The best cloud backup solutions can help you avoid dealing with data loss. Each of these services constantly copies the data from your computer (or even multiple computers) to cloud storage servers elsewhere in the world that can be easily reached from anywhere you can get internet access.
Cloud backup is necessary to have as you can’t always count on local backup drives to protect your data. Even with an external backup drive hooked up to your PC or as a stand-alone backup device on your home network, it could still fall victim to a flood, fire or theft, leaving you with nothing.
As a result, many enterprises and even small businesses rely on “off-site” backups to minimise the threat of physical disasters. Cloud backup services provide the same peace of mind for consumers. Here’s more on the merits of cloud services versus external hard drives as backup solutions.
Each of the cloud backup services we’ve tested — Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office/True Image, Backblaze, Carbonite Safe, CrashPlan for Small Business, IDrive Personal and SpiderOak One — uses industry-standard encryption on their own servers to protect your data. They also all let you encrypt your data using your own private key. However, if you lose that key, the service can’t help you recover your data, so be sure to store it somewhere safe.
Top 3 best cloud backup solutions
1. IDrive is the best cloud backup solution right now (opens in new tab)
IDrive ranks highly on every review due to its great features and fair pricing. The software is available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and there are command-line scripts for Linux machines. Best of all, iDrive currently has an amazing offer for Tom's Guide readers, who can get the 10TB plan for just $3.98 for the first year (opens in new tab); that's a massive 95% off.
2. Backblaze is the easiest cloud backup solution (opens in new tab)
Backblaze is the easiest cloud storage solution to use — just set it and forget it. It has a useful restore-by-mail feature and rapid upload speeds. This is a great choice if you're looking for the best bang for your buck.
3. Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office is a powerful and versatile option (opens in new tab)
Acronis True Image, recently renamed as Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office, is the most powerful online-backup solution available for consumers, and now includes antivirus software and ransomware protection.
Some cloud backup services allow you to back up operating-system files and applications while others can back up smartphones and tablets. Most can back up files to a local drive though some even let you share files with other people or provide file-syncing.
As restoring terabytes of lost data can take several days, some of these services will express-ship you a hard drive with your recovered data to help save time. (IDrive also lets you "seed" an initial backup in the other direction.)
— BackBlaze is ending its USB flash-drive restore option (opens in new tab), but you can still get restored files shipped to you on a USB-capable external hard drive.
— IDrive is now offering Tom's Guide readers 95% off its 10TB plan, which comes to $3.98 for the first year (opens in new tab).
— Carbonite has slashed prices by 30% (opens in new tab), bringing the price of its entry-level subscription plan to $60 per year.
While some of these services can back up an unlimited number of devices and others give you unlimited online storage, none of them give you unlimited space for an unlimited number of devices for a single, flat price. That would just be too good to be true.
One last thing: cloud backup services aren’t always the same thing as cloud-based file-syncing services like Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive. Nor are they exactly like file-archiving services such as Amazon Glacier. We explain all the differences between these categories at the end of this guide.
Get Backblaze for free with every ExpressVPN purchase (opens in new tab)
ExpressVPN (opens in new tab), Tom’s Guide’s #1 VPN provider, is offering free unlimited cloud storage courtesy of Backblaze (opens in new tab) for a whole year with its annual subscription. Secure, business-grade online backup for everyone, no strings attached.
What are the best cloud backup services?
Based on our testing, our Editor's Choice is IDrive ($3.98 for the first year for Tom's Guide readers). It backs up an unlimited number of PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets for a reasonable price. IDrive is the best choice if you have multiple computers and phones.
Our value pick is Backblaze, which gives you unlimited storage for just $70 per year but backs up only one machine (and an external drive) per subscription. This is the best cloud backup service if you have a single Mac or PC and don't want to worry about the details.
For more on which solution better fits your needs, check out our analysis of whether IDrive or Backblaze is right for you.
Acronis is best for power users, offering a breathtaking assortment of useful features. It's rather complicated and can get expensive for the average home computer user, but it gives you more options than you can possibly think of.
CrashPlan for Small Business technically isn't for home users and costs $10 per month per machine. You'll get an unlimited cloud backup space, extensive security and scheduling options and very fast speeds. However, you won't get mobile-device backups or any drive-shipping options, and CrashPlan's networked-drive backups don't work on Windows.
SpiderOak is famed for its security and encrypts your data with a unique key that only you have. (Don't lose it.) Subscriptions are quite pricey, so get SpiderOak only if protecting your data from prying eyes is your top priority.
Carbonite was once synonymous with cloud-backup software, and it still has a rich feature set. Its consumer offerings seem affordable, but read the fine print: To get anything like iDrive or Backblaze's level of service, you'll have to pay more.
The best cloud backup service you can get today(opens in new tab)
IDrive offers the most bang for the buck, backing up an unlimited number of machines to either a 5TB or a 10TB ($3.98 for the first year for Tom's Guide readers (opens in new tab)) limit, which should be enough for most people. It's our Editor's Choice for best cloud backup service.
IDrive's upload speeds are fast, its mobile apps actually back up the devices they run on (and recognize faces in photos for easy tagging), it provides a generous file-syncing option and it even lets you mail in a full drive instead of spending days uploading data.
IDrive also keeps old copies of each file forever, which is handy, but you'll have to mind those storage caps. It also has two-factor authentication, which is an essential feature every online service provider should offer.
Read our full IDrive Personal review.
Backblaze is one of the cheapest cloud-backup solutions, gigabyte for gigabyte, and that's despite a recent price hike. It's definitely the easiest to use — you literally can just set Backblaze and forget it.
We also like the generous restore-by-mail feature and its rapid upload speeds. Backblaze even lets you locate a lost or stolen computer by geolocating the Wi-Fi network it connects to.
But Backblaze is starting to be left behind as competitors add features such as cloud syncing, file sharing and backups of networked drives. It's also not ideal for anyone who has multiple machines to back up, unless you happen to have have nearly unlimited storage needs. In that case, the reasonable yearly cost to back up each machine may be worth multiple Backblaze subscriptions.
Read our full Backblaze review.(opens in new tab)
Acronis True Image, recently rebranded as Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office, may be the most powerful and versatile online-backup solution available, with a terrific desktop application and an insane number of backup and security options.
It offers mobile-device, external-drive and social-media backups, as well as syncing and sharing options. It will save an image of your primary hard drive — applications, OS and all — to the cloud. It also includes antivirus software, ransomware protection, a vulnerability scanner and a bootable file-restoration tool.
Yet Acronis can be the most frustrating of the best cloud backup services, with prices that rapidly ratchet up as you add devices and storage, and weak web and mobile interfaces. But may be the best option if you're a power user or someone who's shopping for antivirus software as well.
Read our full Acronis True Image review.
CrashPlan had the best cloud backup service for consumers until it quit the market in 2017. Its plan for small businesses retains that service's very fast upload and download speeds, and adds business-friendly features such as support for Red Hat and Ubuntu Linux and unlimited (if you want) retention of old versions of files.
Almost everything is customizable, including frequency of backups, retention of deleted files, account security and where to download restored files. CrashPlan supports full-drive-image backups to local drives and backs up Linux/macOS-formatted networked drives. And you get unlimited backup space for unlimited devices as long as you're willing to pay $10 per month per computer.
What you won't get are the consumer-friendly features that made CrashPlan for Home so appealing, such as drive shipping and mobile-device backups. The mobile apps have great security but are pretty bare-bones. CrashPlan for Small Business also consumes a fair amount of system resources during backups, but you can adjust the application settings to reduce that.
Read our full CrashPlan for Small Business review.(opens in new tab)
SpiderOak was the first online storage (or online-syncing) service to make sure the customer held a private, exclusive encryption key.
Most other cloud storage services now offer the same thing, but SpiderOak also has strong file-sharing and -syncing features, as well as support for unlimited machines and, if you insist, backups of system files and applications.
Yet SpiderOak's storage-space pricing is so high that it's more competitive with Dropbox than it is with IDrive. While its file-restoration speed was amazingly fast, its initial upload speed was glacial.
Read our full SpiderOak One review.(opens in new tab)
Carbonite offers unlimited storage, which is always nice to have in one of the best cloud backup services. It also has an intuitive user interface that shows you which files have been fully, partly or not backed up.
But you'd better read the fine print, as Carbonite doesn't automatically back up large files, external drives, or any kind of video file on its Basic pricing tier. To get those functions, you'll have to trade up to the Plus or Premium plans, which have features similar to IDrive or Backblaze's basic plans but cost much more. (Carbonite has temporarily slashed prices by 30%, bringing costs a bit closer to those of its rivals.)
Multiple machines are supported on a single account, but there's no volume discount — each additional machine costs as much as the first. Upload speeds are slow. And Carbonite's appealing mobile apps are no longer available, with the company giving no timetable for their return.
Read our full Carbonite Safe review.
How we test the best cloud backup services
We took into consideration several factors: storage costs, ease of file restoration, computer-resource usage (opens in new tab), unique features and ease of use and of installation. Upload speed also matters, because while your initial backup happens only once, the backup can take days or even weeks if it's several hundred gigabytes.
We give bonus points to those online backup services that let you mail in a hard drive full of data to start the process or send you one to restore your data.
Our testing and evaluating was done on a 2017 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro (opens in new tab) booting into Windows 10. Mobile apps were run on a Google Pixel XL 2 running Android 8.1 Oreo. We monitored data-transfer rates on the MacBook with GlassWire, and CPU usage using Windows' built-in Resource Monitor.
Each cloud backup service was tested individually, then uninstalled from both devices before the next test. The test set of files to back up consisted of 16.8GB of documents, photos, videos and music. We uploaded this data to each service's cloud servers, then restored a 1.12GB subset of these files to the laptop.
The testing environment was a home in Middleton, Wisconsin, provisioned by TDS Telecom Extreme 300 Fiber internet service. Internet speeds during testing were typically 280 megabits per second (Mbps) down and 120 Mbps up, according to Speedtest.net.
Online backup vs. online syncing vs. online archiving
Cloud-backup services aren't the same as online-syncing services like Dropbox (opens in new tab), Google Drive, iCloud (opens in new tab)or OneDrive (opens in new tab).
An online-syncing service's software creates a cloud-based mirror of a specific set of files or folders on your device, and pushes out identical copies of those files to all of your linked devices so that you can have immediate access to them. Think of the syncing service as the hub on a spoked wheel, with all your linked devices at the ends of the spokes.
Cloud-backup services are simpler. They continuously or periodically copy all or most of the files and folders on your computer to their own cloud servers. Instead of the spoked-wheel diagram of a file-syncing service, an online-backup service would look like a straight line between your machine(s) and the cloud server.
Your data stays on those remote backup servers until you need it, and with luck, you never will. Most cloud-backup services offer generous amounts of storage for a subscription fee that is much cheaper, gigabyte for gigabyte, than an online-syncing service.
Cheapest of all are cloud-archiving services such as Box or Google Cloud. These let you offload files you don't immediately need to online servers, freeing up space on your hard drive.
Cloud-archiving services can be dirt-cheap, sometimes as little as a few pennies per month per gigabyte, but there's often a fee to download files again. (The assumption is that you will never need to download all the archived files.) Backblaze has its own very affordable cloud-storage service called B2.
Had less than 5 TB to image for the iDrive Express service (i.e. included in pricing package). If you're a non-techie, you won't know that there is less than 5TB available on the 5TB Express Drive. Or... you just forget. Or you're "close", and figure you'll try it out. So you order the 5TB drive. Not big enough. Send it back.
Upgrade to 10 TB because they won't send you a 10 TB Express Drive unless you sign up for the 10 TB service. Order 10 TB Express Drive. Won't send it to you free because you've already used your "one free per year". Send you a note to ask why you sent back an empty Express Drive and if you really meant to do that. Reference trouble ticket notes. No response.
After one year. Request 10 TB drive to backup what is now 5.88 TB. Should be okay, right? Nope. Fails. 9.1 TB available isn't enough to do encrypted imaging on 5.88 TB because the encryption needs space to generate temporary files that are then deleted from your Express Drive. Total space needed? 11.3 TB. Told by support to send in 10 TB drive and order 20 TB Express Drive referencing technical support notes on ticket. Request for 20 TB drive denied. Why? "You have to upgrade to 20 TB storage to get a 20 TB drive."
What...the...heck. So you want me to pay for 20 TB of storage to store 5.88 TB because y'all can't get your crap in a group and read trouble tickets and make a sane judgement? Company appears to be run out of a call center in India. No particular help from support or sales team. No one at iDrive who has a brain and the ability to actually just put a hard drive in a box to make a customer happy.
BEWARE! iDrive support is horrible. Not sure what it would be like if I ever need to get a backup. At which point, I'm probably already going to be irritated, so probably not the best time to haver someone holding your data hostage. Caveat emptor, here, y'all. Each function is divided up into a "department" and "departments" don't/can't/won't talk to each other. Service promises much. Can't deliver on simplest functions of that.
I also find BackBlaze problematic. I would say, it is not ready for prime time. The calling card seems to be the ease of use?, and lack of set-up required.? It's the little things, 1) The first time you want to recover a files your generated file list appears on a part of the screen that is not visible. You are looking at a black page- ESP helps to figure out what is going on. 2) no set up? that's great until they tell you - oh, they don't have any of your emails. .pst files aren't part of their saved files. They expect you to know this, because you are expected to have worked your way through their detailed set-up instructions, which are just as complicated as everyone elses. 3) Cuntomer service is only occationally available. And now it is email only. They used to have phone techs, some of whom were actually rude, With the nice ones, each one would tell you something different. Now with the e-mail, on a weekend, you have to monitor your email until they respond. That means you have found an alternative solution and the e-mail is irrelevant when it arrives. The answer chat bot is useless, it is easier to search the site yourself- you get the same or better answers... and then there was the time my hard drive blew up and I wanted to save it. I even payed extra to save it, but someone at BackBlaze just changed the name of the new computer, to the old computer name, and the additional saved hard drive disappeared. Luckily I was able to save oldhard drive- or I would have complained to who? Now I'm trying to get the account closed. Wish me luck.
I miss Mozy!
I began with the free version, and that seemed to work OK. Switched to the 1 year 5TB discount plan about a year ago. Here is a list of problems:
Support never responds to website requests for support.
Error messages are nebulous. For example:a. "Failed to continue the Backup operation. Reason: There are no files to backup]"
If there are no files to back up, why is that a failure?
b. Some files could not be backed up because of an unexpected error". However, the unexpected error is never explained. How is the user to know which files encountered unexpected errors?
I would think that when I have to reboot during a backup, instead of getting an error that the backup failed, there would be a continuation from where the backup left off, but I have never seen anything like that. Instead, the backup starts again from the beginning.
Sometimes when I reboot or do an update, instead of my mapped drives being shown in the bottom pane, iDrive changes them to the upper pane without notifying me. I have to uncheck those drives in the upper pane and then close the change box and only then will the mapped drives appear in the bottom pane.
In the logs under 'Operation', the mapped drives are not specified. Why not call the backups operations of the mapped drives, "Mapped Drives"?
Backups are very slow. I have a 1GB down/500MB upload connection, which I have tested with many broadband speed tests, but backing up, for example, 180GB on my mapped drives, can take 2-3 days. I have the throttles set to between 85-100%.My OS is Windows 10 on an ASUS VIVOBook S15 with 20GB RAM
I have reported all of these, but never got an answer except once...telling me to go to the support page where I posted all the above but never got a response. 'iDrive support' is an oxymoron in my experience.
Have cancelled renewal and will look for alternatives.