Productivity

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.