Many people think that backing up to an external hard drive is enough. What they don't realize is that an external hard drive can be stolen, damaged or simply fail like any other computer hard drive that carries your data.
That's why we believe it is crucially important to have at least two backups. One backup on-site – in your office, at home – and another one offsite with a cloud backup service company. That way you'll always have another copy of your files available in case your local copy fails. But signing up for an online backup service has more advantages:
- Automatic backup your files
- Automatic versioning of your files
- Automatic data de-duplication
- Access your files anywhere
- Your data is stored off-site
- Strong data encryption for you, so you don't have to worry about security
There is no shortage of cloud backup solutions out there. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. With so much choice, you might be tempted to just go with the service that costs the least out of pocket. Instead of doing that, pay attention to some of the important performance criteria that should inform your decision. The following criteria may help you choose the best online backup services for your needs:
Since you're probably going to be paying for a backup service for years, you should know from the start what you're getting into in terms of money. They're all subscription-based, and there are many ways the vendors slice and dice the fees to make them seem appealing. Some backup services list prices by the month, but those prices often only apply if you commit to a one- or two-year contract.
Backup and Restore
There are many cloud backup solutions that offer truly unlimited capacity, but not all do. Additionally, it's important to examine all of the various account management features provided. Automatic backup, for example, scans your computer and uploads files to the cloud automatically. Continuous backup makes sure that every time you update a file that's already stored to the cloud, that file is updated immediately. Incremental backup is another important feature to look for, because it identifies files that have changed and backs up only them, saving a lot of bandwidth and time in the process.
An online backup service isn't much good if it makes it hard to restore the files you've lost. Additionally, you may find it valuable to pick a service that gives you control over how much bandwidth you consume while you're uploading your data to the cloud. Bonus features like deleted file recovery and file versioning, which gives you the power to revert to a previously saved copy of a file, can also come in handy.
This criterion may include Maximum Storage Space, Maximum Upload File Size, File Versioning (When changes are made to a file or document, the service saves previous versions of the file), Continuous Backup (Changes made to files are backed up immediately, in real time), Incremental Backup (When backups occur, only information that has changed since the last backup is uploaded), External Hard Drive Backup (You can also back up data stored on an external hard drive), File Sync (Files sync to other computers and devices to allow access to backed up data), Scheduler (Used to schedule individual or recurring data transfers in advance), Share Options (Files may be shared internally with other service subscribers, sent via email or shared publicly with a link), ...
The speed with which a service can prep your files (usually involving encryption and compression) and transfer them to their servers doesn't only impact how long it will take to get large amount of data—often numbering many gigabytes—up to the servers. The speed also affects how much of an impact on your computer its processing will have.
Transferring your private data via the internet and storing it online comes with a certain amount of risk. For this reason, it's important that you find an online backup service that employs state-of-the-art encryption to keep your files safe in transit as well as when they're at rest. Access to all accounts should be password protected, and you should be given the ability to set a personal encryption key that only you will have access to. The security measures taken at the actual data centers where files are stored is important. The best online backup companies have data centers that are protected with 24/7 security. Geo-redundant storage is also important. This means that the company has more than one data center and that duplicates of your files are stored in multiple locations to safeguard against risks like fires or natural disasters. Remote wipe is another feature that can serve to keep your data from falling into the wrong hands if your computer is stolen.
This criterion may include Local Encryption (Encrypted files by the client service and protected files from hackers and surveillance), Transit Encryption, Server-side Encryption, Remote Wipe, Geo-Redundant Storage (Copies of files and folders are stored in multiple physical locations to protect against losing data in case of physical damage at one data center), ...
Most online backup services have smartphone apps that you can use to access your stored data from remote locations. The best online backup services offer apps for a wide variety of different operating systems – the most common being Android, iOS and Windows Phone. While most apps enable you to access your files remotely and securely, still others come with the ability to back up data from your mobile device. Look for online backup providers that offer a versatile mobile experience.
This criterion may include Mobile Data Backup, iOS App/Android App/Windows Phone App (A mobile app is available for iOS/Android/Windows devices), ...
Help and Support
Getting help and finding quick answers to your questions is important, especially with a service like online backup where you'll be manning the controls from the start. A good online backup service will offer you a diversity of choice when it comes to seeking out help – including phone support, live chat support, email support, FAQs, tutorials and an online knowledgebase with a wealth of information that you can access at any time.