shouldn’t be difficult to use, either. Creating your backup plan should be easy, as should be subsequent backups and recovery. The desktop clients should work on most operating systems, and the service should have web and mobile apps. The overall user experience should be intuitive enough that you don’t need to ask for support.

Features beyond the bare-bones online backup tools are useful, too. We’re looking for features such as sync and share, which help you collaborate with others using multiple devices, and file versioning, which helps you retrieve previous versions of files if you make a mistake or get hit by ransomware.

Speed is our last criterion, and it’s important because of the fast-paced lifestyle of students. Your initial backup will usually take a long time to complete. How long depends on the infrastructure of the backup service you use, how close you are to one of its servers and your internet service provider. Block-level backup is a plus because it speeds up subsequent backups.

Best Online Backup for Students: Backblaze

Backblaze has been part of the backup market since 2007, and it’s one of the most popular services. It’s also at the top of our online backup reviews. A major contributor to that is that it provides simple and easy backup for one computer.

The pricing plan is straightforward because it only has one plan, which offers unlimited backup for one device for $6 per month. You can lower that to $5 per month if you pay for the year in advance. Most services don’t offer an option to pay per month, so Backblaze’s flexibility is a plus. If you’re not sure about Backblaze, you can make use of the free 15-day trial to test it.

It’s easy to create your backup plan because you don’t need to manage how much or what you’re backing up. Backblaze’s desktop application has a minimal design that won’t overwhelm you with options. The status of your backup is plain to see. You can access the advanced options by using the “settings” button.

That said, you won’t have to mess with it unless the backup process isn’t working like it’s supposed to, but we didn’t experience issues during our testing. The web client is also easy to use. You can use it to see your backed up files, restore them, see what you’ve shared and locate your computer.

Backblaze’s desktop client works on Windows and macOS, but not Linux. For Penguin support, read our best online backup for Linux article. The mobile client adheres to the same design. It’s easy to use and the menu on the left lets you browse your backup and see what you’ve restored from the cloud.

Other Reasons We Like Backblaze

The downside to being a simple service to use is that Backblaze doesn’t have many features. That said, those it has are useful. You can share files using the web client. You can do that by generating a link that you can copy and paste to a social network. Versioning is also available, but it only saves the versions from the previous 30 days.

The web client also lets you locate your computer if you turn on the mapping feature. That means if someone steals your computer, you can use Backblaze to help you find it.

Backblaze doesn’t limit your speeds, so the closer you are to its data centers in California and Arizona the better your speed will be. It lets you tweak transfer settings and throttle speeds, and it uses a block-level transfer algorithm, which works by transferring only the change portions of files rather than whole files, 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. There’s a useful tool that tests how fast your connection to Backblaze’s data center is to give you an estimate of how your backup will go.

Backblaze is a strong service that provides unlimited backup space for cheap. It’s also simple and intuitive to use. Plus, it has helpful features, such as file versioning, sharing and mapping. If your backup process is slow, Backblaze gives you the option to speed it up. Thanks to that, it earns the top place on our list. Read more about it in our Backblaze review.

Pros:

  • Unlimited backup
  • Low cost
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Limited to one computer
  • Versioning limited to 30 days
Starts from $ 458 per month for Unlimited GB
Save 24 %

IDrive

IDrive launched in 1995, which is ancient in tech terms. Unlike our top pick, it doesn’t provide unlimited storage, but it lets you backup unlimited devices on the cheap. It even has a free plan, which is rare among online backup services. It provides just 5GB of free storage, but that might be enough for some students. It’s enough to test the service, too.

IDrive has two plans for personal users. One provides 2TB of backup space and the other provides 5TB. You have to pay for one or two years upfront because there’s no option for a month-to-month subscription.

To compensate for that, IDrive provides the 2TB or 5TB of sync space on top of your backup space. That means you’re getting 4TB or 10TB of space to work with, depending on which subscription you purchase. The plans are currently discounted 50 percent.

IDrive isn’t a click-it-and-forget-it service. It caps your backup space, which means you have to select files based on location. That requires you to go through your file hierarchy and check the files you want to backup. On top of that, IDrive has many options that can be tweaked, which can make things difficult for mainstream users in the beginning.

The web app is straightforward and easy to use, though. The default page shows your backup. You can also use it to preview your connected devices, sync folder, shares and web logs.

The mobile app is intuitive and has a minimal design. You can use it to access your backup and photo timeline. It can also restore your files and enable facial recognition to analyze individuals from your photos.

Other Reasons We Like IDrive

IDrive is no slouch feature-wise. It uses the “true archiving” method, which retains your files in the cloud, even if you delete them on your computer. That’s useful if you want to clear space on your drive. Plus, IDrive’s versioning retains up to 30 previous versions of all files backed up to your account.

You can also use the sync and share features. Like cloud storage services, IDrive’s sync feature creates a folder on your computer that you can use to sync files to the cloud. Whenever you place or edit a file in the sync folder, the change will be reflected on all linked devices in almost real time.

IDrive isn’t among the fastest backup services, and it can’t increase the number of backup threads like our top pick. The closer you are to the U.S., where IDrive keeps its servers, the better your speeds will be. That said, it uses block-level backup to speed up subsequent backups.

We’ve placed IDrive behind Backblaze because it’s more difficult to use and slower than Backblaze. That said, IDrive is inexpensive, lets you backup unlimited devices and can sync and share your files. Read our IDrive review to learn more.

Pros:

  • Unlimited device backup
  • Inexpensive plans
  • Sync capabilities

Cons:

  • More complex than Backblaze
  • No unlimited backup plan
  • Slow
Starts from $ 458 per month for Unlimited GB
Save 24 %

BigMIND Home

BigMIND Home lets one or more users backup multiple computers and devices. It doesn’t have as good value as our first two picks, but it compensates in other aspects.

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 using 5GB of backup space. Granted, that’s not a lot of backup space, but it might be enough for some. Plus, it lets you test the service and decide if it’s worth your hard-earned money.

If you think BigMIND Home is a good fit for you there are three premium plans to choose from. They all require you to pay per year. The Personal plan is $35.88 per year, which translates to $2.99 per month, but it’s paid annually and gives you a meager 100GB of backup space for one user and three computers.

The Family plan costs $6.99 a month and provides 500GB of storage space for three users, nine computers and six mobile devices. It’s a better deal, but it probably doesn’t offer enough space for that many users.

You can get 1TB of cloud backup space for $12.99 by subscribing to the Family Plus plan. That’s a decent amount of space, but it’s not the best deal for it. The plan lets you share with four more users across 15 computers and unlimited mobile devices.

Other Reasons We Like BigMIND Home

The desktop client is straightforward, attractive and shows all the necessary information at a glance, including 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 tweak the data selected for backup, access your settings and restore files.

The button in the top left lets you launch the web client. Its default view is the dashboard, which shows your connected devices, backup traffic, a pie chart detailing your data types, activity stream, your media and how much storage you’ve used. It might be overwhelming at first but it’s clear and easy to use.

The mobile app is somewhat confusing to use compared to apps from other services because you need to perform more steps to select data for backup. It lets you access your backup, create a backup for your phone and clear your phone of videos and images you’ve backed up to save space.

BigMIND Home is fast, but if you need more speed, you can enable multi-threaded backup, which will allow the service to use all the network bandwidth available. You can see the speed table and how BigMIND Home performs in other categories in our BigMIND Home review.

Pros:

  • Fast uploads
  • Multi-threaded backup
  • Block-level backup

Cons:

  • Could have better deals
  • Versioning limited to 10 versions
Starts from $ 299 per month for 100 GB
Free plan available

Acronis True Image

Acronis True Image can backup your data, but it also has a lot of features. It’s a good choice when you need to protect multiple computers, but it’s pricing scheme isn’t on par with more competitive services.

Its Advanced plan provides 250GB of backup space and lets you backup one computer for $49.99 per year. 500GB of storage is $69.99 and the price goes up as you add storage and computers. The Premium plan starts at 1TB for $99.99 and ends at 5TB for $259.95 per year, which is expensive.

The first version of the Advanced plan should be enough for most students. Its price comes down to $4.16 per month, which is a good deal. Before you subscribe, use the free 30-day trial to make sure you’re getting what you need out of Acronis True Image.

The desktop client works on Windows and macOS, but not on Linux. It has a modern and  straightforward design. Though Acronis True Image isn’t an unlimited backup service, the desktop lets you backup the computer instead of selecting specific files and folders. That’s fast, but it takes more space. To save space, you can exclude files from your backup.

You can open the online dashboard from the client, too. It shows your connected devices and lets you perform restores. You can also view your archive, storage status, what you’ve shared with others and access your sync space.

Smartphone apps work on Android and iOS. They are easy to use and let you access your files and backup your mobile data.

Other Reasons We Like Acronis True Image

Acronis True Image provides a useful tool you can use to free space on your hard drive. You can also use sync to mirror files to your other devices. Acronis True Image’s versioning lets you keep 20 previous versions of files, and you can tell Acronis True Image when to delete older versions.

Plus, the desktop client can help you clean your system, transfer your file system to a new computer, create bootable media and delete old data. You can also install third-party tools developed by the Acronis True Image user community. Social media enthusiasts can use Acronis True Image to backup their Facebook and Instagram accounts, too.

Acronis True Image has a global network of servers, which helps it achieve better speeds than services that have servers in a single region. Thanks to that, it’s faster than most backup services. It also has a block-level file copying algorithm that speeds up subsequent uploads. To learn more, read our Acronis True Image review.

Pros:

  • Fast backup
  • File syncing
  • Facebook & Instagram backup

Cons:

  • Versioning limited to 20 versions
  • Could be better value
Starts from $ 417 per month for 250 GB

Carbonite

Carbonite has been a part of the backup market since 2005. It’s great for users who want unlimited backup for one or more computers and don’t mind paying more to get it. Unlike most online backup services, Carbonite has three unlimited backup plans: Basic, Plus and Prime. They only allow you to backup one internal hard drive, though.

Basic is $71.99 per year and provides bare-bones unlimited backup. Plus adds external drive backup and automatic video backup for $111.99 a year. Prime is $149.99 per year and comes with a courier recovery service on top of the features in the Plus plan.

You can save 5 percent if you subscribe to two years or 10 percent if you sign up for three. If you can’t tell if Carbonite is a good fit, you can use the free 15-day trial to make certain.

The Carbonite desktop client works on Windows and macOS, but not Linux. It’s simple to use and you only have to complete one step to create your backup. Carbonite selects the most common file types for continuous backup. If that’s fine, you can just start the backup process without tinkering.

Carbonite color codes your files, so you can see their status in your file explorer at a glance.

Carbonite’s web client is drab but functional. Its main page shows the computers you’ve backed up and lets you view or restore your files, add a computer or reinstall Carbonite.

The mobile app is minimal and straightforward. You can use it to access your backup and save files from your backup for offline access.

Other Reasons We Like Carbonite

Carbonite isn’t rich with features but you can use it to backup photos taken with your phone. It also provides automatic video backup, remote file access and versioning, which doesn’t work on macOS. On top of that, all plans, except for the cheapest, can backup external hard drives.

Carbonite keeps at least the three most recent versions of a file, regardless of age. Plus, it keeps daily, weekly and monthly versions no older than three months. Deleted files are kept for 30 days. You can learn the details of versioning in our Carbonite review.

Carbonite took a long time to transfer files in our test. So much, in fact, that it’s among the slowest services we’ve tested. That said, your speeds will be better the closer you are to the U.S. You can’t increase the number of backup threads to increase the speed, but you can throttle Carbonite’s internet usage if it interferes with your work.

Pros:

  • Unlimited backup
  • Backup by file type
  • External hard drive backup

Cons:

  • Slow
  • Could offer better deals
  • No versioning for macOS
Starts from $ 600 per month for Unlimited GB

Final Thoughts

The services on our list are chosen from the best online backup services. That means they’re capable backup services, but we’ve ranked them based on criteria that’d be suitable for students. Value is our top concern, followed by ease of use, features and speed.

With that in mind, Backblaze took first. That’s thanks to it being cheap, unlimited and easy to use. IDrive is second because it’s more complicated to use,  slow and not unlimited. Other services are also good candidates depending on your needs. You can learn more about online backup in our online backup library.

What do you think about our picks? Do you agree that Backblaze is the best choice? Do you use a service that’s not on the list? Tell us in the comments below. Thank you for reading.

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