You can either tear out your hair when disaster strikes, or you can prepare for it ahead of time. Online backup services are one of the very best ways to protect yourself against loss of precious computer data, whether it’s a result of a crashed hard drive or an unintentional deletion.
Hard drive crashes and editing mishaps aren’t the only things online backup can protect you from. There are also more traditional disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes, which can spell the end of your digital media and documents. Even if you’re among the very few of us who diligently perform backups at regular intervals, those calamities can still result in data loss if you didn’t store backups off-site. That’s a good reason why an online backup service may be the best way to protect your irreplaceable digital goods.
Online backup services have you install software on you PC that scans your storage for files worthy of backup, encrypts them for security, and sends them up to the cloud—that trendy word that just means powerful, secure, and high-storage-capacity server computers attached to the internet with fast connections. Once your files are stored on those cloud servers, they’re accessible for you to restore to the same PC, should a file go missing. In most cases, the service also lets you access your files from a web browser or mobile device.
Though there’s some overlap, online backup services shouldn’t be confused with cloud storage and syncing services like Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. Those services do store files in the cloud, but they aren’t designed to automatically protect allimportant documents and media files, let alone system files. Their strategy is generally to sync just one folder with all its subfolders to the cloud, and in some cases to offer online collaborative document editing. One crossover product is SugarSync, which lets you sync folders wherever they exist on your drive.
Online Backup Pricing Plans
Since you’re probably going to be paying for a backup service for years, you should know from the start what you’re getting into in terms of money. They’re all subscription-based, and there are many ways the vendors slice and dice the fees to make them seem appealing. Some backup services list prices by the month, but those prices often only apply if you commit to a one- or two-year contract. Some offer completely free accounts with lower storage allotments, but many only offer time-limited free trial accounts.
Some online backup services’ prices only cover one PC, while others specify a number of machines you can use in one account. Still others cover unlimited PCs, but limit the amount of data you can back up to the cloud server storage. To level the price playing field, we list the vendor’s principal stated plan for one year of service at the top of each review.
Choosing What to Back Up and When
How a backup service lets you choose which files to protect wildly varies, from the totally hands-free Backblaze, which selects the likely files you’d want to have backed up and immediately starts encrypting and uploading them, to SpiderOakONE and services like it, which simply let you choose whatever files you want from your PC’s folder tree.
Different services allow different types of files from differing sources. Some don’t let you protect system and program files. Others don’t let you back up files and folders on external or network drives. If you have any of those needs, make sure the service you choose supports them. Some services, like Acronis True Image Cloud, can back up your entire hard drive—the best protection against a total disaster claiming your computer.