With CrashPlan now out of the consumer online backup game, having decided to focus on its business clients and their deep pockets, the market suddenly finds itself dominated by a gang of three: Carbonite, Backblaze and IDrive. Each of these three services has scored well in online backup reviews here at Cloudwards.net for good reasons. However, not all good reasons are created equal.
Before you sign up for a subscription with any of them, it not only pays to know what you’re getting but to know how what you’re getting compares to what you might not be getting. Get it?
Since we’re all about making smart choices (during business hours), we decided there was only one way to resolve the question of which of these three online backup solutions deserves Cloudwards.net’s strongest recommendation.
Basically, we’re going to let them duke it out.
Best Online Backup Services 2017
The Battle: Carbonite vs Backblaze vs IDrive
It’s fight time here are Cloudwards.net. We’ll be putting each of our three featured services to the test, one after the other, looking at five key categories central to any good backup service: value, backup features, recovery features, security and support. After each round, we’ll summarize our findings and announce a round winner. Then, once we’ve completed every round, we’ll bring it all together and announce our top pick based on the evidence presented.
If you’d like to know more about what to look for in a good online backup tool, our best online backup guide will break it all down for you, along with recommendations. There, you’ll find Carbonite, Backblaze and IDrive heavily featured. We also have dedicated reviews of each of these three services if you’d like a more in-depth look:
That’s enough preamble. Let’s get to the messy bits.
Round One: Price
We’ll get things started with an easy one: the bottom line. We’ll look at how much these three services charge, how much online backup space you get and how many devices you can backup with one subscription.
Carbonite has three different tiers of consumer pricing and each gives you unlimited backup for one computer (PC or Mac). Each subscription must be bought and paid for annually; there are no month-to-month options. You can save five percent with a two-year subscription and ten percent with a three-year subscription, although those savings seem pretty ho-hum for such a long commitment.
$ 59 99yearly
$ 99 99yearly
$ 149 99yearly
Doesn't include external hard drives.
Includes external hard drive backup and automatic video backup.
Includes courier service.
Given that each plan grants you unlimited space to backup your hard drive, the obvious question is why pay for a Plus or Prime plan? Plus lets you backup your external hard drives, too, and as many as you want. It also adds automatic video backup. Prime adds courier recovery service, although at an additional cost of $100 a year over Carbonite Basic, it’s not really worth it given that you can still use the service for a $99 fee.
Carbonite also has mobile apps for Android and iOS that can be used to access files backed up to the cloud. Carbonite Mobile also lets you backup photos you take on your mobile phone. No other phone data is protected.
Like Carbonite, Backblaze lets you backup unlimited data for one computer. However, it simplifies the buying process by offering just one price plan. Backblaze also gives you the option of paying for your subscription month-to-month or annually. A one-year subscription saves you $10, while a two-year subscription saves you $25.
$ 5 00monthly
$ 50 00yearly
$ 95 002 years
Plan is for one computer.
Both PC and Mac backup clients are available. While backup might be limited to one computer, you can backup all of your external hard drives for no extra cost with Backblaze. iOS and Android apps are available, but are for file access only; they can’t be used to backup any mobile files, even photos.
IDrive takes a different approach to luring customers. Instead of offering unlimited backup space, the company offers backup for unlimited devices. Clients are available for PC and Mac, and scripts available for Linux backup. External hard-drive backup is included, too. There are also apps for Android and iOS devices.
Up until recently, a basic IDrive plan gave you 1TB of backup space to safeguard all of your devices. Now you get 2TB of backup space. IDrive didn’t increase its pricing along with its storage allotment, either.
For most users, 2TB of online backup should be plenty of storage space. However, if you take a lot of high definition photographs, have an extensive movie collection or create videos yourself, you might find you need more. For that, IDrive also has a 5TB plan that’s very reasonably priced.
Month-to-month pricing, however, isn’t an option. You can sign up for one year or two years of service at a time.
|Plan||Free||Personal 2TB||Personal 5TB||Business 250GB||Business 500GB||Business 1.25TB|
$ 52 12yearly
$ 104 252 years
$ 74 62yearly
$ 149 252 years
$ 74 62yearly
$ 149 252 years
$ 149 62yearly
$ 299 252 years
$ 374 62yearly
$ 749 252 years
For that first year, you get IDrive at a discounted price. After that, it the price tag bumps up to $69.95. The advantage of the two-year plan is that you extend the discount.
We’re going to talk more about this in the next round, but an IDrive subscription also includes a separate but equal allotment of sync space, making it an even better deal. It also bears mentioning that the first few GB are free, for more information on this, check out our best free cloud storage article.
Round One Thoughts
Between Carbonite, Backblaze and IDrive, right now we’d have to say that Carbonite offers the least amount of value. The reason for that is, quite simply, the cost. Both Carbonite Basic and Backblaze let you backup unlimited data for one computer, but Backblaze lets you do it for $10 less per year. Also, Backblaze has a $5 monthly plan and Carbonite does not. Plus, Carbonite Basic doesn’t include external drive backup.
For us, this round comes down to whether you want unlimited space for one device with Backblaze or 2TB of space for unlimited devices with IDrive. For most users, support for one computer should be enough, especially given that both Android (Google Drive) and iPhone (iCloud) offer some file protection for free. Also, once your initial backup discount expires, you’ll be paying $20 more per year for IDrive than Backblaze.
Round One Winner: Backblaze
Round Two: Features
For this round, we’ll be taking a look at what kind of features each service comes with and how well those features are executed. Common online backup capabilities include things like backup scheduling, remote access and versioning.
We mentioned in round one that Carbonite has desktop clients for PC and Mac. The desktop client is what you’ll use to manage your backup plan. From within it, you can instruct Carbonite to run either continuous or scheduled backups. The advantage of continuous backup is that files are backed up as they’re changed. That means if your computer crashes midday, you’re less likely to permanently lose any files.
Scheduled backups are good for preventing backup processes from interfering with your other work. The Carbonite client lets you select a time to start backup or define hours between which backup won’t run.
Carbonite backup runs smoothly thanks to the use of incremental, block-level file transfers. This means that only new files or changed files get backed up, and only the parts (blocks) of existing files that changed are actually transmitted. This saves time and bandwidth.
Carbonite supports versioning, too, but only for Windows computers. At least the previous three versions of any given file are maintained (provided there are that many) indefinitely. In addition, if available, one version of each file is kept for each of the previous seven days, one for each of the previous three weeks and one for each of the previous two months.
Like Carbonite, Backblaze also has desktop clients for PC and Mac that are essential to the basic backup process. By default, backup runs continuously. If you’d rather schedule backups, however, that’s an option available within the client. You can tell the Backblaze when to start running backup and when to stop.
Continuous backup is recommended, however, and shouldn’t impact your system resources too much. That’s because Backblaze runs incremental, block-level backups, too. In fact, in various speed tests we’ve conducted in recent years, we’ve generally found that Backblaze runs more quickly than Carbonite.
One of the big feature misses with Backblaze is that, while it doesn’t cap how many file versions are retained, it only keeps them for 30 days. That makes Backblaze a poor choice when it comes to ransomware protection.
As mentioned, Backblaze also has a courier recovery service. You’ll have to pay upfront for the device, but Backblaze will refund you once you send it back. You can opt for either a 128GB flash drive or a 4TB external drive. This is a good way to speed up recovery if you’ve got a lot of data.
IDrive has perhaps the best platform support of any consumer online backup solution available today. We covered what those are when we discussed pricing. What we didn’t mention is that IDrive’s mobile apps, available for Android and iOS, aren’t just for file access like they are with Carbonite and Backblaze: both mobile apps can be used to backup contacts, media and calendar events. The Android app is also able to backup text messages, call logs and app data.
IDrive also has one of the most customizable backup schedulers we’ve ever reviewed. You can set a backup start time, set a backup cut-off time and pick which days of the week it runs on. You can also tell IDrive to run hourly backups.
If you’d rather have IDrive run backups continuously, that’s an option, too. From settings, you can even set a given amount of time to wait before backing up changed files. IDrive also copies files by block and backs up incrementally, just like Carbonite and Backblaze. This should keep things running smoothly even with continuous backup turned on.
Settings is also where you’ll go to configure IDrive’s excellent notification options to alert you of backup activity, such as failure. There are many more settings available, too — too much, in fact, to cover in this space.
In addition to backing up files, IDrive also supports image-based backup. That’s a feature that Carbonite Home also offered until recently, before pulling it for confusing reasons (the company claims image-based backup isn’t as strong as file-based backup for protection against ransomware; that may be true, but there are plenty of other reasons to want image-based backup).
As far as versioning, IDrive maintains the last ten versions of any given file, regardless of age. This should be enough to protect you from most file-change errors, corruptions and ransomware attacks.
IDrive Express is the name of IDrive’s courier service, which unlike Carbonite and Backblaze, can be used for both recovery and initial backup. That’s a huge advantage in IDrive’s favor. Also, IDrive Express is free once a year for IDrive Personal users.
One of the most distinguishing features of IDrive is that it isn’t just a backup service. It can also be used to sync files, which is a traditionally a capability associated with cloud storage. Rather than make you balance your 2TB of 5TB of space between backup and sync, IDrive actually gives you a separate storage allotment for each.
Round Two Thoughts
There’s really not much room for debate in this round. By virtue of the fact that it offers smartphone backup and device synchronization, IDrive comes out on top. IDrive also has better scheduling and notification options, and IDrive Express is a huge advantage when it comes to that initial backup, which over the Internet can take weeks.
While we love IDrive’s many features, all of that does come at a price: complexity. However, that will play itself in the next round, when we discuss ease of use.
Round Two Winner: IDrive
Round Three: Ease of Use
The problem with setting up a computer backup plan is that, historically, it’s been a pain to do. The shift from external drives to the cloud has made things a bit easier, although some services still make the process unnecessarily difficult. During this round, we’ll take a look at user experience, and what Carbonite, Backblaze and IDrive do to make life easy for users.
Carbonite takes advantage of the fact that it’s an unlimited backup provider to make the backup experience relatively seamless. It does so by backing up by file type rather than file location.
Once you download the client, it’ll scan your hard drive and automatically backup files. This process includes most common file types, including documents, videos, photos, music and emails. The only thing not included, in fact, are system and temporary files.
By not making you tag the folders and files you want to backup, Carbonite saves you valuable time. The approach also helps ensure that you don’t lose any files. If you want to be extra cautious, Carbonite can also color code files in your file system to let you know their backup status.
From the Carbonite taskbar icon, you also can quickly check backup status and search for backed-up files. Both the Carbonite web and mobile experiences are also convenient to check backup status and access stored files.
There are really very few negatives we can point to when it comes to Carbonite’s ease of use. In fact, we’d probably consider it the perfect design if not for …
Backblaze takes the same approach as Carbonite in simply backing up the files the client thinks should be protected. However, the entire process seems even simpler thanks to a client that exudes minimalism.
Many online backup services take a set-and-forget approach; none get it quite so right as Backblaze. During client installation, it will scan your hard drive for files to backup and return a report. Just hit “okay” and the process will get underway.
Its simplicity should appeal to any user who wants to protect their computer but doesn’t want to have to think too much about it. There are a few settings you can play with if you’d like to, including options to add folder and file-type exclusions, but otherwise, there’s not much to do.
Part of what makes the client seem so simple is that all restore processes for Backblaze are run through the web interface. However, while a bit more complex than the desktop client, the web experience is also well done. Navigation tabs can be found on the left where’d you expect them to be, and include an “overview” tab to check your account status and “view/restore” tab to access files.
Backing up with IDrive isn’t exactly hard, but it’s certainly more complicated than the set-and-forget approaches taken by Carbonite and Backblaze. The reason for that is that you’re limited to 2TB of backup space. Without unlimited backup, IDrive can’t simply backup every single file based on an extension.
Instead, the IDrive client backs up files based on location in your file system. After you install the client, it automatically tags a few folders that are commonly protected, but that’s it. Having to go through your file system and tag folders and files for backup takes time. On top of that, it’s very easy to overlook files.
As mentioned in the features round, IDrive also has a lot of settings to play with. While this can be great for customization, it also adds to the difficulty of using IDrive.
The IDrive web experience is much less complicated and in fact has some handy views to easily track shared content and access backups associated with your various devices.
The mobile experience is also gratifying simple, which helps to take advantage of IDrive's mobile backup capabilities.
Round Three Thoughts
IDrive was the runaway winner in round two, features, but in round three it places a distant third. Carbonite and Backblaze both take great advantage of being unlimited backup providers to make the user experience exceptionally simple. However, Backblaze manages to do it better. The Backblaze client is so easy to use it almost makes the process fun, which is a strange thing to say about online backup.
Round Three Winner: Backblaze
Round Four: Security
Cloud security has been a hot topic since the mid-90s with good reason: trusting someone to protect your content is a big a deal, especially when that content includes financial documents, intellectual property and sexy photos. And so, during this round, we’ll examine just how well our featured services keep your files protected.
Carbonite encrypts your files both at rest and in transit using the AES protocol. This is the protocol most cloud services use and the one recommended by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Generally, the level of AES used by Carbonite is 128-bit. However, Carbonite also lets you opt into private encryption and, with that feature on, it switches up to 256-bit AES.
Private encryption means that only you have access to the encryption key for your files, providing a benefit sometimes referred to as zero-knowledge encryption. The upside is that nobody at Carbonite can create readable copies of your files and government surveillance programs like the NSA’s PRISM project are cut off from your data. The downside is that if you forget your password, Carbonite can’t reset it for you and you’ll have lost access to your backup.
Carbonite also lets you enable two-factor authentication (2FA), which means that a special code will be required in addition to your normal user credentials when accessing your backup from an unfamiliar device. The advantage of 2FA is that even if someone steals or hacks your account password, they won’t be able to access your data without also having stolen your computer or mobile device.
Backblaze encrypts data stored on its servers using AES, too. The level of encryption used is 128-bit. Data is also secured in transit.
Backblaze also lets you opt into private encryption to make it zero-knowledge if you’re concerned about data breaches, rogue employees or spies sifting through your personal files. It doesn’t shift to 256-bit encryption, however, like Carbonite does when enabled.
We’d recommend taking advantage of this feature, but be sure and keep your password somewhere safe. There are several excellent cloud storage options for passwords that should do the trick.
Backblaze also lets you enable two-factor authentication to protect your backup against password hacks. You can opt to receive your security code when logging in from unknown devices via mobile device or Google Authenticator.
As a bonus, Backblaze has a location feature to find your laptop in the event that it’s lost or stolen.
IDrive encrypts all files stored in its data facilities using 256-bit AES, giving it a stronger default encryption protocol than Carbonite or Backblaze. However, while 128-bit AES isn’t as strong as 256-bit AES, it would still take an estimated several billion years to crack. At this point in time, the difference is more a marketing bonus than anything else. Ten years from now, we might be singing a different tune.
IDrive does supports optional private encryption, making it a security feature that all three services have in common.
That’s all well and good, but IDrive doesn’t offer an option for two-factor authentication, and that’s a problem. While a 256-bit encryption key might take an unfeasible amount of time to crack, a weak password won’t. Without two-factor authentication, anybody who gets ahold of your password will be able to access your data unimpeded.
We do appreciate the fact that IDrive lets you disconnect synced devices, however. With that feature, should someone steal your computer or mobile phone, you can at least cut off access to your files.
Round Four Thoughts
We love the fact that all three of these services gives you the option for private encryption. If you feel uneasy about keeping personal files in the cloud, that should put your mind to rest. With private encryption enabled, nobody will be able to decrypt your files without your password, which isn’t stored anywhere you don’t want it to be.
That said, given that passwords can be stolen or brute force cracked with much more ease than a decryption key, the addition of two-factor authentication is just as important. IDrive’s lack of that security feature knocks it out of consideration for this round.
Choosing between Carbonite and Backblaze isn’t easy given that both offer pretty similar security setups. We like the fact that Backblaze gives you a device location service, but there are better, dedicated options out there for that kind of thing, like Prey.
Really, the only thing we can point to is the fact that with two-factor authentication turned on, Carbonite increases its level of encryption from 128-bit to 256-bit AES. The fact that Backblaze uses 128-bit AES isn’t really an issue … but we hate ties.
Round Four Winner: Carbonite
Round Five: Support
Good customer support is hard to find, particularly when it comes to cloud technologies for consumers. Business users get all the perks, just like on airplanes. However, that doesn’t mean that good support networks aren’t out there. Carbonite, Backblaze and IDrive are three of the best, adding to the long list of reasons we really like them for disaster recovery. Which one offers the best support, though? Let’s find out.
Carbonite has won several awards for its customer support network, which primarily hinges on its strong, U.S.-based telephone support.
Phone support is offered seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m.. until 9 p.m EST. While we’d like to see 24/7 support, the hours are still very good, especially since so many online backup services don’t offer phone support at all.
Carbonite does provide 24/7 email support, too. We tested this network while putting together our latest Carbonite review, and usually got an email response back within six hours.
Carbonite doesn’t offer live chat support. That’s unfortunate for those who hate dealing with issues over the phone. Again, chat is a feature many backup services don’t offer, but in this case that includes Carbonite.
For those who prefer to go it alone, Carbonite does have a decent knowledge center. You can find tutorials, FAQs and troubleshooting articles, the support center includes a search option to find content more quickly.
Unlike Carbonite, Backblaze actually does offer live chat support, and it’s pretty good. Unfortunately, chat hours are also very limited: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST. Chat support representatives also apparently take an hour off for lunch because it isn’t available between noon and 1 p.m.
Backblaze doesn’t offer any form of telephone support for home users. The preferred method of technical support contact is via email. Happily, email support is excellent. Technicians work 24/7 and Backblaze guarantees a response within 24 hours. During our latest Backblaze review, we received support responses to our questions within two hours.
The Backblaze support center is also very good, with dedicated categories for things like installation, troubleshooting, backup and FAQs. It’s also searchable.
IDrive hits the support trifecta: it provides telephone, live chat and email support. Telephone support is available from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. PST during weekdays, but, impressively, live chat is available 24/7.
Better yet, chat support representatives are quick to answer and very helpful. While support seems to be at least partly offshored to India, we didn’t have any communication issues when we put IDrive support to the test during our most recent review.
Email support is also very good, though not particularly necessary when 24/7 live chat is an option.
On top of its excellent direct support, IDrive has a great support center for the DIY crowd. You can find FAQs, guides and even tutorial videos there.
Round Five Thoughts
All three services may provide better-than-average support compared to most backup providers, but in our mind, its IDrive rather than Carbonite that should be taking home the awards. It’s the only one of the three that provides both telephone support and live chat, and the fact that live chat is available around the clock is a huge advantage.
Round Five Winner: IDrive
The Final Verdict
You can’t really go wrong with any of these three services. However, in our view, one of them sits a distant third to the other two.
In most ways, Carbonite is a fine disaster-recovery solution. It makes backup relatively painless and provides key security options like private encryption and two-factor authentication. Also, the fact that it provides unlimited backup space for your computer is going to attract a lot of people.
The problem is that Backblaze also provides unlimited backup, private encryption and two-factor authentication, and is both easier to use and less expensive than Carbonite. In fact, if you want external hard-drive backup included, an annual Carbonite subscription will cost you nearly 40 percent more than an annual Backblaze subscription.
Given those facts, it’s hard not to see the current consumer backup market as ultimately a two-horse race between Backblaze and IDrive.
Speaking of IDrive, while it doesn’t provide unlimited backup like Carbonite or Backblaze do, it does provide backup for unlimited devices. Its 2TB plan should be enough for more most users and only costs $12 more per year initially than Backblaze (before jumping up to $69.99 after 12 or 24 months, depending on what subscription option you start with).
We love the fact that IDrive is packed with so many great features, including smartphone backup and its free IDrive Express service. Some users are also going to prefer the hands-on approach to using IDrive, too, including its advanced scheduling options.
Most users, however, probably won’t. While we don’t have any hard evidence to support this, anecdotally, we’ve come to understand that a big reason many people don’t bother with computer backup at all is that that the entire process seems like more trouble than it’s worth. IDrive doesn’t change that perception. However, if those same people gave Backblaze a try, we suspect they’d come to view online backup in a much more favorable light.