You want to back up your data. We all do. But as with any manual process, it can be a hassle, so you don’t do it. The good news is that a handful of reputable and automated cloud backup firms are available, offering a mix of plans that cater to nearly every type of user. Here’s a quick rundown on some of the most popular automated cloud storage services around.
You can get cloud storage cheap with CrashPlan, and that’s one of the main appeals of this particular service. $2.99 per month, per computer, will get you 10GB of space. But considering that’s less capacity than many smartphones, 10GB will likely not be enough. To put it another way, if you have less than 10GB of photos, videos, music, and documents to back up, you don’t need an automated cloud service. You just need an inexpensive thumbdrive and a few minutes of spare time.
CrashPlan’s intermediate plan, which is called CrashPlan+, runs $5.99 per month and gets you unlimited storage for one computer. So why do they offer an even more expensive unlimited data plan, CrashPlan+ Family, for $13.99? Good question. That’s because Family lets you back up from between two and 10 computers.
CrashPlan also offers a unique “crowdsourced backup cloud,” which lets you store your data on a friend’s computer and vice versa. This plan is free and accomplishes the task of saving your data to another location (your friend’s computer) without having to worry that they’ll snoop through your stuff (access is password protected). Don’t worry if you can’t find a friend willing to give up a bit of hard drive space, this option will work between any two devices with Crashplan installed, including two you own. So if you have an old laptop lying around collecting dust, it can serve as the backup destination.
CrashPlan does have its critics; there are numerous user complaints online about missing and deleted files. CrashPlan claims, “Unless you tell CrashPlan otherwise, CrashPlan keeps deleted files forever,” but even some members of the TechnologyGuide staff have experienced file loss, particularly after periods of inactivity.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Carbonite is that they don’t offer any level of free cloud storage. You can get a free 15-day trial without having to give over your credit card information, but if you’ve got a respectable amount of data to back up, it’s likely the enforced bandwidth throttling you’ll have to endure during the initial upload could cause you to eat through those 15 days fast. In testing, upload speeds were so slow (around 4GB per 24 hours) that uploading over 500GB of data would take literally months. Fortunately, Carbonite’s customer service seems to be good about offering refunds to those who can find faster upload services elsewhere.
On the positive side, Carbonite also offers unlimited data from one computer for a flat yearly fee: $59.99 per year for the basic Home package, $99.99 per year for HomePlus (which also lets you upload from an external drive) and $149.99 per year for the comprehensive HomePremier. This package comes with delivery of your data on a hard drive if you experience a major loss of data on your home system. Carbonite offers a smartphone app for all packages that let you access your files from anywhere.
This is one of the most highly ranked automatic cloud services out there, for one critical reason: it’s extremely easy to use and it’s dirt cheap. But as everyone knows, sometimes cheap isn’t necessarily better.
For example, even though Backblaze offers unlimited storage for $5 per month (or $4.17 per month if you sign up for a year and $3.96 per month if you sign up for two years) there are some drawbacks. Customer support is notoriously poor and there is absolutely no phone support offered. There is an iPhone app that lets users access, view, and share backed-up data, but no Android client yet.
But it’s not all bad news. If you want cheap and you want something that’ll work, Backblaze could be your best bet. Storage is unlimited, you can set your own bandwidth usage, and there aren’t any specific file size limits. Which means if you’ve got an enormous HD video file, Backblaze is okay with that. Many cloud service providers aren’t.
If you’re looking for unlimited data storage, keep looking. Mozy, which used to offer unlimited backup, has now established limits on the amount of data that its customers can upload to the cloud – which could be a deal-killer for those who are looking for the maximum bang their buck will give them.
Mozy’s free tier, which caps out at 2GB, is hardly worth having – you can get much more for free from Amazon, Google Drive, or countless other cloud services. The difference is, Mozy is fully automatic where those aren’t.
Mozy pay plans start at $5.99 per month for 50GB (one computer only) and $9.99 per month for 125GB (up to three computers). The free mobile app is easy to use, but some of the biggest complaints about it range from the user’s inability to list cloud data by file type and difficulty downloading once you do find what you’re looking for. Mozy may be one of the most recognizable names in the automatic cloud service arena, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s the best or the most cost effective.
Interestingly enough, Livedrive’s only unlimited cloud storage plan is also its lowest cost. For $6 per month, you can back up the entire contents of your computer regardless of how much data is contained within. As with most other low-cost plans, Livedrive is limited to one computer, but you can add an extra for $1.50.
Moving up in Livedrive’s pricing tiers, you find that their $12 per month package, Briefcase, and their $19 per month package, Pro Suite, both come with data limits. But considering Briefcase gives you 2TB and Pro Suite 5TB, the average user might as well consider it “unlimited.” The two upper-tier programs give you added features and flexibility, like the ability to sync data between computers, edit and share files remotely.
The mobile app’s functionality makes this particular cloud storage program a stand-out in that it lets you stream audio or video without having to download it to your phone or tablet. The app works with iOS, Android, and Windows 8 devices. Other devices can still access data remotely through the mobile web portal.
SOS offers something that few other cloud storage services do. The minute you update a document or make changes to a folder, that updated version is uploaded to the cloud. Other services typically run backups at certain time intervals (though some can be set for constant backups), but if you want the peace of mind in knowing that everything on your cloud is current, SOS Online Backup is for you.
Pricing plans aren’t the cheapest, but taking into consideration the speed of upload (about 1GB per minute, which is less than half the time you’d spend backing up files with Carbonite) and the fact you’re not limited to one computer, extra cost might not turn out to be that big of an issue.
For $9.99 per month, you’ll get 100GB of space. $15.99 will get you 150GB and $19.99 expands your cloud to the 250GB mark. You also get the ability to share files through mobile access through email or Facebook, but only as long as it’s not bigger than 500MB. SOS also lets you store unlimited versions of your files, which can be great for Word documents, spreadsheets, and any other type of file that grows as it changes.
What’s great about this is that you can restore a previously backed-up file from any point in time – and, according to the SOS website itself, “Only the initial file counts towards your GB usage.”
One of the major selling points of this relatively new cloud service (it was launched in August of 2012) is the cost. With Amazon Glacier, you can store data for $0.01 per GB per month. You saw that right – one penny per GB per month. This means that if you have 1TB of data to store, it’ll only cost you about $10 per month (though it will ultimately cost a bit more thanks to the additional fees mentioned below).
Why is it so cheap? Because Amazon is selling it to businesses and corporations as a viable alternative to the old-school method of storing data to physical tape drives. But individuals can use it, too. The only drawback is that Glacier was designed for long-term storage. It’s an archiving service, and it could work for you if you have a bunch of important data that you don’t want to lose, but that you don’t necessarily need to access very often.
But one of the major appeals of cloud services is the ability for someone to pull up an archived document through their smart phone from the other side of the world. No can do with Amazon Glacier.
Glacier’s also not natively “automated,” and it requires some tinkering to set up. External clients like FastGlacier for Windows are necessary, and users have to select the physical location of the Amazon server for the backup. Also, Amazon charges a fee for upload and retrieval requests (about $.05 per 1,000), as well as various fees for data transmitted out from Glacier.
Still, it all only adds up to very little cost. If you have to have cloud storage and you have zero budget and tons of data, this is your best bet. But if you want something that’s fully functional, automatic, and easy to access, keep shopping.
Most of these services offer business plans, or higher-priced tiers that offer greater capacity as well as enterprise-level features. For example, Carbonite Business provides 250GB from an unlimited number of computers for $229.99 per year, and 500GB for $599.99. With it, users get a level of centralized control not offered to consumers. While this benefits employers with employees, it doesn’t do much for regular Joes and Janes. Others, like Mozy, cost thousands of dollars a year but provide added levels of security, customer service, and billing considerations.
In short, these options are not cost effective. You are paying for the enterprise-level services and features that you’ll never need as much as you are paying for the storage space.
The Best of the Bunch
Deciding which of the above listed services is “best” depends on precisely what you want out of it. Some people want cheap and don’t care about upload speed. Others are turned off by capacity limits and want a service that’ll give them room to expand. For someone who wants it all – affordability, plenty of space, ease of use, shareability, and the added bonus of mobile streaming – we choose Livedrive.
That said, all of the above services have one thing in common: each provides continuous data backup, eliminating the need to have you lift a finger past the initial setup.