Best Free Online Backup Sites

Introduction

Do you know when the absolute worst time to think about backups is? It’s the moment when the tech support guy tells you your hard drive has died and your data is lost.

One error that the free online backups will not help is recovery of a file a split second after you delete that important presentation or cherished photo. Most free services do not save deleted files but write over the old file.

The free online backup services will save your files off-site to the cloud. If your hard drive crashes your files are not lost. Your first line of defense should be an external hard drive to back up your hard drive or a jump drive for your documents.

An online backup provides 24/7 access to your files from any Internet connected computer, smartphone, or tablet style device. Data storage in the cloud is one of the quickest means to data archiving and recovery.

The requirements to judge the online backup are listed below:

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 In a hurry? Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 

Discussion

There are a number of products and vendors that promise you online data storage and backup. Here are my recommendations:

#1  IDrive (www.idrive.com)

IDrive's parent company IBackup has been in business since 1999 and therefore meets the long term reliability requirement. The service has 5 GB of free storage. While not a lot by today's standard it is better than 2 GB. IDrive does provide pre file transfer encryption. You provide the private key which will be known only to you. This will secure your files from being read by others without your permission.

IDrive has both scheduled and continuous backup. The default is scheduled backup. IDrive also has versioning. In this way if you accidentally delete a file, it can be retrieved.

Your files can be stored in any place on your hard drive. This allows you to keep your current file structure. It will not be necessary to move your file to a special folder for backup.

#2 Google Drive (http://www.google.com/drive/about.html)

I just noticed Google drive now has 15 GB of online storage.  It is still not encrypted and you still have to put all your files in the Google Drive folder on your PC.  Google is an established company 15 GB is a large amount of storage.

I have moved Google Drive to #2 because it has 15 GB of storage available.  I have tested it and confirmed there are 15 GB..

Google drive has the follow good features.

  • First, it available storage is a large 15 GB.  
  • Second is the stability of the provider.  Google is going to be around for a long time and cloud storage is a key company service.
  • Third, it is easy to use.  Just go to your Google account ( assuming you have one), and down load the software.  
  • Finally you documents are automatically synchronized.

 Google Drive has two negatives: no security and files locations.

  • Your file are not encrypted locally before being uploaded to the "cloud".  Do not store files that you do not want others are to be able to read. While it is not open to anyone on the Internet who doesn't have the password, law enforcement agencies can obtain copies of your files without your knowledge.
  • Another negative is your files have to be stored in the Google Drive folder.  At first I thought this would be a problem, but after using the service there is not issue using the Google Drive folder for your files.

#3  OneDrive [Previously known as SkyDrive] (https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/)

Microsoft has changed OneDrive. It is now 7 GB if you are a new subscriber to the service. If you are an old subscriber and had 25 GB of storage you get to keep your 25 GB.

I dropped OneDrive's ranking because of its reduced storage space, no encryption and the annoying OneDrive folder you have to use. It is built into Windows 8 and the service is expected to be around for a long time as it's provided by Microsoft.

OneDrive's storage size is 7 GB. This is not very large by today standards. OneDrive originally was 25 GB. A new user can't get 25 GB free anymore. If you have an old Hotmail account you may have 25 GB.

OneDrive is easy to use. Once installed just copy or move the files you want to backup to the special OneDrive folder. Only files in the OneDrive folder will be stored online. It may be less convenient for you but the advantage of this approach is that you know exactly which files are being stored online.

You also have control over whether files are only stored online rather than on your local Windows device (PC, tablet, phone). Many users use OneDrive to synchronize files between two or more Windows devices. On each individual device you can specify whether a particular folder is stored offline (on the local drive) or online-only on OneDrive. If you store a large folder with several GBs of data on OneDrive then other devices that synchronize with that account will usually have online access so you will have to change it to offline to get a copy of the files.

One of OneDrive's weaknesses is the lack of encryption which means that you should not put files on OneDrive that you don't want other people to ever see. While it is not open to anyone on the Internet who doesn't have the password, law enforcement agencies can obtain copies of your files without your knowledge.

A combination of back-up solutions may be the best strategy. Use OneDrive for your photos and non critical documents like kids homework, your non-financial files, and family pictures. Then use Spideroak or IDrive for your taxes and financial files.

#4  Spideroak (http://spideroak.com)

Spideroak has end-to-end encryption. If you have documents you do not want anyone else to have the ability to see them, this is the service for you. The files are encrypted before they are sent to the Spideroak server. Since you own the encryption key, only you can open them. The downside for this service is that it only offers 2 GB of online storage.

The files Spideroak saves to the cloud can be stored in any place on you computer. A separate folder does not need to be created.

If you need to securely backup more than 2 GB of files, a free service is not for you. If you have more than 2 GB of files you want to keep and make sure no one can read them without your permission then I would suggest a paid service. Also, it automatically synchronizes files.

I am using Spideroak because I was able to increase my storage by entering several limited time promotions.

#5  Dropbox (www.dropbox.com)

It offers 2GB free storage to start while multiple paid options are also available. Dropbox offers file syncing between the PC / Mac / Linux and the cloud. Load the desktop client or upload through the web interface and begin adding folders to the Dropbox folder. Once in the folder, Dropbox synchs the file between the PC and the cloud and any other devices that you have enabled with Dropbox including mobile and tablets. Quick, light and in the background, Dropbox is a must try and is my preferred Online Backup Solution. One drawback to Dropbox is a folder named "Dropbox" which has to be created, then all the folders and files have to be moved to the "Dropbox" folder.

#6  Mozy (http://mozy.com/home/free)

Like most of the online backup providers, Mozy offers 2 GB for free and the option to add more through paid services. Mozy comes with PC and MAC clients, schedule backups and even file encryption. The encryption capabilities provide some peace of mind to those looking for an Online Backup Solution but concerned about privacy.

#7  ADrive (http://www.adrive.com/)

This site has been tested for the past month. It meets one of three off-line backup requirements. The storage size is very large at 50 GB. The down side is that it does not sync files. Longevity of the free service needs to be proven.

#8 Wuala (https://www.wuala.com/en/download/windows)

I am a Wuala to the list.  It has 5 GB free storage, Wuala does provide pre-file transfer encryption.  It is a LaCie product.  LaCie a hard drive manufacturer has been in business since 1987.  Therefore the it has longevity.  I am listing it at #8, but further comments and testing could change its ranking.

 

Other Thoughts

While 2 GB seems to be about the standard when this section first started. Now it is hardly enough. 2GB is roughly equivalent to 250,000 text emails, or 300 songs, or 250 pictures. We all have more the 250 pictures and will run out of space using only a 2 GB of storage.

Since this web site is all about free software, etc., I suggest using two online backup services. Use the sites with pre file transfer encryption for your important documents such as tax returns, then use OneDrive for photos. OneDrive has 7 GB. If you were lucky enough to have had OneDrive before they changed their service, you may have 25 GB of storage.

Besides the storage capacity, the ability to quickly get your data and long term service are other key factors to consider. Some of the above recommendations do not have proven track records but well known companies are likely able to provide long term service for you. Your data should be available and controllable by you. Being able to move your data from one provider to another or even duplicate it amongst providers for redundant backups are also key considerations when choosing a cloud storage solution. The first four suggestions above offer quick accessibility and easy exporting of the data so that you can take to another provider should the need occur.

Finally, regardless of the method or type of backup, whether online, disk to disk, imaging, CD / DVD copying, or floppies (hopefully not!), having a recent backup of your data will ensure that you never have to face that dreaded split second after your data gets ruined.

Dropped From The List

  • Windows Live Mesh: Microsoft dropped it in favor of OneDrive exclusively.
  • Bee Cloud is ceasing operation in March 2012.
  • Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail have been dropped from the list. These are not really back up systems.
  • CX:, The terms of service has changed, therefore it is no longer free.  Existing users can keep their free account with certain condition, but new users have a 15/30 day trials.

NB: Do you have a great free online backup solution? If so, then tell us about it in the comments section.

 

Quick Selection Guide

IDrive
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Files can be located any place on you computer. Does have pre/post file transfer encryption. It has versioning.
Only 5 GB of Storage Not well known
http://www.idrive.com/index.html
Unrestricted freeware
This product is portable.
512 MB RAM, 10 MB Free Hard Disk space for installed program, 20 MB or more recommended for local caching
Google Drive
4
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
15 GB of Storage Easy to install and use Automatically syncs files
No file encryption All files have to be in the Google Drive folder
https://drive.google.com/
746 kb
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows, Mac, IOS, Android
OneDrive
4
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
25 GB of Online Storage for old subscribers or 7 GB if you are a new subscriber; User files on your hard drive will automatically sync with Skydrive.
No encryption; All files to be syncrhonized must be located in the Skydrive folder on your PC.
NA
4,780 GB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
32- or 64-bit Windows 8, Windows 7, or Vista. 1GB Ram,1.4 GHz or Higher Pentium IV, 1 GB Ram.
Spideroak
4
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Pre and Post File Encription
Only 2 GB of free storage
https://spideroak.com/
18,246 KB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
More to come

 

Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Victor Laurie. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

by naturalp on 11. January 2013 - 16:10  (104404)

just to let you know that Sugarsync doesn't have free storage anymore so its shouldn't be in this category.

by MidnightCowboy on 11. January 2013 - 23:35  (104408)

The link to their free service is accessed from the section at the bottom of their home page. MC - Site Manager.

https://www.sugarsync.com/free/

by f97jake on 12. January 2013 - 3:37  (104414)

SKYDRIVE is worst site by far. check the Fine Print my friends. Microsoft sifts through your files and even minor semblances of affection have been getting people banned from their Microsoft accounts. That means nothing explicit, also will ban you if you store any illegally attained downloads. so be warned..

by davcock on 24. January 2013 - 10:50  (104776)

For a couple of years I been using Wuala. I fully recommend their online backup and sync. Simple to use, and it works every time. The biggest benefit is that you can sync to any file or folder. Perfect! But I am getting low on space on the free service (5gb) and so decided to try idrive based on this review. I was drawn to the 'sync to any folder' feature.

When I got to their site I was further impressed by the 10gb free account. Excellent. BUT: The sync to any folder is not really correct. In it's native form works like drop box and most other services, creating a sync folder. In order to use any other folder you use their "out of the box" sync feature. So I ran that. The problem is that it only syncs to the cloud. I cannot, therefore, link in three or four computers and ensure that they are all automatically synced. That is what I need, so I am back to Wuala.

Seriously, if you are needing any form of online backup or sync, please to try Wuala. I would also love to see it reviewed here.

by davcock on 25. January 2013 - 13:36  (104809)

A while back I tried Spider Oak and decided it wasn't for me. But I have just tried it again, and I am impressed. It is very intuitive to use, and it allows sync within your existing folder structure. The 2gb free account is a bit restrictive but a quick search soon provided a discount coupan giving a freee upgrade to 5 gb. That will do nicely.

by kryz on 25. January 2013 - 22:06  (104828)

i registered an account just to comment...
Just wondering if Box.net was ever considered, and if so, why was it not on the list?
I got 50GB from the Android promo they had earlier..

by kyengineer on 29. January 2013 - 0:09  (104894)

davcock,
Thanks for the comment.

by kyengineer on 29. January 2013 - 1:43  (104897)

Thanks for the comment. I'll add Wuala to the list. I drive has two different product. One is Idrive with 5 GB of storage. Idrivesync has 10 GB of storage.

You can encrypt your data with Idrive and a user supplied password. This secures you files so they can only be decrypted with your password.

Idrivesync does not have this option.

by kyengineer on 29. January 2013 - 3:16  (104900)

Thanks for the comment.
How do you get the Android promo?

by davcock on 11. February 2013 - 13:01  (105305)

A rsvised decision. I have changed my mind about Spider Oak and have closed my account. I do a bit of offline web creation, using php and mysql. I fould that Spider Oak didn't like to sync some of the php and mysql files. Another problem I hahd was understanding exactly what it was doing. According to the online versions of my files they appeared to be split, with some held in my PC folder, some in my laptop folder. In actual fact they are all in both on my two computers.

So, out with Spider and back in with Wuala! It is faultless, intuitive and accurate. And with voucher codes I am now on 10 gb free space.

by kyengineer on 12. February 2013 - 6:42  (105330)

Thanks for the comment.
I am going to add Wuala to my list to test and review. I read their security section and Wuala does have pre-upload encryption.

Since you use Wuala, you can write a review and it will get posted to this section. Just email it to me.

kyengineer

Section Editor

by supanut on 13. February 2013 - 10:07  (105369)

Using Dropbox for over a year, and I can say it's awesome, as well as Google Drive and Sky Drive. Even though I didn't keep a local backup of these folders, the files automatically syncs back to my desktop after the fresh install of Windows 7 X64! Amazing, elliminated about 374.4MB of backup!
My recommendation: Try using multiple services, they can be very helpful!

by kyengineer on 14. February 2013 - 3:07  (105383)

Hey, thanks for the comment.
I agree, using multiply sites is a good way of backing up you files off site.

I have not tried Google Drive yet. Does it work the like Skydrive?

by kyengineer on 14. February 2013 - 5:39  (105385)

From my testing Google Docs for this site I have determined Google Docs is not a online back-up system. Several of my MS Office files were uploaded to Google Docs they were changed from Office format to Google Docs format.

kyengineer
Best Free Online Backup Sites Editor

by kyengineer on 14. February 2013 - 5:51  (105386)

I have just subscribed to Wuala to test the service.

One positive thing I noticed was pre-upload encryption. Your password remains on you computer and no one can read you files without you password.

One drawback I notice is it is not folder independent. The files that are backed up have to be filed in the "Wuala" folder.

It has 5 GB of storage which is the norm.

kyengineer
Best Free Online Backup Sites Editor

by kyengineer on 14. February 2013 - 6:11  (105387)

I need some help.

So far. I have counted approximately 30 free online backup service on the internet. If you are using a site not listed here post a comment. Also, if you add a review of the site would be helpful. If I receive a site review I will make sure it is added to the list.

Finally, I am looking for comments on on the strategies people use to backup with the free services.

kyengineer
Best Free Online Backup Sites Editor

by Jojo Yee on 14. February 2013 - 8:01  (105388)

The upload settings allow you to uncheck "Convert Uploaded files to Google Docs format" to keep the original format but then you can't edit it on Google Drive without the conversion.

by Anupam on 14. February 2013 - 10:12  (105390)

Google Docs does not seem to be a backup site, it's just for collaboration and sharing of documents.

However, I think Google Docs is a part of Google Drive? Not very clear to me when I visited the Google Docs site.

by Jojo Yee on 14. February 2013 - 12:03  (105394)

Google Docs is a part of Google Drive, which can be used for backup.

by supanut on 14. February 2013 - 23:07  (105411)

Yes, Google Drive behaves like Dropbox and Sky Drive, where you put all files you want to back up in the Google Drive folder, and it gives you 5GB for free. I don't use it that much though, mainly used it as a mirror backup copy of my Dropbox.

by kyengineer on 15. February 2013 - 13:52  (105434)

Thanks for comments.

by memphis on 11. March 2013 - 1:07  (106104)

Hey dude,

Just thought I'd mention that although "Box.net" only offer 5GB of storage free, they regularly have 25 and 50GB promotions (I got 50). And now the Boxsync app is available for free accounts it seems to also be a good option. Speed-wise, I ran it side-by-side with SugarSync and they almost finished simultaneously. The downsides are no encryption for the free accounts (well I don't think so anyway) and you can't simply select any folder. It is for the latter point that I use SugarSync for all of my documents, but Box.net for the big stuff that doesn't need too much folder structure (like my pictures). Nevertheless, I thought it was still a good option when you consider that 50GB is possible available. Can I just ask if you were aware of this one and if so, why it didn't make the list?? Am I missing something that might come to bite me later on??

Thanks

by MidnightCowboy on 11. March 2013 - 1:19  (106107)

Programs are evaluated on the basis of their stated features and not what these "might be" via promotions or other means which are not guaranteed. If the editor feels Box.net is worthy of inclusion on this basis then it will be. MC - Site Manager.

by kyengineer on 11. March 2013 - 5:06  (106113)

Hey to you,
Thanks for the comment. You listed both the pros & cons for the product. Do you know how long the site/service has been in operation.

I am familiar with promotions. I have been able to increase my free storage by promotions. I don't mention promotions as part of the review because I reviewing only the storage that is initially available for free. I believe the promotions are primarily for the paying customers and I don't want to bring attention to the free customers increasing their storage for free.

As for box.net not on the list. That a fair question. Before I recommend a service I test it on a virtual machine. Box.net is on my list of 31 different online storage sites. I select the sites/services to test based on reader/s suggestions. Since you ask about it II will add box.net to my test machine. I am currently testing Wuala and Google Docs.

kyengineer
Category Editor Best Free Online Backup Sites

by kyengineer on 31. March 2013 - 13:34  (106699)

This is a cloud based storage service that has been reported by rob on this web site. See link below. I have signed up for the service to test it, but I have not been granted access to the service.

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/want-100gb-free-cloud-based-stor...

by imDeja on 16. April 2013 - 6:00  (107131)

Just to let you guys know adrive.com gives 50gb storage free for a basic plan. Maybe check it out if you want.

by kyengineer on 19. April 2013 - 4:17  (107179)

Thanks for the comment.
Are you using A drive? If so can you let us know what you think about it. This aids in writing reviews.

It is #7 on the list.

kyengineer
Category Editor Best Free Online Backup Sites

by kyengineer on 23. April 2013 - 4:00  (107268)

Hello All.
I have just added Wuala to the list.

kyengineer
Category Editor

by SVTMarkB on 14. May 2013 - 19:30  (107753)

Hello kyengineer,

Would you mind taking a look at Cyphertite? It is a highly encrypted / zero knowledge backup, with 8GB available for free.
www.cyphertite.com

by kyengineer on 15. May 2013 - 11:20  (107763)

I'll add it to the list.

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