The Best Websites for Backing Up and Sharing Your Data in the Cloud for Free

By Lori Kaufman on August 18th, 2012

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We’ve been told many times how important backups are, although we may not realize it until it’s too late and our data’s gone. You can backup your PC’s data to external media, but free online backup services provide useful redundancy that could save your data.

We’ve discussed cloud computing previously, or running a web or internet-based application from a major provider like Google or Microsoft, but the “cloud” could also be used to provide an offsite location for your data backups.

You should have local backups running, backing up different kinds of data, such as your personal data on your PC, profile data from your web browsers, Wi-Fi passwords and network profiles, drivers installed on your system, and even game data and game systems. Backing up to the cloud, as well, provides another level of safety for your data.

We’ve listed some cloud-based online backup websites here that allow you to backup your data online. Each of these services offers a free plan, most also having options for paid subscriptions that offer more storage space, and possibly additional features. Most of these services offer useful backup features such as automatic backups, scheduling, versioning, and restore features. Some services offer other useful features, such as the ability to access your backed up files anywhere using a browser or mobile apps and the ability to stream your media files to your mobile device.

Microsoft SkyDrive

Microsoft SkyDrive offers 7 GB of free storage. It used to be 25 GB, and old subscribers who got 25 GB are allowed to keep that amount for free.

Store your files on SkyDrive and you can access them from your Android phone, iPhone, iPad, Windows phone in addition to your PC or Mac.

Use SkyDrive to share large files and photos with your friends and family. They only need a web browser to access the files and photos.

There are a couple of drawbacks to using SkyDrive. There is no security for files you upload, so it would not be a good idea to store sensitive and private files on SkyDrive. The other drawback is the fact that SkyDrive only syncs with your files in your SkyDrive folder. Any files you want synced with SkyDrive must be placed in the SkyDrive folder. This is not convenient if you have your files organized in other folders.

With 7 GB of free storage, SkyDrive is a good place to store your photos and other non-sensitive documents. Use other free backup services for your sensitive and private files. We mention which ones provide encryption for files uploaded to and retrieved from their service.

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MozyHome Free

MozyHome Free offers 2 GB of storage for free along with the option to add more storage space through a paid subscription. Clients for PC and Mac are available for download that you can set up to perform fully automated backups. Select folders to be backed up, set a schedule, and Mozy will keep a backup of these folders online, regularly syncing them without interaction from you. Mozy also provides military-grade encryption prior to transfer using a secure SSL connection.

Once you perform your initial backup of your files, Mozy saves bandwidth by only backing up new or changed portions of files, helping to speed up future backups. Mozy also backs up all open and locked files, such as Outlook PST files. You can schedule backups to happen while your computer is on but not in use. Backups can occur daily or weekly at a specific time of day.

When you need to restore your data, you can choose to do so using the software client, on the web, or by ordering a DVD to restore. If you’re using Windows, you can also restore your data using the right-click context menu or through the Mozy Virtual Drive. You can restore file versions up to 30 days into the past.

You can also access your Mozy backups from your Android or iOS mobile device.

If you need more than 2 GB of storage, you can sign up for a paid subscription plan and get 50 GB for $5.99 per month or 125 GB for $9.99 per month. If you sign up for a 1-year plan for either of these options, you get 1 month for free. A 3-year plan gets you 3 months for free. If you need even more space than 125 GB, you can add an additional 20 GB for $2 per month. These plans allow you to backup only one computer. You can add additional computers for $2 per month per computer.

The features we listed here are available for both the free plan and the paid plans. The features that are available with the paid plans and not with the free plan are live chat technical support, the ability to submit support tickets, and more backup space.

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IDrive

IDrive offers 5 GB of free storage and unlimited device backup, which means that you can backup all your PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Android devices to a single account, as long as the total space used is less than 5 GB.

Your files are transferred and stored using 256-bit AES encryption with a private key only known to you and not stored anywhere on IDrive’s servers.

Files you want to backup can be stored anywhere on your computer. This allows you to keep your current directory structure. IDrive also provides Continuous Data Protection (CDP). This means that IDrive automatically recognizes when files and folders are changed and backs them up in real-time.

You can restore the last 30 versions of all files backed up to your account. The amount of storage you use is computed based only on the most current version. Historical versions of your files are stored for free.

IDrive allows you to create and manage multiple accounts from a single account using the web interface. You can also use the web interface to retrieve your data from anywhere, as well as view log reports, manage your backup set and schedule, and restore your data to the local computer. A fast search feature is available in either the web interface or in the IDrive desktop application to help you quickly find files you want to restore.

There are also paid Pro options listed right on the main page if you need more storage space. All the features of the paid plans are available on the free plan, except for the additional storage space. The IDrive Pro for Personal Use plan provides 150 GB of storage for $4.95 per month. The IDrive Pro Family plan offers 500 GB for $14.95 per month. There are four levels for businesses that range from 100 GB to 1000 GB of storage space and start at $9.95 per month and go up to $79.95 per month. If you pay for one year in advance for any of these plans, you get two months for free.

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SugarSync

SugarSync also offers 5 GB of storage space for free. You can use SugarSync not only as an online backup service, but also as a way to sync your files, such as music and photos, among your computers and other devices, such as your Android device, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, and Kindle Fire. SugarSync can be handy if you need to transfer files between a PC and a Mac.

Just like Mozy and IDrive, you can backup your data from any folders on your hard drive. You can also select folders to share with your friends and family. You can edit files on your computer while it’s offline, and the changed files are quietly synced with SugarSync the next time your computer is online without interfering with your productivity.

SugarSync keeps the previous five versions of all your files so you can reference or restore them in the future. Only the most recent version of each file counts against your storage limit.

If you just want to backup a set of files without automatically syncing them or updating them, you can use SugarSync’s Web Archive feature. Everything stored in the Web Archive is accessible from the web and your mobile devices.

SugarSync offers mobile apps for devices such as Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile. You can access files backed up to your SugarSync account from any of your other computers, share photos, upload files and photos of any size from your mobile device to your computer (even if it’s turned off), and even edit documents, depending upon the capabilities of your device.

Data uploaded to and retrieved from SugarSync’s servers are sent over the Internet using TLS (SSL 3.3) encryption. Every piece of information moved between your computers, mobile devices, and SugarSync’s servers is verified as a secure communication, whether you are backing up files to their servers or restoring files from them. You can also protect folders you share with other people, such as clients or coworkers.

SugarSync offers some handy features for transferring music and photos between your mobile devices and your computers. You can also stream music to your mobile device. For Android devices and iPhones, you can sync your music to your phone so you can listen to it offline. Share a large video file by sending a link to the file rather than sending an email with a large attachment.

If you need more than 5 GB of storage space, there are paid subscription plans available. You can get 30 GB for $4.99 per month, 60 GB for $9.99 per month, or 100 GB for $14.99 per month. Just like some of the other services we’ve mentioned, if you sign up for one year in advance, you get two months for free.

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SpiderOak

SpiderOak offers 2 GB of secure, free storage space for online backups, synchronization, sharing, remote access, and storage of your files from unlimited Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, and openSUSE) computers and locations, such as USB flash drives, external hard drives, and network drives.

For online backups, SpiderOak automatically backs up files as you make changes to them. All historical versions of all your files are kept, not just the last 30 or 60 days worth of changes and all deleted files are retained, as well. You can access your data anytime through SpiderOak’s website in your browser and download any file or folder to any machine.

SpiderOak allows you to easily and securely sync any number of folders across any number of devices.

ShareRooms are password-protected locations on SpiderOak’s servers that allow you to securely share files gathered from multiple machines with others. Any data in a ShareRoom is updated automatically when changes are made, and a notification of the changes is sent out as an RSS feed.

Apps for Android and iOS devices are provided that allow you to access your data from anywhere. You can view, watch, or listen to any file in your SpiderOak account, visit ShareRooms, share files, and download files to your device for offline access.

If you need more than 2 GB of storage, you can sign up for their Plus Account, which costs $10 per month per 100 GB increment. Again, if you sign up for one year in advance, you get two months for free. You can also gain additional storage space through SpiderOak’s Refer-A-Friend program. When you refer a friend to SpiderOak, both you and your friend get an additional free GB of space. You can use this program to earn up to 10 additional GB of space.

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ElephantDrive

ElephantDrive’s Lite Edition plan offers 2 GB of free online backup space and has all the features of ElephantDrive’s premium plans, including automatic online storage and backup, military-grade encryption, and support for up to three computers or devices. You can also access your data from any internet-enabled device and share files and photos with a single click.

One advantage of ElephantDrive’s service is their “Web Explorer.” It allows you to access and upload files using a web browser anywhere you have internet access. You do not have to wait until you have access to an approve device using proprietary software.

Easily transfer files to all your computers, phones, and tablets using your Everywhere folder. Drag a file into your Everywhere folder to automatically replicate it to your other devices. When you change a file in your Everywhere folder, those changes get synchronized among all your devices, as well.

There are also paid plans offering additional storage space. You can choose from Personal plans and Business plans.

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CrashPlan

CrashPlan offers the ability to backup your data to multiple destinations for free (for personal backup). You can backup using your own computers and external hard drives for onsite backups, as well as backup your data to computers belonging to your friends and family for offsite backup.

CrashPlan’s backup software runs on PCs, Macs, Linux, and Solaris and backs up data from any combination of these operating systems and from attached hard drives, as well. Backups happen automatically so you don’t have to remember to backup your data or get annoyed from popup dialogs reminding you to perform a backup. You can schedule your backups if you want to control when they are performed. If a backup is interrupted, it is resumed the next time the computers become available again.

When you backup data to multiple destinations, your data is sent to one destination one at a time. To make sure you have a full backup as soon as possible, the order of your backups is based on which destination will complete first.

With the free version of CrashPlan, your files are secured before they are transferred to CrashPlan’s servers using enterprise-grade, 128-bit encryption. Paid plans provide 448-bit encryption.

There are no limitations on the size of files you can backup.

The free version of CrashPlan displays ads in the software interface. However, there are also paid subscription options that don’t have ads and provide more storage space and features. CrashPlan+ adds advanced backup features and a choice of 10 GB or unlimited online storage plans. The prices range from $1.50 per month to $6.00 per month. Discounts are available for signing up for one or two years in advance. CrashPlan PRO offers small businesses onsite and offsite backup with secure cloud storage. CrashPlan PROe offers enterprise-level, real-time, cross-platform, onsite, offsite, and cloud backups for the enterprise.

For more information about using CrashPlan, see our article about it.

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BuddyBackup

BuddyBackup is similar to CrashPlan in that it allows you to backup your data to your friends, families, and colleague’s computers for free. All backed up files are encrypted locally before they are sent to your buddies’ machines and only you have the encryption keys. So, your buddies can’t read your files.

You don’t have to worry about your backups staying on your buddies’ computers. You can setup BuddyBackup to backup multiple copies of your files, so you’re sure you have backups. Two copies of your data are spread among your buddies by default. BuddyBackup also regularly checks that your buddies still have your backups. If there is a problem on a buddy’s computer, BuddyBackup automatically backs up your files to a different buddy instead. So, if one of your buddies uninstalls BuddyBackup or their computer fails, your data is still safe.

The files you choose to backup are constantly monitored for changes. When a file is changed, BuddyBackup sees that it changed and takes a snapshot of it. Only the changes are backed up. With BuddyBackup, you don’t schedule backups. Files are backed up as they are changed so you always have a current backup.

You can also backup your data offline to your own external hard drives.

If your computer crashes and you have to restore your data to a new computer, you can easily do so by running BuddyBackup on your new computer. You can also recover your files from a friend’s computer, if you haven’t replaced your computer yet, using the Guest Mode. In Guest Mode, you can’t add to backups; you can only restore files from existing backups.

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ADrive

ADrive offers a Personal Basic plan that provides 50 GB of free online storage and features that allow you to backup, share, access, and edit your data from anywhere you have Internet access. Files stored in your ADrive account can be accessed from any device, at any time.

Share large files with family and friends using ADrive’s File Sharing feature. You can get a unique link for a file you want to share in an email. Simply email that link to anyone with whom you want to share that file. If you don’t want to share a file anymore, you can “unshare” it as well.

You can also edit your word processing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online. Open, edit, and save your documents directly from within your ADrive account online.

Use ADrive’s convenient search tool to find files you want to access or restore without having to browse through all your directories and files.

If you need more storage space, you can sign up for one of ADrive’s Premium accounts. They range from 50 GB to 10 TB and have many additional features, such as Android and iOS mobile apps, online collaboration, the ability to set an expiration date for shared files, the ability to access your files with any FTP client, a desktop application for managing your backup jobs on Windows, Mac, or Linux, no ads, and a maximum upload size of 16 GB. The prices ranges from $6.95 per month for 50 GB to $1,211.50 per month for 10TB with discounts if you sign up for one, two, or three years in advance. You can get more than 10 TB, or even an unlimited amount, of storage space, but you must contact them for a price.

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MyOtherDrive

MyOtherDrive offers 2 GB of free storage for online backups. With a free account, you get unmetered bandwidth, unattended, or automatic, backup, and AES 128-bit encryption and HTTPS (SSL) connections.

However, to be able to use their File Linking feature, among other additional features, or to get more storage space, you must sign up for one of their paid subscriptions. You can get their Pro plan which gives you 100 GB ($5 per month or $55 per year), 500 GB ($10 per month or $110 per year), or 1 TB ($20 per month – no yearly price). They also offer a range of Enterprise plans, providing storage space from 1 TB to 10 TB.

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MiMedia

MiMedia offers 7 GB of storage space for free, and features such as secure, automatic online backup and cloud sync. Access your files from anywhere and stream your music and videos and view your photos using MiMedia’s free iPhone and iPad apps. Easily share your photos, videos, and files and post to your favorite social networks.

Unlike some other online backup services, MiMedia allows you to backup from any number of computers and devices, such as a laptop, desktop computer, external hard drives, network drives, and more.

If you need more than 7 GB of storage space, you can sign up for their 100 GB Premium plan, which costs $4.99 per month, or $49 per year. They also offer 250 GB, 500 GB, and 1 TB plans.

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Comodo Backup

Comodo Backup offers 5 GB of free online backup space and a free, lifetime license. Backup your data to  Stream music and videos from and edit documents directly in your online account.

Files you choose to backup are encrypted before they leave your computer and are stored encrypted on Comodo’s servers or other storage media you select. You can backup to a network drive, an external hard drive, CD or DVD, ISO file, .zip file, or online storage.

Schedule any combination of full, incremental, differential, and synchronized backups to run at a time of your choosing using their flexible scheduler.

Files in use are backed up using Volume Shadow Copy technology.

Access your files from any computer with an internet connection using their web interface.

If you need more storage space, you can purchase 250 GB for $9.99 per month. You can get two months for free by purchasing one year in advance for $99.99.

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The following services are more for storing and sharing files than performing backups, but if all you need is a simple place to store files, one of them might be your perfect solution.

Dropbox

Dropbox offers 2 GB of storage for free, and the ability to sync files and folders between your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer and the cloud. Use the desktop client or the web interface to add your files and folders to the Dropbox folder. Once in the Dropbox folder, the files are synced among the PC, the cloud, and any other devices enabled with Dropbox, including mobile devices like phones and tablets.

If you need more than 2 GB of storage space, you can upgrade your account to their 100 GB plan for $9.99 per month, 200 GB plan for $19.99 per month, 500 GB plan for $49.99 per month. If you pay for any of these three plans one year in advance, you save 17%.

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Box

Box offers 5 GB of storage space for free per user with a file size limit of 100 MB. The free account also allows you to create file sharing links and provides secure transfer and storage of your data. You can access your data anywhere, anytime, on any device, such as a desktop computer, a laptop, an iPhone, an iPad, or an Android device.

Organize your files online using folders just like you would on your desktop PC. Edit your documents online and save them directly back into your Box account using your native desktop applications.

Use Box to share large files easily, rather than trying to email big files, such as videos or presentations.

If you need more than 5 GB of storage space, you can upgrade your account to 25 GB of space for $9.99 per month, or 50 GB of space for $19.99 per month. Both of these plans also increases the maximum file size to 1 GB. Business and Enterprise plans are also available.

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Google Drive

Google Drive offers 5 GB of storage for free. Store files online, share them with family and friends, and edit your documents online using Google Docs from your PC or Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android device, and from Chrome OS. View any of over 30 file types on your PC using your browser, without having the program installed on your computer.

There are special apps on the Chrome Web Store that allow you to create, open, and share files directly in Google Drive.

Search for your files on Google Drive by keyword, and filter by file type, owner, and more. Google Drive’s search feature can even find text in scanned documents and objects in images.

If you need more than 5 GB of storage space, you can upgrade your account to 25 GB for $2.49 per month or to 100 GB for $4.99 per month. There are also plans that range from 200 GB to 16 TB.

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Ubuntu One

Ubuntu One allows you to sync up to 5 GB of files to the cloud for free and access it anywhere. It may seem like it’s only for Ubuntu Linux machines, but you can also sync your Windows computer to Ubuntu One account. They offer apps for Android and iOS devices that let you manage your files and photos directly from your mobile device.

They offer a music streaming subscription service that gives you 20 GB ($3.99 per month or $39.99 per year) to store your music collection and stream it through a browser or to your iPhone, iPad, or Android device. You can also listen to your music offline using the controllable cache in Ubuntu One’s Android and iPhone apps.

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If you want to use only free online backup services, sign up for multiple services and use different ones for different purposes. For example, you can use the 7 GB offered free by SkyDrive for storing photos and other non-sensitive documents because of its lack of security and use a service that offers pre-transfer file encryption for your private files. This also helps if you need more than the maximum storage space allowed for the free services and either can’t or don’t want to pay for online backup. However, don’t forget where you synced which files!

Lori Kaufman is a writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 08/18/12
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