Everyone's got at least one horror data loss story to tell. Computer errors and hard drive crashes can hit at any time -- usually when it's going to be the most inconvenient -- so it's worthwhile to look into an online backup service to keep all your precious memories and valuable information safe.
Cloud image via Shutterstock
It's been a while since we last updated our list of online backup tools, so we've had a look at what services are being recommended this year.
Note that we haven’t trialled or reviewed these services ourselves, but have collated opinions from a number of online communities.
CrashPlan is one of the most complete backup solutions on the market. It has a free option that includes a 30 day trial of CrashPlan's online backup, as well as personal and business solutions for online storage -- and each level of subscription allows an unlimited amount of data to be backed up, with no file size limits. CrashPlan is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux, while the subscription services also come with support for a mobile app for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.
The backup service is set-and-forget, though you can customise it in a number of ways, from choosing specific folders to choosing whether you want to send your data to an external hard drive, computer on a local network or over the internet or to the cloud. CrashPlan will encrypt your data for safety no matter which option you pick.
Unfortunately CrashPlan has stopped offering its backup drive seeds or restore to door services this year -- which involved the mailing of a physical drive in cases where there was too much data to be transferred across an internet connection -- though both services were quite pricey when they were offered.
CrashPlan offers an Individual plan for use on one computer for $69.30 a year, or a Family plan for use on up to 10 computers for $165 a year. There are also enterprise options starting at $11 per month. CrashPlan also prices in AUD, so you don't have to worry about those pesky exchange rates.
Carbonite is another online backup that has been featured in both our prior roundups, and it's a popular choice for a reason. Similar to CrashPlan, Carbonite automatically backs up a whole heap of different file types including documents, music and email, though video files are a manual backup. It includes great smartphone support, and is available on Windows and Mac, though Mac is only supported on the 'Basic' plan, which doesn't support local backup and other premium services.
At its basic level, Carbonite encrypts and backs up files to the cloud, without a limit to the amount of data you can store. Files can be accessed remotely at any level of subscription. The basic level will run you $US60 a year. The next level up allows you to utilise offline external HD backup and mirror image backup, which will set you back $US100 per year. The highest level of service in personal plans costs $US150 per year and adds automatic video backup and a courier recovery service, where your files can be shipped to you on a physical hard drive.
SpiderOak is known as one of the most privacy-conscious online storage options, having been recommended by Edward Snowden himself and earning itself spot in our last roundup. It keeps a strict "Zero Knowledge" policy when it comes to your backups, with SpiderOak promising that it has no idea what you're storing on its servers. All files are encrypted before they even leave your computer.
SpiderOak ONE accounts work opposite to those featured above -- while you can use one account on as many computers as you want, the amount of storage available to you is dictated by the price of your plan. Plans start at $79 a year for 30GB, and go all the way up to $279 per year for 5TB. SpiderOak's desktop client is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux, and can also be accessed through a mobile app on iOS and Android.
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. While this service offers a tonne of customisation options, it's not as simple to use nor as affordable as some of the others in this list. It'll be most attractive to users who are concerned about their privacy as a priority, especially those who are already fairly confident at navigating this kind of software.
You can grab a 60-day free trial with 2GB of data before you buy.
IDrive is far more comprehensive than many other online backup services -- it also offers services like Facebook and Instagram backups from as many accounts as you like, as well as a web-based console that'll allow you to manage your backups remotely. IDrive offers clients for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices, and unlimited devices and computers can be used from a single account.
IDrive also offers a free seeded backup service called IDrive Express, where it will send you a physical hard drive to put your initial backup onto. This service is available yearly for personal customers, though customers outside the US will have to pay shipping costs for the service. Aside from the included yearly service, subsequent Express Backups will incur a charge of $US59.95 while Express Restores (where the data is shipped back to you if you need a restore) will be charged $US99.50.
For free IDrive gives you 5GB of storage, while a yearly $US52.12 subscription will net you 1TB, or you can get a whole 10TB for $374.62 a year.
IDrive has also recently added the IDrive One, a wireless base station with storage between 128GB and 2TB to serve as a 'personal cloud' for the home. However this product is only available in the US and there's no news on if or when it will be brought to other countries including Australia.
Acronis True Image Cloud
Acronis promises to be the fastest and easiest way to backup your devices, though we've yet to put it to the test ourselves. It is one of the services that offers unlimited storage, however, and accounts are instead limited by the number of computers that can be used with it. Acronis's solutions were first and foremost focused on enabling full system image backups, and you get this in addition to its cloud backup solution.
Files backed up by Acronis are encrypted prior to transfer and then again at their destination, offering greater security for your data, though it doesn't offer other security failsafes like remote wipe features or geo-redundancy.
Acronis is optimised for Windows 10 and Mac OS X, though also supports Windows XP, 7 and 8. It also offers mobile support for iOS, Android and Windows Phone, allowing you to both back up and recover all your data from your mobile device. You can also access a web-based dashboard in order to manage your various devices, especially for accounts that are used by a family or small business.
One-year subscriptions start at $129.99 for one computer and three mobile devices, going up to $199.99 for three computers and ten mobile devices, with the highest level being $249.99 for five computers and 15 mobile devices.