Have you ever experienced a hard drive crash? Maybe fallen prey to a CryptoLocker or other nasty virus? How about losing or having your laptop stolen? Or experienced a minor incident like spilling your Grande Caramel Frappuccino all over your laptop, which resulted in your laptop being ruined forever? If you’ve never been hit by a disaster like these, you can call yourself lucky. The rest of us have probably learned the hard way that our work files, precious holiday photos and all our data are not safe being kept solely on our laptops or PCs. We need a solid backup for events like these. Cloud backup services are a simple and automatic way to back up all your files to the safety of the cloud, and when disaster strikes at least you won’t have to agonize over your files being lost, and simply recover everything to your new laptop or PC.
A cloud backup or online backup service can do much more than just back up your files, it can also help you restore deleted files, go back to several previous versions of a file, and some can even locate your stolen computer. They are also an affordable way to avoid loss of data in events akin to those mentioned above.
How do Online Backup Services work?
Backing up to an external hard drive is another layer of protection that you can use to keep your data safe, but neither your computers nor your external hard drives are immune to malfunctions. Therefore, your data is at risk even if backed up to an external hard drive. Not to mention that with an external hard drive, you will have to back up everything time and time again. This is a tedious process, which is simplified by cloud backup services that usually rely on a software client to scan your computer, identify your files and let you choose which files or folders to back up or back up everything automatically. This automation of the backup process and the security that comes with it makes online backup services one of the most reliable ways to protect your digital data.
To get started with cloud backup, you simply have to create an account with a cloud backup provider, choose a subscription plan, download the software client on your PC, and let the software guide you through the process of backing up your files. Some providers come with unlimited storage space (e.g. Backblaze or Carbonite), others will charge you depending on how much storage you need (e.g. SugarSync or IDrive). With most providers you have the option to pay on a monthly basis or on a yearly basis.
There are a few features that are common for almost all online backup services, mostly because these features define how these services usually operate. To better understand the capabilities of a cloud backup service, here is a breakdown of the most common features you’ll find:
- Automatic and continuous backup – changes to your files are continuously backed up;
- Scheduled backups – it means that you can schedule the frequency at which backups happen;
- File restoration and version history – this feature allows you to restore a deleted file or restore a previous version of an edited file;
- Encryption – most backups offer some sort of security by encrypting your files both at upload and while stored;
- Access to your files by logging into your account from anywhere;
- Desktop app and mobile app;
- Free account tier or trial period.
These are the core features of almost any backup service. Depending on the selected service provider, you may also find features like disk image backup (full system backup including OS, settings, etc.), lost computer location finder, geo redundant storage, sharing capabilities, video streaming, support for an unlimited number of devices, external hard drive backup, remote wipe, etc.
Who should use a cloud backup service?
The short answer to this question is: everyone. The long answer has some nuance to it, but essentially boils down to the following scenario: If you would be unable to shake off a situation in which all data on your computer would be wiped out, then you need a cloud backup. So whether you’re a student, a freelancer or a business owner, when malfunctions hit and data is lost from your computer, you’ll be happy to have had the foresight to back up your data to the cloud.
Top 3 Cloud Backup Service Providers
Now lets take a quick look to the top cloud backup service providers and find out which company is right for your needs and budget.
As the name suggests, JustCloud is a simple cloud storage and online backup service with a user-friendly approach to backup. You can choose to create a free account with a 1GB cloud storage or you can opt for one of the three paid plans (75GB storage Home/Pro plan for $10.43/month, 250GB storage Premium Plan for $11.93/month, and 1TB storage Ultimate plan for $14.93/month). In terms of features, JustCloud has plenty of options including drag and drop backup, automatic and scheduled backup, file and folder sharing, file versioning, multi-device sync and OS compatibility, etc. All in all, JustCloud is an extremely easy to use backup service created especially for individual users. If you need more customization, JustCloud has several add-on services that you can purchase.
As one of the best set it and forget it backup services, Carbonite is created both for individual users and businesses. Carbonite has three price tiers: Basic ($59.99/year), Plus ($99.99), and Prime ($149.99/year). These subscriptions are for individual users and come with unlimited cloud storage for 1 computer. Carbonite’s business plans don’t come with unlimited cloud storage, but they offer backup for an unlimited number of computers. There is no free account tier, but Carbonite provides a 15-day trial period for individual users and a 30-day trial period for business plans. Carbonite’s features include automatic backup, remote access to files, file sharing, mirror image backup (Plus and Prime plans), external hard drive backup (Plus and Prime plans), automatic video backup (Plus and Prime plans), courier recovery service (Plus and Prime plans). Business plans have more advanced encryption and perks like bare metal restore. Carbonite is one of the most user-friendly and affordable cloud backup services out there.
SugarSync is another great file syncing and cloud storage service that enjoys a lot of popularity not only among individuals, but also among business users. Subscription plans at SugarSync range from a 100GB Individual Plan for $7.49/month to a 1000GB Business Plan $55/month. Individual users also have the choice between a 250GB or 500GB plan, while businesses can opt for a custom plan scalable to their needs. All plans come with a 30-day trial period. SugarSync’s most notable features include syncing of files across an unlimited number of devices, sharing and collaboration capabilities, file versioning, remote wipe, excellent desktop and mobile apps, etc.
Knowing that you can easily recover all your backed up data when something like a computer crash decides to ruin your day, it certainly pays to invest in a cloud storage service. With so many options to choose from, you’ll surely find one that best meets your storage and backup needs.