What’s the Best Online Backup Service?

Using an online backup service to back up your computer is not only convenient, it protects your data against big incidents like theft, fire, and natural disaster. There are lots of backup services out there, but we like Backblaze and IDrive the best.

CrashPlan used to be very popular, but discontinued its backup service for home users in 2017. We don’t mention tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive here, as cloud file syncing services are different, and don’t offer the same level of protection you get with a true backup.

The Best Backup Service For Most People: Backblaze

We think Backblaze is the best cloud backup option if you just want to back up a single computer. It costs $50 per year (or $5 per month, if you want to pay monthly) for each PC or Mac you want to back up. For that price, you get unlimited online storage space for your backups. Backblaze automatically backs up your user data by default, but you can include anything else on your PC in the backup, as well—including data from connected external drives. There’s no file size limit, so Backblaze automatically backs up massive files. Of course, you can exclude files and set file size limits if you want.

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Backblaze also lets you encrypt your backups by adding your own secure passphrase. This means even Backblaze employees wouldn’t be able to see your data on their servers.

While you can of course sign into your Backblaze account and download your backups over the Internet, that can take a lot of time if you have a lot of data backed up. To help with this, Backblaze also offers a “restore by mail” feature, where they send you your backups on a USB flash drive or hard drive via FedEx. This can speed up restores and saving you a lot of download bandwidth. Your backup files on that drive can be encrypted for your security. You do have to purchase the drive from them, but if you return the drive to Backblaze within 30 days, they’ll give you a refund for it—which means the restore by mail service becomes free to use.

There’s just one thing you need to bear in mind. While Backblaze does keep deleted files and previous versions of files, it removes them from their servers after 30 days. So, if you delete a file from your PC, you only have 30 days to restore it from your backups before Backblaze wipes it away. This is a tradeoff you make for that unlimited storage space.

If you want to also back up files to a local hard drive, you can combine Backblaze with a local backup tool like File History on Windows or Time Machine on a Mac.

Backblaze offers a 15-day free trial so you can test it out.

For More Computers or Longer Storage of Deleted Files: IDrive

IDrive is another good option. IDrive costs $70 per year for 2 TB or $100 per year for 5 TB. However, unlike Backblaze, IDrive lets you back up an unlimited number of computers to the storage space you pay for.

If you just want to back up a single computer, Backblaze is a better deal at $50 per year for an unlimited amount of storage. But, after you add even one additional PC or Mac, IDrive becomes cheaper. Of course, IDrive doesn’t offer truly unlimited storage, but the 2 TB or 5 TB limit is very high and holds a lot of data. However, you can’t back up individual large files if they’re over 10 GB in size.

IDrive also lets you set an encryption key that will be used to encrypt your files and keep them private, even while they’re stored on IDrive’s servers.

This service also lets you restore your data more quickly by requesting a drive with your data on it shipped to you via the mail. However, IDrive charges $100 for this service. IDrive also lets you securely encrypt your files on the drive.

Unlike Backblaze, IDrive keeps all your backed up files until you manually delete them. Even if you delete files from your PC, they’re stored indefinitely in the IDrive cloud. So, if you want a backup service you can use to restore files a few months after you delete them from your PC, IDrive fits the bill and Backblaze doesn’t.

The IDrive application can create local backups on external hard drives or network drives, so you can do both local and cloud backups with the same tool. That’s convenient, too.

IDrive offers a free version with 5 GB of cloud storage space to play with. It’s not enough to use as a serious backup tool for all your important files, but you can at least play with the service and see how it works for you.

Not as Good: Carbonite

Carbonite seems reasonably popular. In fact, CrashPlan actually partnered with Carbonite when it shut down its service for home users. But, we think Backblaze and IDrive are better.

Backblaze and Carbonite are pretty similar. For example, both provide unlimited storage. However, Carbonite starts at $72 per year per computer, which makes it more expensive than Backblaze. Carbonite lets you upload files of any size, but you must manually select files over 4 GB in size, so it’s harder to take advantage of that unlimited data.

Carbonite lets you set your own encryption passphrase—but only on Windows. If you’re using Carbonite for Mac, you can’t protect your backups with encryption. This makes Carbonite a very poor option for people with even one Mac.

Like Backblaze and IDrive, Carbonite offers a courier service where they’ll mail you a drive to restore your backups from. Unlike Backblaze and IDrive, your backup files can’t be encrypted on the drive when they’re mailed to you. Carbonite charges $99 each time you use this service. That’s assuming you return everything they mail you within 30 days. If you don’t return the drive and USB cord, you’ll be charged another $140. Once again, Backblaze is just a better deal.

This service has a similar file deletion policy to Backblaze. If you delete a file, it will be deleted from Carbonite’s servers after 30 days.

Carbonite offers a 15-day free trial.

For Powerful Local Backups: Acronis True Image 2018

Acronis True Image has traditionally been a powerful desktop backup program for backing up files to your own local hard drives and creating full system image backups. However, Acronis True Image 2018 also includes cloud backup features and online storage provided by Acronis.

To get the backup storage, you’ll need either an Advanced or Premium subscription. Pricing starts at $50 per year for one PC or Mac, with 250 GB of storage included. That’s the same price as Backblaze, but with limited storage. However, with more computers, it could be a better deal. For example, you’d pay $100 per year for five computers with a total of 250 GB of storage. That’s cheaper than Backblaze if you only need 250 GB of space, but is an eighth the size of IDrive’s 5 TB at the same price. Stick with IDrive if you’re looking for a good value for a large number of PCs.

Like both Backblaze and IDrive, Acronis True Image also lets you set your own encryption key to protect your backup files while they’re stored on Acronis’s servers.

And, like IDrive, Acronis True Image keeps your backup files indefinitely—for as long as you pay for the storage, at least. It won’t remove backups of deleted files after 30 days, as Backblaze and Carbonite do.

While we’re focusing on online backups here, Acronis True Image is a powerful desktop backup program with lots of local backup features. You get all those features with your subscription, too. If you’re already an Acronis user or you just want some online storage along with a more powerful desktop backup program, Acronis True Image could be a decent choice.

Acronis offers a 30-day free trial.

Image Credit: ST22Studio/Shutterstock.com.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.