People generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data single day. That’s a lot of high-definition movies, photos and posts, but it’s all a hard drive malfunction away from the digital graveyard. If not that, someone could steal your laptop or some other accident might cause you to lose your data.
You can use our selection of the best data recovery software to recover your files, but doing so isn’t a reliable fix. You can’t depend on solid-state drives, either, because they experience more data errors, even though their failure rate is less than 1 percent.
A better strategy for preventing data loss is to use online backup services to protect your data. That’s the 3-2-1 rule, anyway. With a cloud backup service, you can access your data remotely, set up automatic backups and do them in increments to speed up the process.
Tagging specific files or file types for backup will keep your data safe because you will have a copy of it on a remote server. Your data will be replicated on multiple servers, so it will remain accessible if one fails.
You can’t use online backup services to clear space on your hard drive, though. That’s a cloud storage function. You can learn more about the differences between the two types of services here. To find out which cloud storage service works best for you, consult our best cloud storage services list. If you’re focusing on collaboration, read our best cloud storage for collaboration article.
How We Rate
Online backup services are similar to one another, with slight variations in the features they offer. We use common categories such as file backup and restoration, speed and pricing to rate and rank services. We’ll explain in more detail below.
File Backup and Restoration
File backup is the most important step in sending your data to the cloud. Some services make you tag specific files and folders for backup, while others scan your hard drive and show you an overview of selected files. Backblaze uses the latter approach and we like how simple it is. If you want to learn more about Backblaze read our Backblaze review.
After the initial backup, which can take weeks depending on how much you need to backup, you can schedule backups to run automatically. You can set a specific time or day, make them run once every day or fire them up manually. Incremental backup, which runs every time there’s a change, is by the far the most useful feature.
Once you’ve backed up your files, changes to them will trigger the service to upload on the changed portions, rather than replacing them entirely. That’s known as block-level file copying, and it speeds up backup processes while limiting the drain on system resources.
Instead of just backing up to the cloud, you can send your backup to other partitions on your hard drive, external hard drive, NAS device and more. When you want a complete backup, you can create a disk image, which is ideal in case your hard drive crashes.
You’re not limited to backing up your computer. Services such as IDrive let you backup unlimited devices. In fact, IDrive is our top pick, so be sure to learn more about it in our IDrive review.
When you want to restore a file, you’ll generally use the restore feature of the desktop or web client. You can restore everything that’s backed up or specific files. You also get the option to restore files to their original location or a new one. Some services, including IDrive, have a courier service that will send you your data on an external drive in the mail.
In this category, we look at features that are atypical for backup and restore. Unlike cloud storage services, which can integrate with many third-party apps and have native collaboration apps, online backup services aren’t that versatile.
Most offer smartphone access, versioning, speed throttling and the ability to enable multiple backup threads to increase transfer speeds. That said, there are those, such as Acronis True Image and SpiderOak ONE, that have additional features. They include archiving, sync, share, cloning tools and more. We’ll talk specifics in our “top five” category, below.
Services such as Backblaze let you play audio files that you’ve backed up. Backblaze isn’t the only service that lets you do that, so read our best online backup for music piece for more options.
CloudBerry Backup has a powerful set of features, including cloud-to-cloud backup, the ability to make a bootable USB drive and retention policies that you can use to specify when it should delete previous versions from your storage. For more information on the service, read our CloudBerry Backup review.
Uploading your data to the cloud without proper security isn’t smart. Cybercriminals might steal your credentials, someone might read your secret information and the government might browse through your photos. Having good security is a must, so we consider how strong the security of each service is.
Online backup services use many methods to secure your data against potential threats. For example, two-factor authentication will stop hackers who’ve stolen your password from accessing your account. Still, you should make sure you have a strong password to start.
Private encryption prevents anyone other than you from reading your files. The drawback is that services that provide it won’t be able to reset your password if you forget it. To avoid losing access to your content, use a password manager.
The TLS protocol prevents man-in-the-middle attacks from succeeding, while encryption secures your data in transit and at rest. Ransomware can take your cloud data hostage and demand payment for its release, but our ransomware protection article can help you avoid it.
One of the most secure services is SpiderOak ONE. It uses zero-knowledge encryption with AES 256-bit to secure your files and encrypts your metadata, which it never uploads to a server in the first place. Read more about it in our SpiderOak ONE review.
Strong security doesn’t guarantee your privacy. Some governments spy on their citizens. The PRISM surveillance program in the U.S. is one example of that. The USA Patriot Act and CLOUD Act help the U.S. government keep a firm grasp on cloud data, too. Other major players in the surveillance game are Russia, the UK and Australia.
With that in mind, it’s critical that you ensure the privacy of your information on the web. How strong your privacy is depends on the country in which the cloud backup service is based. Some countries, such as Canada and Switzerland, take better care of users’ privacy rights than others. You can take advantage of that by consulting our best online backup for Canada piece.
We like to see services that adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation, the EU’s ironclad approach to cloud privacy. BigMIND Home has a clear and straightforward GDPR-compliance page that you can consult to see how the service implemented it. If you want to learn more about BigMIND Home’s privacy and features, read our BigMIND Homes review.
How much you pay to use a service is one of the most important criteria when choosing an online backup service. There’s no point in getting a great service that will bankrupt you. It’s best if it has premium plans with good value.
Good value is determined by how much you get for the price. The more plans a service has, the better your options will be. It’s great if the service offers a free plan or trial, too, so you can test it before committing. If you’re only concerned with good value, read our cheapest online backup guide.
Most services offer a trial and some offer a free plan. For example, you can subscribe to IDrive’s free 5GB plan. CloudBerry Backup provides up to 200GB of free backup space, which means you can pair it with a free account on any cloud storage service.
Ease of Use
How easy it is to use the service is important because no matter how many great features it has, they won’t be enough if it’s difficult to backup and restore files.
The user experience should be straightforward. That way, you can focus on your work and not your data. The desktop client should work on most operating systems and its interface, along with those of the web and mobile apps, should be pleasant and intuitive to use.
Most desktop clients work on Windows and macOS, but we like to see them work on Linux, too. You can see which do in our best online backup for Linux piece. Besides those that we’ve mentioned, CrashPlan for Small Business and Duplicati are on that list, so read our CrashPlan for Small Business review and Duplicati review to learn more about them.
If you work on Windows, consult our best cloud storage for Windows comparison.
Initial backups can take a long time. How long depends on many factors, including your distance to a server, your internet service provider and how much data you have to backup. We looked for services that let you tweak transfer settings to improve your connection and use a block-level transfer algorithm. Services that let you put a cap on your bandwidth get a plus, too.
To grade services, we perform several upload and download tests using a 1GB folder and measure how much time they take. We take into account our distance to a server, too.
One of the fastest services on the online backup market is Acronis True Image. It took only 14 minutes on average to upload our test folder. We used a connection with an upload speed of 14 megabits per second from southeast Asia. It helps that Acronis True Image has a network of servers spread across the globe.
Everything’s fine while the service works, but it’s another matter when it doesn’t. That’s where technical support comes in, and good technical support is priceless. Services usually have email support, and some offer chat or even phone support.
Before contacting the support team, though, users can consult the FAQ, knowledgebase and in many cases, user forums. There will often be tutorial videos, too. We take into account what types of support services offer and how long they take to respond to our questions.
The Best Online Backup Providers
Most online backup services are similar, with the odd one having novel features. We created this ranking by comparing their overall performances across the criteria we outlined in the previous section. This section will give you a quick recap of the top five services on our list, starting with IDrive.
IDrive is based in the San Fernando Valley in California. The company was launched in 1995, which makes it a veteran. Its age doesn’t show, though, except in its rich experience.
IDrive doesn’t offer unlimited backup, but it does let you backup unlimited devices, including NAS. There are two annual personal plans to choose from: 2TB or 5TB. The 2TB plan will set you back just over $50, while the 5TB plan costs around $75. IDrive offers a free plan with 5GB of backup space to test it, too.
IDrive uses AES 256-bit to encrypt your data at rest and in transit. It keeps the key to decrypt your data, but you can retain it if you want to ensure you have private encryption. You need to opt to do so prior to running your first backup, though.
It’s more complicated to work with IDrive because it doesn’t offer unlimited backup. You have to pick and choose the files you want to backup. You can do so by location, but not by file type. Plus, IDrive has many options for settings, so you have to get used to that. That shouldn’t be a problem for most people, though.
You can use IDrive on Windows, macOS and Linux. There are smartphone apps for Android or iOS, too.
Backblaze launched in 2007 and is one of the most popular online backup services. With such a long history, it’s no surprise that it’s near the top of our best online backup list.
It doesn’t place file restrictions on your unlimited backup. You can backup files of any size without manual selection. With only one plan, the pricing scheme is simple. It costs $5 a month or $50 a year. The monthly plan is convenient, considering that most backup services don’t offer it.
If you decide to use Backblaze for the long term, you can opt to pay for a year or two in advance, which will get you a $10 or $25 discount.
Backblaze has a lot of security features that we hope to see in a backup service, including private encryption. To prevent hackers from stealing your password, which they can do if it’s weak, you can enable two-factor authentication. You can also set an option to require a security code every time you log in.
Backblaze encrypts your files using AES 128-bit. No one has cracked that as far as we know, but we like the heavier version, AES 256-bit, more. SSL will protect your files in transit.
Like its pricing plan, Backblaze’s user experience is simple and easy. There’s no need to manage how much or what you’re backing up, because Backblaze does it for you, though the service excludes system and temporary files. You don’t even have to create a backup plan. Everything is automated.
You can get a lifetime license for Acronis True Image. It doesn’t allow you to backup your data to the cloud, though, only to local storage. That’s why we recommend getting an annual plan. There are two to choose from: Advanced and Premium.
Advanced costs $4.16 per month, or $49.99 a year, for 250GB. It includes full image backup, active disk cloning, universal restore and social media backup. Premium costs $8.33 a month, $99.99 a year, for 1TB. It adds electronic signatures and blockchain certification for files to the list of features.
Acronis True Image has a useful archival tool that can be used to free space on your hard drive. The service lets you sync files across devices, too. Its client comes with a set of tools that help with data management tasks, as well.
Acronis True Image uses AES 256-bit encryption and the TLS/SSL protocol to protect your data during transfer. It’s zero-knowledge, too.CloudBerry Backup
CloudBerry Backup isn’t a standard online backup service. Instead, it’s a control center that helps you manage backup plans on other cloud storage services. Technically, it’s an infrastructure-as-a-service solution that doesn’t offer backup space. Because of that, you need to pair it with a service such as Wasabi. Read more about that in our Wasabi review.
Wasabi charges 0.0049 cents per gigabyte of storage. That means 1TB only costs $5 per month, and unlike other IaaS services, Wasabi doesn’t charge for downloading.
CloudBerry Backup only requires a one-time license. The Desktop license is the cheapest option at $ 49.99. You can test it with a 15-day free trial before deciding to subscribe. Once that’s done, you need to get a cloud service that provides storage space.
CloudBerry Backup supports many standard security methods for cloud solutions, but their availability depends on the partner service, too. With the right partner, CloudBerry Backup can use up to AES 256-bit on the client side.
A lot of services only support server-side encryption, but CloudBerry Backup provides it on the client side, as well. During transfer, the service uses the TLS protocol to protect your files. It also offers versioning, which helps if you get hit by ransomware. Wasabi supports at-rest encryption and gives you two-factor authentication.
CloudBerry Backup isn’t for mainstream users because it’s not that easy to use, but power users will feel at home.BigMIND Home
BigMIND Home is another product from the company that created Zoolz Home Backup. It’s not surprising that they are similar, but BigMIND Home packs features fueled by artificial intelligence
BigMIND Home’s Personal plan costs $2.99 per month, but it’s paid annually and gives a meager 100GB of backup space for one user and three computers. The Family plan costs $6.99 a month and gives you 500GB of storage space for three users, nine computers and six mobile devices.
You can get 1TB of cloud backup space for $12.99 by subscribing to the Family Plus plan. The plan lets you share with four more users across 15 computers and unlimited mobile devices.
You can test the service by using the free plan, which provides 5GB of backup space for one user. It lets you backup one computer, one external drive and two mobile devices.
BigMIND Home encrypts files on servers using the AES 256-bit algorithm. You can opt for private encryption while setting up your backup plan, but you can’t do it afterward. Files are protected by the SSL protocol in transit, but, curiously, you have to enable it. BigMIND provides two-factor authentication to protect your credentials.
The desktop client is helpful, and the interface is attractive and easy to use. The web interface, which displays file categories and devices, is more colorful and enables you to browse your content in the cloud. BigMIND Home is available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS.
Online Backup Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s take a look at a few of the questions we’ve encountered from readers over the years.
What Is Online Backup?
Online backup is a method of off-site storage in which data is regularly backed up over the internet and typically hosted by a service provider.
Which Online Backup Service Is Best?
IDrive is the best online backup service, according to our ranking. It has strong security and cheap subscription plans, lets you backup unlimited devices and includes zero-knowledge security.
How Much Does Online Backup Cost?
The cost depends on how much backup space you need and which service you use. For example, IDrive’s 2TB Personal plan will cost you $52.12 per year, while Backblaze’s one and only plan, which has unlimited space, will cost you $50 per year.
Acronis True Image’s prices depend on how much storage you need and how many computers you want to backup. Its Advanced plan costs $49.99 a year and provides 250GB for one computer.
How to Use Online Backup?
To use online backup, you need to subscribe to a service. You can click the “visit” button in the ranking above to go to the website of a particular service and register for the intended plan or trial.
Next, you need to download and install the desktop client or, if you plan to backup your mobile device, the mobile app. There are slight variations on how the services work, but they all require you to choose which files or file types you want to backup. After doing so, you can start your backup and soon your data will be safe in the cloud.
For a more detailed walkthrough of how to backup your data, read this article.
Where to Backup Photos Online?
You should use Backblaze to backup your photos. It provides unlimited backup space for cheap and has no hidden caps. Using it also ensures that there are no upload or file size limits. You can learn more about why it’s good for photos in our best online backup for photos article.
No matter what or how much you need to backup, our ranking will help you choose the best online backup for your needs. We considered many criteria, including file backup and restoration, security, privacy and features.
IDrive is our top choice because it has great value deals, strong security and the ability to backup unlimited devices and private encryption.
Backblaze is right behind it thanks to its great ease of use, simple and cheap plan and unlimited backup space.
Acronis True Image has features that are taken out of the cloud storage handbook, including sync and a library of tools. It’s fast, too.
CloudBerry Backup is great for enthusiasts who want to tweak everything and get an overview of multiple backup services in one place.
Though not least, our last pick is BigMIND Home, which doesn’t offer a lot of backup space for cheap, but does have novel features, including face recognition and object detection. Its security and privacy are strong, too.
This article is an overview of the best online backup services, so when you think you’ve found a service that works for you, we recommend consulting its review to find out more. Thank you for reading.