During this review, we’ll be taking a look at Arq Backup, a desktop solution available for both Windows and Mac.
Arq provides a measure of versatility that you won’t find with all-in-one options like Backblaze, letting you turn cloud storage services like Dropbox and OneDrive into a backup provider, much like Cloudwards.net favorite CloudBerry Backup does.
However, compared to the features and look described in our CloudBerry Backup review, Arq falls a little short. While certainly capable of getting the job done, Arq comes across as dated and won’t appeal to many users.
If that includes you, we’d recommend checking our best online backup roundup for some niftier ideas. Otherwise, keep reading to find out what Arq Backup is all about.
- Storage agnostic
- Online & local backup
- Good encryption
- Runs deduplication
- No file-size limits
- File versioning
- Incremental backups
- Not many storage options
- Application is poorly designed
- No image-based backup
Arq provides a backup client that can be used with several different storage options, including some of our best cloud storage providers, like Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive. That lets you turn ordinary cloud storage into online backup, taking advantage of Arq’s automatic backup scheduling, encryption, de-duplication and restore capabilities.
The client handles backup reasonably well and doesn’t limit the size or type of files you can backup. However, it takes a bit more work to manage than a more consumer-friendly tool like Backblaze (check out our Backblaze review for more on that), and hasn’t nearly as many features as CloudBerry Backup or Duplicati, both of which take a similar, agnostic “choose-your-own storage” approach.
Missing features include disk-image backup and mobile capabilities.
Arq software can be purchased for a one-time fee of $49.95. This will grant you a lifetime, transferable license that can be used for your computer or server. You can try the service out for free for 30 days, too.
It’s important to understand that Arq doesn’t come with any online backup space. This will be a separate purchase that will likely require a monthly or annual subscription. Far from being a con, however, this approach actually provides Arq with a good deal more flexibility than all-in-one online backup options like Carbonite and IDrive.
There are eight cloud options available at the moment: Amazon Drive, Amazon S3/Glacier, Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Cloud, Backblaze B2, OneDrive and Wasabi and any S3-compatible server. You can also backup to your NAS device or a file server if you want to keep a backup on site.
While the selection will probably suit most users just fine, it’s not nearly as impressive as the fifty-plus available with CloudBerry Backup. A CloudBerry Backup desktop license is also cheaper, costing just $29.99.
Arq desktop clients are available for Windows and Mac. Installation only takes a minute. When you start it up, Arq will walk you through the basic steps of setting up your backup plan, though many settings will need to be tweaked later on.
The tool itself is pretty straightforward if you have some technical knowledge, but it does feel somewhat like a relict of the past (think 1995). It certainly won’t win any beauty awards. If you really don’t want to work to maintain your backup plan, you’d be better off going with a service like Backblaze or Carbonite, neither of which require that you configure your own storage.
Or, if you like the idea of picking and configuring your own storage, CloudBerry Backup gives you more options, is more user friendly and looks much prettier.
One issue we discovered with the tool is that the edit destination pane was too big for our computer screen, causing some of the options to scrunched. There’s no way to change the size so that it will appear in screen and there isn’t a vertical scroll option to move down, either, so we weren’t able to alter our “budget” settings (see image, below).
Arq doesn’t have any mobile apps for accessing your data.
After you install Arq, the first thing it will ask you to do is select a backup destination.
As mentioned, there are eight different cloud storage options available that you can select from. SFTP backup to your own server is another option, as is backup to an external drive or NAS device.
For our tests, we set up a backup plan using Amazon S3. To do that, we had to generate security credentials for our S3 account. If you’d like to learn how to do that, we have a getting started with Amazon S3 guide you can check out.
The wizard then prompts us to create a storage bucket on one of the many Amazon S3 servers.
Afterwards, you’ll need to set up an encryption password. This is a private password that only you know. As such, if you forget it, you’ll lose access to your backup.
Arq automatically selects the C drive to backup. However, you can choose additional folders and change your backup schedule if you want to. You can add exclusions to your backup by file or folder name, including file extension.
Backups are run every hour by default and are run incrementally, so only changes since the last backup are processed. You can alter the schedule from the destinations preferences pane by double-clicking on your destination.
You choose to back based on a set duration, back once a day a specific time or only run manual backups. From the advanced preferences pane, you can also select an option called “thin backups from hourly to daily to weekly.” By doing so, Arq will save all of your hourly backups for the last 24 hours, all of your daily backups from the past month and weekly backups.
Arq automatically performs de-duplication when backing up so that the same file content isn’t stored multiple times. You can restore files by using the restore hierarchy on the left side. Your files will appear in the center pane. Select what you want and click the “restore” button near the bottom.
Arc also lets you restore previous versions of files. All previous versions of files are stored, which is great. There’s no way to create a versioning policy, but storing that many versions shouldn’t be an issue because Arq processes backups incrementally, only copying the parts of files that changed rather than the entire file.
The speed at which Arq backups files up will depend on what cloud service you choose to backup to. In our case, we choose to backup to an Amazon S3 server in Virginia, which was relatively close to the destination the tests were run in (just outside of Boston, MA).
Our WiFi connection speed at the time the tests were run was around 12 Mbps up and 220 Mbps down. For testing, we used a 1GB test folder comprised of various different file types.
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These times were within the range of what we would have expected. Again, though, that’s as much a factor of Amazon S3 as it is Arq, so take them with a grain of salt.
Arq lets you set up private encryption so that your files are scrambled prior to leaving your computer and are decrypted until your restore them. That way, no matter what storage provider you decide to use, that provider will never be able to read or scan your files.
The level of encryption used is 256-bit AES.
Beyond that, the level of security and privacy you get will depend on the storage provider you choose. All of the options available store data on RAID servers in secure data centers designed to withstand natural disasters and physical and virtual attacks. So, you data should be pretty safe regardless of whichever you choose.
Support for Arq can be obtained by email [email protected] Arq states that it tries to answer all requests within one business day. We put that to the test by emailing a few test questions to Arq support. Responses were received within the allotted timeframe, even on a Saturday.
There are no live support options for Arq, even for business customers. However, the quick response times should get most issues resolved quickly. Support for storage issues will go through your preferred cloud service, anyway.
Arq does have a documentation center if you prefer to figure things out on yourself. However, there are only a handful of articles and no search option. Those articles that are available are well done, though, with straightforward instructions and screenshots.
It’s hard to shake the impression that Arq was designed entirely by an engineer. It has that certain utilitarian look. Arq Backup isn’t a particularly bad backup tool, but there are far better options out there: we recommend any novice user check out our online backup reviews for an overview.
For a tool with similar capabilities, that’s CloudBerry Backup. If you’re a Mac user, check out our article on Time Machine vs. Arq vs. Duplicati vs. CloudBerry Backup.
We’d love to hear from our readers on their own Arq experiences, good or bad, so please feel free to hit us up in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for reading.