Five Best Online Backup Tools

Local backup is a useful and necessary part of securing your data against catastrophe, but with the advent of broadband and inexpensive online storage, you've got little reason to not backup critical files to the cloud, as well.

Photo by jared.

Earlier this week we asked you to share your favourite online backup solutions. Now we're back to share the five most popular solutions Lifehacker readers use to back up their data online and keep it secure in the event that some unforeseen event at their on-site location — fire, flood, theft, someone casts Chain Lighting in the server room — wipes out their local backup.

Note: When contenders in the Hive Five have a free option, we've listed that first, followed by the first level of paid backup they provide. For additional levels and packages click on the name of the backup service for more information.

For additional information on both both Hive Five contenders and other online backup solutions, you can check out this comprehensive comparison chart.

CrashPlan (Windows/Mac/Linux/Open Solaris, Basic [No online storage]Free, Premium [Unlimited]$US4.50 per month)

CrashPlan takes an interesting approach with their backup software. You can download the software for free and use it to perform local backups on your computer and home network as well as back up data to a friend's computer if they are also running CrashPlan (so it's sort of off-site if a friend's running it). They don't offer any free introductory plans for online storage like most other online backup providers, but their rate for an unlimited personal account is on par with other providers. The software is very user friendly, and even if you're not sure if you want to commit to paying for an online backup service, it's worth a download just to automate your local backups. If your data goes kaput, you can restore it using the software or you can order a hard copy of your data.

Mozy (Windows/Mac, Basic [2GB]Free, Home Premium [Unlimited]$US4.95 per month)

Mozy is an automated backup solution. Once you install the Mozy client on your computer, it will back up any files you specify at the frequency you specify. Mozy can back up files while they are open — so that huge presentation you've been working on for the last few hours will be backed up even if you're still working with it. Mozy also backs up based on file changes, only uploading the portion of a file that has changed and not the entire file all over again (meaning quicker incremental backups after the initial backup). Mozy stores previous versions of your files for easy restoration, and in addition to restoring all your files by downloading them, you can also order a backup on physical media for a fee.

Dropbox (Windows/Mac/Linux, Basic [2GB]Free, Pro [50GB]$US9.99 per month)

Once you install Dropbox, a folder, appropriately called "My Dropbox", is placed in the Documents area of your computer. Anything you put into this folder will be synced with your Dropbox account. You can sync files, share files by making the folder they are in public, and restore a previous verison of your file — Dropbox keeps a change log going back 30 days. All your files are also accessible via the Dropbox web site, which is great for those times you're at a computer where you don't have Dropbox installed, but you still want to access a document. If you want to sync a folder without putting it directly inside the main My Dropbox folder, you can do that with a little elbow grease, too.

Jungle Disk (Windows/Mac/Linux, Pricing: $US2 per month + Per GB Fees)

Jungle Disk takes a different approach to backup on several different levels. Rather than offering a flat rate pricing for unlimited storage, Jungle Disk operates on a fee system. You pay $US2 a month per account plus a fee per GB of data used. The fee structure per GB is currently: $US0.15 for storage, $US0.10 for upload, and $US0.17 for download. On the upside, you can use your Jungle Disk as a networked disk drive in addition to a remote backup location. Jungle Disk is great at backup, but you can also use it with any application you'd like that can write to a network drive. A bonus for small-volume users is that for small amounts of data, you'll pay less than other backup solutions per month and have a lot more flexibility with how you use your remote storage.

Carbonite (Windows/Mac, Unlimited Storage $US4.58 per month)

Carbonite is the other contender in this week's Hive Five that doesn't offer a free basic account with teaser storage. They have a simple pricing plan: $US54.95 for a year of unlimited storage from a single computer. Like Mozy, Carbonite also offers block-level incremental backup to speed up the backup process. You can access your files through a web-based interface when you are away from home, and you can use the Carbonite application to restore all or some of your files at any time. Carbonite does not provide a hard copy of your data upon request, so get ready for some heavy downloading time if you've got a lot of data you need to restore.

Have a tip, trick, or tool for online backup? Surprised your favourite didn't make the cut? Let's hear it in the comments.


Comments

    On correction on Jungledisk: you have a choice of backend providers, and only pay up/download bandwidth if you choose S3. The Rackspace provider is just a flat 15c/GB for storage.

    These are all very nice but we have fairly restrictive quotas here which make this kind of solution a no go for most users.

      I use idrive. (i have 12gb free as i referred to 5 other emails).
      You dont really need to back up all of your files to the cloud. I just back up all my uni work because that is what is changing regularly and its handy to be able to access it from any computer.
      If you want offsite backup for other files such as pictures etc just borrow a good friends external hard drive and do an encrypted back up to it.....

    http://www.backblaze.com/ ?

    Highly recommend signing up with the US site for Carbonite or Mozy. The price is MUCH cheaper and with the AU dollar so good now you can get 2 or 3 years for a great price.

    Aaron, quite a few ISP's still offer unlimited uploads (most Internode plans for example), so these services could be useful for a lot of users. However, if you needed to recover an entire drive containing hundreds of gigabytes of files from an online backup, that's where you would run into trouble! I'm guessing that's why CrashPlan lets you order a hard copy of your data...

    You failed to mention Spideroak, which for me easily rates among the best online backup providers. The features which make Spideroak shine are cross platform support, security and fault tolerance. I'm surprised you didn't rate it a mention.

    My vote goes heartily to Dropbox. All my documents are stored there. My multimedia files are managed with a USB portable drive for backups. But for docs, Dropbox is fantastic. As soon as I make a change on one computer it is updated on all three of my other computers. And the best thing is that I don't have to remember to do backups or wait for them to complete. Can't rate this highly enough - get it and use the 2GB for free for all your crucial docs!

    carbonite has lost 50 to 73 accounts :)

    http://www.willemijns.com/backup.htm#paid list all of them...

    I'd like to vote for BackBlaze http://www.backblaze.com

    For $5 USD per month, I've got a complete offsite backup of every file on my computer, which I can download for free or have it shipped on a hard drive to me. Currently I have over 300GB worth of precious photos backed up. I never have to worry about data loss in the case of theft, fire or hardware failure.

    Backblaze works very much like Time Machine on a Mac, it backs up everything by default so that you won't lose anything. You can always add exclusions if you like.

    They provide a 14 day trial to get started and see how it goes. I think $5 a month is cheap for the peace of mind.

      Hi Cameron, How long did it take you to upload the 300Gb? It would take ages to the US wouldnt it?
      Cheers

    As for me I use Syncmate in order to backup mac data. This tool is not actually a backup software. In fact Syncmate allows syncing mac with different devices - computers, mobile devices, psp, google account, etc. I used it before in order to sync mac and my HTC, but they've added backup option recently so now I use it for backup as well.

    Details are here http://www.sync-mac.com/syncmate-features.html

    Go CrashPlan! I back up with it locally to a 2nd internal hard drive plus across the 'net to a friend's PC (with him backing up to me too).

    No monthly fees and if I had to restore 100Gb of stuff I could wander over to my friends place and restore it (with my password) to a local HDD then wander home - faster than downloading 100Gb of data...

    Plus they have an unlimited online subscription too if you have no friends :-)

    A company that is not mentioned on this list that should be is Egnyte. Egnyte has a great interface with a great solution.

    +1 for spideroak.
    SpiderOak is the only sync/backup provider that I know of which has client side encryption, which means it is the _only_ truly safe cloud storage solution on the open market. I sync several computers with my account and the only thing I am missing is a portable app, which support has said that they are working on :)

    Another product we have just started using LiveBackup. Brisbane based company that has a very good server backup product. Even support backing up VMware, SQL, Exchange, HyperV and MAC!

    For the record, Carbonite also has local Australian representation and you can buy it in $AUD and get access to local phone support.

    Do these backup tools only do data files, or do they also backup program files so that in the event of performing a recovery, the whole system can be restored?

    in response to Carbonite's Australian representation, it should be clear that their servers are not hosted on the australian continent so our laws relating to privacy may not apply in other jurisdictions.

    I discovered an Aussie company called BackupIT, the service is great the prices are cheap and there are four versions to choose from. The one we use is specifically for MYOB and it was free.
    Their Web site for this is backupmyob.com

    I use Iozeta.com for online backup. No problems at all.

    Especially when you run a business, let me tell you HOW important it is to have extra copies of everything in storage all over the place. Hard copies and soft copies and cloud copies and local copies! I know it can mean a fair bit of work, so a software which will help you ensure that there are duplicates in all the relevant back up places would truly be quite helpful. Technology has made storage of information so much easier and less expensive that there's no reason why people shouldn't do it. And better for it as well, lest somebody comes along looking for records from years ago and you have trouble digging them up...

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