What to Look For in an Online Backup Service in 2023
The most important thing you need to do before picking an online backup service is to think in detail about what platforms you use and how much storage you’ll need.
For example, are you backing up a Mac or Windows computer? Or are you looking to back up a Linux or mobile device, which limits your options? Furthermore, do you want to back up your mobile device and online accounts like your email or OneDrive? Could you get away with backing up just one device? That’s great, because many services only offer a subscription for one device, no matter what the plan or price is. If you need to back up multiple devices, there are online backup services available, but it does limit your options.
How much storage you need will depend on how many devices you need to back up and how many files you tend to back up. You may not need as much storage as you think because you probably don’t want to back up movies, music, or applications that you could easily get back again from a simple internet download. Instead, you want to back up important documents and pictures that are irreplaceable.
When choosing a backup service, consider your actual storage needs. Do you need more than 1TB—that’s 1000GB—of storage? Online backup services go up exponentially in price the more storage you need.
Once you’ve figured out those two fundamental questions, the next thing is to look at the features you need.
One example is file versioning, which nearly every online backup service offers. The difference is that some only keep versions for 15 days, others keep them for 30, and some can even keep them longer than that.
You also want to consider how you’d like to restore your files in a potential worst-case scenario and whether you want a service that will deliver you a physical drive to do the restore. Keep in mind that usually a physical hard drive restore is targeted toward businesses, or power users, rather than the average consumer, so while it’s good to have it available, it shouldn’t be a deciding factor.
Finally, and equally important, is the granular control of your backup. Do you want to be able to sync and backup specific files, or are you ok with doing a whole disk or partition backup? Different services approach it in different ways, with some offering a complete mirror of your hard drive, while others allow you to use your storage space as a virtual drive, which is great if you want a seamless experience.
This is a lot of information, so let’s get into the five best online backup services around and see which is best for you.
Best Online Backup Service Overall: Backblaze
- ✓ Unlimted storage
- ✓ Great upload and download speeds
- ✓ Has two-factor authentication
- ✓ Excellent pricing
- ✗ Only one computer per account
- ✗ Finding and using files can be very difficult
- ✗ No Linux or mobile apps
Backblaze has been around for many years and has managed to shoot its way to the top of the pack due to its simple service and pricing. If you’re looking for something that is a relatively hassle-free, minimalist, and straightforward experience, then Backblaze is what you want.
Unlimited storage is what sets Backblaze apart from other online backup services. While that may not mean much for the average user, if you have to regularly backup multiple TBs of information, there’s no need to worry about bumping up against a storage ceiling.
With unlimited backup, you would think that the service is pretty expensive, but it’s surprisingly affordable, sitting at $70 for a year’s subscription or $130 for two years. Of course, there’s a catch—the subscription is for one computer only. So if you need to back up several computers, you’d need to grab a subscription for each one.
On the bright side, you can transfer licenses across computers and choose to retain the old files you have backed up. That means you can back up your old files to your new device easily and continue on as you were before.
As for the backup service itself, it’s pretty straightforward, with the desktop application being relatively minimal. That being said, minimalism does work a bit against it since it can be challenging to find a specific file or folder in your backups since there is a lack of file explorer and search features.
Also, while there’s no backup option for mobile phones, there is a Backblaze mobile app for iPhone and Android that you can use to view and share your folder. It feels like a bit of a missed opportunity!
The most important thing, though, is that Backblaze encrypts all the data you send, using 256-bit for the actual transfer and 128-bit encryption for the storage itself.
As for restoring information, there’s up to 30 days’ worth of file versioning, and backing up individual files or folders is easy once you find them. One great feature is that you can choose to restore through a physical USB or hard drive if you have a lot of information, and Backblaze will even reimburse you if you send it back to the company within 30 days.
Overall, Backblaze is a great service with uncomplicated pricing and no backup limit. The service does lack of mobile and Linux support, and the single-user license may be irksome to those who have more than one computer, but ultimately it’s not a dealbreaker given the price.
Best Overall Online Backup Service
For those who want a straightforward and easy-to-use backup solution, Backblaze offers both a minimalist backup experience and straightforward pricing with an unlimited storage cap.
Best Online Backup Service for Combined Desktop and Mobile Use: iDrive
- ✓ Can be used on an unlimited number of devices
- ✓ Available for both PC and Mobile
- ✓ Intuitive mobile app
- ✓ Fast upload speeds
- ✗ Only 5TB and 10TB option on personal plan
- ✗ Lack of monthly plan
If you’re looking for an online backup service that provides broad platform support, iDrive
is the best you will find. Not only does it support both Windows and Mac, but it can also backup from both mobile devices as well, with the iDrive app on both Android and iPhone being easy to use. You can also use the mobile apps to browse all your backed-up files relatively easily, which is a great way to carry all your data with you wherever you go.
Unfortunately, there is a bit of a catch, as there are only two storage size options. The smallest is 5TB at the cost of $60/year, and the largest is 10TB at the cost of $119/year.
While it’s appreciated that iDrive provides different options to adjust according to need, the inability to add additional storage is disappointing. That being said, if your usage doesn’t go over either option, then this isn’t a dealbreaker.
On the other hand, what may be a dealbreaker is that there’s no monthly subscription option, so you’re going to have to drop $60 for an entire year of iDrive. You can, however, sign up for the free Basic plan, which backs up 10GB of data, so you can give the service a try before you buy.
Even so, there are some great upsides, such as the subscription giving you unlimited device usage, as opposed to something like Backblaze, which only gives you a license for one device. That makes it a much better value proposition if you have several devices that need to be backed up.
Besides that, iDrive has the standard features that you’d expect for a premium-level backup product, such as storing up to 30 versions of files, a sharing option via email, and 256-bit AES encryption. They also have physical shipping of stored data, which you can request for free once a year, though you have to return their drive back to them.
All-in-all, iDrive is great if you need to backup several devices but don’t use more than 10TB of backup space, which mostly gets eaten up by versioning. The intuitive web interface and great mobile apps help put iDrive in the second spot.
Best Online Backup Service for Combined Desktop and Mobile Use
If you’re looking for an online backup service that has cross-platform support and a great mobile and web interface, iDrive is the best you’re going to find, even if it only has a maximum storage space of 10TB.
Best Online Backup Service with Anti-Virus Software: Carbonite Safe
- ✓ Unlimted online storage
- ✓ Excellent backup management
- ✓ Plus plan offers Webroot antivirus
- ✓ Easy to use
- ✗ License is for a single computer only
- ✗ No file sharing option
- ✗ Only supports Windows and Mac
In many ways, Carbonite Safe is a minimalist online backup solution where some features are stripped out for a lower cost. Depending on your needs, you can also choose between three different plans, but the actual savings come from going with the Basic package.
If you do go with Basic, you get a license to use on one computer that offers unlimited storage, although you can’t back up an external hard drive. On the other hand, Carbonite Safe does save up to 12 different versions of your files, so you can always go back if there’s an issue with the latest file. It also has a backup automation system for photos and files, so you should feel absolutely safe that your stuff is secure.
Carbonite Safe’s security is excellent, even if you don’t get the Webroot anti-virus with the basic plan. That being said, one thing that is disappointing is that you can’t get a temporary physical drive to do a restore on the Basic plan, although that’s likely one of the things that help keep the cost of the plan low.
Moving on from Basic, we have the Plus plan, which is targeted at those who have an external hard drive that they’d like to backup. You also get the Webroot anti-virus that we talked about earlier, which adds another layer of security protection to your files when they’re backed up. Finally, the Plus plan comes with automatic video backup, if that’s something you need.
Carbonite Safe also offers a Prime plan, with the only difference being the courier delivery of a physical drive to restore your data. Again, whether this is genuinely worth the cost is debatable, especially since other services like Backblaze or iDrive do it cheaper.
Given the stripped-down nature of Carbonite Safe, with no file-sharing option, a single license option, and support for only Windows and Mac it may not be for everybody. That is something that the company realizes, which is why they offer a 15-day trial to give it a shot yourself.
Best Online Backup Service with an Anti-Virus
While Carbonite Safe may not be flashy, it’s a solid and minimalist online backup service at a reasonable price with the Basic Plan.
Best Online Backup Service for Extra Cybersecurity: Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office
- ✓ Very security-focused
- ✓ Wide range of backup options
- ✓ Light-weight app
- ✗ Maximum of 5TB of storage
- ✗ Middling upload performance
If you’re particularly concerned about cybersecurity and want some extra protection from ransomware and other threats, Acronis is a great cloud-backup alternative. Granted, it doesn’t have the same speeds or file sizes as some of the other cloud backup services, but it does a good job of keeping your information safe, and at a starting price of $90 per year, it’s a great deal.
Note: While Acronis has three different subscriptions to pick from, the “Essentials” plan does not provide any cloud storage.
Acronis achieves this level of security through the comprehensive suite of security features included with the subscription. For example, not only does Cyber Protect have real-time anti-malware and anti-virus scanning, but it also provides you with anti-ransomware protection as well, which isn’t something you see in most online backup services.
You even get videoconferencing protections for Zoom, Webz, and Microsoft Teams, which everybody may not necessarily use, but it’s a nice additional touch for the security-conscious.
All of this is tied together with an easy-to-read cybersecurity dashboard, which gives you information on your overall stored files and provides cybersecurity metrics. In fact, you can even quarantine potential threats if you think a file or folder may be suspect.
Besides that, you get the full scope of top-tier online backup services, such as granular backup control from the disc level down to the file level, differential backup, which backs up only files that have changed, and system data recovery if the OS gets corrupted, and backup scheduling. You can also back up your Outlook mail and OneDrive. Best of all, Acronis has applications for both Windows and Mac, as well as Android and iPhone.
All that being said, there is one rather major issue that may be a dealbreaker, which is that their cheapest online storage plan only has 500GB of storage, with no way to upgrade. If you need more space than that, you could always go for the Premium plan, but that costs $125 per year per computer and only gives you 1TB—but you can upgrade it for an extra cost.
Ultimately, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t have a lot of files to backup and wants the best online backup security, then Acronis is a great option.
Best Online Backup Service for Extra Cybersecurity
Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office
If you’re a security-conscious person, then Acronis is a great choice given its suite of cybersecurity features, assuming you’re alright with smaller online storage than competitors.
Best Online Backup Service with a Lifetime Subscription: pCloud
- ✓ Lifetime subscription option
- ✓ Minimalist and easy to use
- ✓ Long-term file history
- ✗ Largest storage option is 2TB
- ✗ Not feature rich
One thing that sets pCloud apart from other online backup services is that it’s built around being as hassle-free as possible and integrating it into the day-to-day workflow of the average user. It does that by allowing you to use the service as a virtual drive on your computer, which a lot of other services don’t.
For those who don’t necessarily want to use an additional backup app, or are familiar with Google Drive and other cloud backup solutions, pCloud is a great option.
Another hassle-free aspect of pCloud is that is one of the only online backup services that offer a lifetime subscription. If you miss the days when you’d buy something with a lump sum and not have to pay an ongoing subscription, then pCloud will suit you perfectly, even though the upfront cost is a bit high.
Besides the paid subscriptions, one thing we appreciate about pCloud is their free account option with 10GB worth of storage. That means you don’t have to work within the 15-30 day trial periods most other services provide, letting you test drive it for as long as you need to.
As for online backups, the main way you’re going to do that is through their syncing feature, which you can tweak for specific files or folders rather than mirroring a whole hard drive. Alternatively, you can use pCloud as a hard drive extension, which makes it show up like any other hard drive in your file explorer.
Beyond just desktop syncing for Windows, Mac, and Linux, pCloud also has mobile apps for Android and iPhone, and unlike some other services, you can backup files and folders from there too. It doesn’t stop there either—you can also backup other services while you’re at it, such as Dropbox, One Drive, Google Drive and Photos, and even Facebook. In a sense, pCloud is attempting to be a total backup solution, and it’s doing a relatively good job of it.
That being said, one thing that works against it is that the largest storage you can get is 2 TB, and that’s only on their more expensive plan, which costs $100 per year. If you grab for their cheaper package that goes for $50 a year, it’s even less than half at 500 GB. This begs the question of why they don’t offer additional top-ups or larger storage sizes, especially given how all-encompassing their service is.
As such, it makes a lot of sense to go for one of their lifetime subscriptions. If you go for the 2TB lifetime plan, it only costs $350, which is not that bad of a bargain considering it’s about the cost of three years worth of a subscription. The 500GB version goes for $175 but considering it’s half the cost for a quarter of the storage space, it hardly seems worth it.
Either way, whether you go for yearly or lifetime, pCloud has some nice additional features. For example, it has built-in video and audio players, with the audio streamer even having playlists, so you could stream content directly from the cloud. You can also get an additional service called pCloud Crypto, which adds client-side encryption to your files before they are even uploaded, $50 yearly, or $125 for a lifetime subscription.
All in all, pCloud is built as a one-stop-shop backup and encryption service, and it does a pretty good job of it. The minimal interface and straightforward operation are great for those who don’t want too much hassle.
Really, the only downside is the lack of storage space, but if you don’t go over 2TB, or don’t see yourself going over it, then the lifetime subscription is well worth the initial investment, even if other services offer higher or unlimited caps.
Best Online Backup Service with a Lifetime Subscription
The lifetime subscription option and minimalist and all-encompassing backup of pCloud is great for those who don’t want a lot of hassle, although the upper limit of 2TB of storage may put some off.
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