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.

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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 read.  It is not open to every one on the Internet but law enforcement could 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-gb/)

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 move your files you want to backup to the special OneDrive folder.

One of the OneDrive's negatives is no security. Do not put files on OneDrive that care and other people could see. It is not open to every one on the Internet but law enforcement could obtain copies of your files without your knowledge.

Another annoying negative is that it will sync only your files in the OneDrive folder. All the files you need to backup will need to be moved to the OneDrive folder.

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 security 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. Files on your hard drive will automatically sync with Skydrive
No Security All files must be located in the Skydrive folder on you 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 Anonymous on 11. November 2008 - 19:04  (10355)

Hi

It seems good, online backup for free.. but the question is how secure it is?

Thanks.

by Keyur on 11. November 2008 - 19:57  (10358)

Hi

It is secure.... but you have to decide what to backup online? it's ideal for backing up your media files( Pictures, Audio and video files)..

Thanks

by nolookingca on 11. November 2008 - 23:05  (10366)

While you-get-what-you-pay-for do apply for these things, Mozy in particular is operated by EMC, so at the very least you know they're not a fly-by-night operation.

by Anonymous on 7. December 2008 - 12:28  (11571)

The main question is how to automate this. Will the site allow ftp or disk mapping access so you can automate synchronization using synchbak or some other tool ?

It would be nice to have the list completed with this info.

by Keyur on 8. December 2008 - 2:24  (11608)

Hi

These sites are simply storage space. they wont allow FTP. they provide their desktop client and by using their client you can backup and sync your data continuously to your online storage.

Thanks

by Anonymous on 8. December 2008 - 12:34  (11623)

How about Gmail ? 9 GB free, and you can have as many accounts as you want.

by Keyur on 8. December 2008 - 19:22  (11638)

Hi

I think G mail provides storage space in the form of Google docs and picasa web album.. can you provide a link if you have more information about it?

Thanks

by Anonymous on 8. December 2008 - 19:28  (11640)
by Keyur on 8. December 2008 - 22:25  (11654)

Hi

Thanks for posting this information. It seems good. I will update article and add GSpace as an option for online storage.

Thanks again.

by Anonymous on 9. December 2008 - 0:23  (11661)

Yep, nothing to install, no processes running on background or startup, reasonable upload and download speed... I'm using it for years without major problems.

by Anonymous on 12. December 2008 - 17:06  (11823)

what about oosah? it offers 1 terabyte free BUT you can only upload media AND there is a workaround to upload files other than media

by Keyur on 12. December 2008 - 18:31  (11826)

Hi
It looks good. it's basically for storing your media files online and using them directly from online storage e.g.playing music or viewing your images directly from your online storage. but you can not upload or download entire folder here so when you need to restore your files you will have to click on individual files and download each files separately so obviously it's not comfortable. so when it comes to backing up and restoring your data oosah is not useful. so basically it's really good option as 1tb is huge space but it really doesn't feet to this category. still I may reconsider and mention this site as an option.
Thank you very much for your suggestion.

by Anonymous on 17. December 2008 - 2:43  (11981)

how about using a program such as "downthemall" (the firefox plugin) when restoring files to your computer?

by Keyur on 17. December 2008 - 4:44  (11988)

Hi
Either you can restore files directly from your online storage without using any client or you can restore files using their desktop client.

by mr6n8 on 17. December 2008 - 17:02  (12008)

I just ran across MyBloop and have given it a short test run and I am pretty impressed.
You might want to check it out.

Things I liked about the free account
Infinite storage space
Files are stored indefinitely
Infinite bandwidth use, files can be downloaded any number of times
Just about any kind of file can be uploaded (restrictions on sharing video, music for copyright reasons-must be marked private-although music can be streamed)
Files can be marked private
While they have software to use for upload, you can also upload through browser and not get software (I have not tried software yet)
1GB file size limit
Speed was pretty good (I am not aware of speed on the other sites) at around 250kBps

The only thing I did not like was, when using browser you can only upload files. You can upload multiple files (I did 15 at once), but not folders.
Apparently, the software allows upload of folders. I will be checking it out.

Anyhow, it looks good so far, but I have not tried the other sites here, so I can not compare.

Steve

by Keyur on 17. December 2008 - 19:03  (12017)

Hi Steve..

Thanks for your suggestion.. it seems good based on what you have described.. But McAfee Site advisor showed yellow color sign when I visited the site so I am not sure about that at this time because it has to be green site where you store your data.. I will try this site when I will get time to do that..

Thanks again..

by Anonymous on 28. December 2008 - 13:26  (12616)

How about Syncplicity?

http://www.syncplicity.com/

Mark

by 1002richards on 28. December 2008 - 19:16  (12639)

Thanks, a useful topic and easy to follow now ... clear and helpful.

by Keyur on 29. December 2008 - 3:47  (12666)

Hi
Thanks for your suggestion.. Can you provide more details? Is it free? how much free space they provide?

by Keyur on 29. December 2008 - 3:48  (12667)

Hi
Thanks for your kind words..

by Anonymous on 30. December 2008 - 22:01  (12796)

I have been using Skydrive since beta. Works well, quick upload. Drag and drop uploader only works in IE though...go figure. If they added some AJAX and a auto sync tool this would be THE storage site.

by Anonymous on 9. January 2009 - 17:28  (13496)

Check out http://www.MyOtherDrive.com for online backup. You can set what folders you want backed up (a subset of your whole drive) and then it will do it for you unattended. You can also encrypt folders.

What's really cool, is that in addition to online backup, you can share files and folders, publicly or privately. Private sharing let's me control who can view my shared files. Very cool.

Their between-account file and folder copy is the bees knees. I have not seen that anywhere - copy content to and from other accounts all done on the backend with no upload or download. Way cool.

by Keyur on 9. January 2009 - 20:57  (13506)

Thanks for your suggestion. I will try it when I will get time..
Actually you can share your files privately or publically with livedrive, too.

by Anonymous on 26. January 2009 - 8:38  (14703)

I am somewhat amazed that LiveDrive.com is even included let alone as the top choice. It is quite clear that this will not be a free service pretty soon, even in faq this is clearly stated.

So why recommend a service that will be charging soon, many can not or prefer not to pay, yet your backup files are there and if you prefer not to pay, everything will have to be moved elsewhere or lost?

by Keyur on 26. January 2009 - 10:03  (14704)

Hi
Here is the reason why livedrive is mentioned as my first choice

" Livedrive is currently available in beta form, free of charge. We’d love to know what you think. If you sign up for a beta account now, you’ll be able to keep your account when we go live in early 2009. "

Click on the link below and read last paragraph.
http://www.livedrive.com/blog/index.php/2008/12/10/its-here/

If you will sign up now it will stay free for you forever as they mentioned.

Keyur

by Anonymous on 26. January 2009 - 10:56  (14705)

Hi,

"it will stay free for you forever as they mentioned." - Your words only

"you’ll be able to keep your account when we go live" - Their words, wonder why free was omitted?

"you’ll be able to keep your account when we go live free" - Note the difference.

Keep your account is not same as keep your account free, unless quite categorically stated, it obviously and/or deliberately isn't in this case.

Let's hope you are actually right.

by Keyur on 26. January 2009 - 13:51  (14708)

Hi
Thanks for pointing this out. Not sure what they mean. let see what happens.
I will try to make sure.
Thanks again.

by maxii on 26. January 2009 - 16:03  (14715)

In livedrive forum,it says once the beta period is over those having accounts will have one month after which they will be charged to use the service.

max

by Keyur on 26. January 2009 - 16:18  (14717)

Hi thanks for the information. I guess I will remove Livedrive from the list.

by Anonymous on 26. January 2009 - 21:35  (14736)

Hi,

I think in the end we got there, maybe a lesson to be learnt, if it doesn't say FREE, don't *assume* it's free, no matter how much you want to believe it will be.

Quite frankly, it never did say free on their website. Wishful thinking took over. :-)

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