Dedicated cloud backup services
FOR THE ULTIMATE IN FAILSAFE FULL SYSTEM BACKUPS, THERE’S ALWAYS THE CLOUD OPTION. WE TEST FIVE DEDICATED CLOUD BACKUP SERVICES.
WITH THE EXPONENTIAL growth of ransomware, maintaining a cloud backup right now is a damn good idea. There are plenty of services available, and as part of this month’s superguide, we’re going to take a look at some of the better known solutions.
You may be wondering: what makes a cloud backup service different from a cloud drive? The key difference is that backup is focused on keeping your files safe, rather than making them accessible everywhere. Rather than ‘mirroring’ a folder like a sync service does, they come with apps that look and work like local backup apps. You select the files and folders you want to back up, then you let the app do its thing. You typically use the same program to recover files from the backup, and in most cases, you can also extract files from your backup using the provider’s website or even a mobile app.
This model has a few advantages. For a start, cloud backup services don’t keep a copy of the backup on your local drive, which saves on hard drive space. If you accidentally delete a local copy, it will stay in the backup rather than be deleted as would happen in a synced folder. And they retain multiple versions of files for a given period so that you can revert to older files if need be.
SpiderOak One LIMITED CAPACITY, BUT A TON OF GREAT FEATURES INCLUDING SYNC.
IN CONTRAST TO the other solutions here, SpiderOak One is something of a hybrid, offering both syncing services and backup, and doing an excellent job. For backup, the SpiderOak app operates very much like a conventional backup application. You choose your directories and set your backup options, which includes useful features like bandwidth limiting and continuous or scheduled backup. You can restore files from within the app, from a mobile app or from the SpideOak website.
The other part is Hive, which is a syncing solution with features comparable to Dropbox. It’s a little awkward when it comes to linking and sharing with other users, but it’s fully featured and, in its way, more flexible than Dropbox. It allows you to sync any folders and to create ad hoc sharing groups.
The main SpiderOakOne control app offers easy-to-manage access to all of the service’s main features, including historical versions of files. You can even set up the app on several PCs — SpiderOak only cares about total capacity used, not number of devices, which is perfect for multi-PC homes.
BackBlaze Personal Backup FILE RESTORATION IS A LITTLE STRANGE, BUT THE SERVICE OFFERING IS GREAT.
BACKBLAZE IS A little unusual as cloud backup solutions go. The backup process is pretty conventional — install and run. But restoring files is typically only accomplished by logging into your BackBlaze account on the website. Then you select the files you want to recover, and BackBlaze will bundle them all into a Zip file for you and provide a download link.
That quirk aside, the service is really great. BackBlaze by default backs up everything except your system files, so you don’t have to worry about selecting files and folders. Rather than choose what you want to back up, you can only select what you want to exclude. It provides continuous or scheduled backup of all files, and will even back up external drives attached to your PC. It won’t back up network drives, however.
There are a few bonus features as well. One of the best is a location service (which you can switch off if you want), where BackBlaze will report the IP address and approximate location of a stolen PC. It’s a neat addition to an already very solid service.
Carbonite SMOOTH, EASY TO USE AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
THE GRANDDADDY OF cloud backup services, Carbonite has been operating since way back in 2006. The Australian office is gone (you have to buy from the US now), but it still offers a solid, no-frills backup plan starting at US$60 per year or US$100 if you want videos backed up.
The supplied app itself is very accessible. By default, it continuously backs up the non-video files in your User directory and that’s it, but you can add additional folders if you want. We particularly like the File Explorer integration that lets you just rightclick on a folder and select ‘Add to Backup’ to expand your backup roster.
File recovery is similarly simple, with a tree view of your backed up files in the Carbonite Safe app. Again, the File Explorer integration is really nicely done, with your backed up files appearing as explorable drive in File Explorer. You can also grab backed up files from Carbonite’s web interface, and older versions of files are stored for up to three months.
MozyHome NOT PARTICULARLY GREAT VALUE, BUT A CONVENIENT HYBRID SOLUTION.
ONE OF THE more established backup providers, Mozy is now owned by Dell and offers a useful if uninspiring solution for home users. Like SpiderOak, it’s a hybrid solution, offering both backup and sync. Both draw from the same pool of storage — which is limited by how much you’re willing to pay. Compared to SpiderOak, MozyHome offers much lower value and even charges you extra (at US$2 per month per device) for having multiple devices. It also doesn’t have the feature set of SpiderOak. The backup and sync are perfectly serviceable, with an accessible app controlling both and smooth integration into Windows File Explorer, but there’s little here that sets MozyHome apart. There are a few touches we liked, such as the 2xProtect feature that lets you create an additional backup on a USB drive, as well as the ability to select files by type as well as folder, but in general, we thought that SpiderOak did just about everything better.
Ultimately, if you want a hybrid sync and backup solution, MozyHome gets the job done. But there are better solutions out there.
Norton Online Backup POOR VALUE COMPARED TO REST.
THE SELF-SAME BACKUP service that’s available in the multi-device version of Norton Security Premium, Norton Online Backup’s greatest asset is its simplicity. Like Carbonite, it provides a straightforward backup tool and minimal options. The application is managed entirely through a web browser, with only a small taskbar agent running on the host PC. By default, it’s configured to make a scheduled backup of important documents (based on file type) stored in your User folder, but you can add additional files and folders using File Explorer context menus or the web management tool. You can recover files through the same.
Unfortunately, it limits you to a relatively paltry 25GB of storage. On the upside, you can use that 25GB to back up data from up to five different computers, all managed through the web interface. You can purchase extra, but it’s already relatively costly. Indeed, the current price is actually a little mind-boggling, given that you can purchase the full Norton Security Premium for Three Devices for only around $10 more. As a stand-alone product, Norton Online Backup is well made but poor value.