If you're backing up your data but you're not saving it offsite, you're putting it at risk. If something happens to your home or equipment, all that data could be lost. That's where online backup services that send your data to the cloud for backup are so invaluable. This week we're going to look at five of the best, based on your nominations.
It has been a long time since we last looked at online backup tools, so we figured it was time to revisit the topic. One point to make about all online backup services: while the initial backup can be slow (and may chew through a large chunk of your data allowance), once the backup is established only changes are sent to the cloud, so the process is much faster.
Carbonite is one of the web's most popular online backup services, and with good reason. Carbonite can automatically back up documents, music, email, and other files (although it manually backs up video), and grants you access to those files and your archives on your smartphone. Carbonite supports Windows and Mac (although its Home Plus and Home Premier plans only support Windows), and make restoring your files as easy as backing them up. Your offsite files are encrypted to keep them safe from prying eyes, and all of the company's plans include unlimited storage for your backed up files. Carbonite's Home Plus plan extends its features and allows you to back up external hard drives and system images as well as files on your computer.
Carbonite is online backup only, so it doesn't really work well for local backups or backups to external drives. You'll still have to handle that yourself. You can try Carbonite for free for 15 days, but after that you'll need to pay $US59.95/year to back up one computer with the Home plan. You can read more about Carbonite's plans and pricing here.
Backblaze earned praise from readers for being easy to set up, even for non-technical people. It's built for people who want to get their data backed up without being forced to search for error codes and cryptic status messages whenever something goes wrong. To that end, Backblaze backs up just about everything on your system. You get some control over what's backed up and what isn't, but the point is to be fast, easy and hands-off, so everything on your system — documents, music, video, external drives you have plugged in — is included by default. Indeed, Backblaze actually has a special page dedicated to what it doesn't back up, since that's a simpler list. Backblaze offers unlimited storage for your backed-up data, and while by default it only backs up files smaller than 4GB, you can bump that up if you need to. It supports Windows and Mac, and is smart enough to de-dupe data, do incremental backups, and keep backup processes low on system resources. You can read more about Backblaze's features here.
BackBlaze doesn't have an offline component, so you'll have to handle that yourself, but it's one of the most affordable options on the market. Accounts are $US5/month (you get a break if you pay up front for one or two years), and you can add more computers to the same account for another $US5/month. You can read more about Backblaze's pricing options here.
CrashPlan is our favourite backup tool for Windows and for the Mac. We've even shown you how to build a bulletproof backup solution using it. CrashPlan gives you the flexibility to back up any folders you select on your computer (or whole drives, if you prefer) to external hard drives, other computers on the same network, a friend's computer across the internet, or online to CrashPlan's own servers, where it's stored and encrypted to keep your data safe. The backup utility is set-and-forget, and it runs quietly in the background whenever you're away from your computer, or at specified times of day. It supports multiple backup destinations so you can back everything up at one time everywhere it needs to go. Restores are also easy, and a few clicks can bring back any lost files. You even get access to your backup data on your mobile devices. You can read more about CrashPlan's features here.
CrashPlan is completely free if you're performing local backups, but even online backups are affordable, with CrashPlan+ accounts starting at $US2/month (per computer) for 10GB of online backup storage, and going up to $US4/month (per computer) for unlimited online backup storage and $US9/month for unlimited online backup storage for a whole household. You can check out the full range of plans here, and try them free for 30 days with a new account.
SpiderOak is well known as one of the most privacy-centric cloud storage services, but it's also a great backup service. The same power and features that you get for file syncing and access extend to its backup client, and SpiderOak's "Zero Knowledge" policy extends to your backups as well. Even it doesn't know what you're storing on the SpiderOak servers, and all of your data is encrypted on those servers and before it leaves your computer. The SpiderOak desktop client has a fully-featured backup tool that lets you back up your entire desktop, documents, email, music, or movies right to the cloud, or you can hit the "Advanced" tab and pick the files and folders you want to save, including external drives, network drives, or anything else on your computer. As you add files to your backup job, you'll see a live preview of how much space you'll use with what kinds of files, and whether you have available space for it. SpiderOak supports Windows, Mac and Linux, and offers mobile apps for iOS and Android.
SpiderOak's beauty is that it's a combination cloud syncing and storage service as well as a backup client all in one. Unlike some of the other services though, you'll have to pay for the storage you use. You get 2GB for free just for signing up, and you can get up to 10GB by referring friends. SpiderOak Plus nets you 100GB for $US10/month to use for syncing and backups, and every 100GB after that is another $US10/month. You can connect as many computers to any SpiderOak account as you want, as you're not paying by the system. You can read more about SpiderOak's plans here.
Bitcasa Infinite Drive is relatively new, but it's already one of your favourite cloud storage providers, mostly because it offers virtually unlimited storage for syncing and backups. When we say unlimited, we mean it — some of you are using terabytes of storage with Bitcasa. It's not primarily a backup service though, but while it was built for file syncing and storage, the Bitcasa desktop client does support regular file backups. Bitcasa supports Windows and Mac, and encrypts all of your files before uploading so they stay safe from prying eyes. Bitcasa also keeps revision history, so if you've backed up a file multiple times and need an older version, you can pick it out and restore it. Plus, you can use the Bitcasa mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone to access your data on the go.
Bitcasa starts you off with 10GB for free, but $US100/year throws the floodgates open and gets you unlimited storage for anything you want to sync, share, or back up. Plus, you can connect as many computers or devices to your account as you choose, so you don't pay by the PC. Its client isn't quite as robust as some of the other tools here, but if you're more interested in a flat fee for unlimited space and you can handle the details of which files go where and when, it's a solid option. You can read more about Bitcasa's pricing here.
No honourable mentions this week, as the nominations dropped off pretty sharply from these five. Some of you pointed to your own franken-backup solution that made use of traditional cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive in addition with desktop utilities and clients that can automatically copy whatever you want from your computer to specified files and folders in those services, which is a great option if you want absolute control.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Tell us how you handle online backup in the comments.