Best Free Online Backup

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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.

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 devices. Data storage in the cloud is one of the quickest means to data archiving and recovery.

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.

One possible strategy is to use several free sites. Use one site for photos, a second for general documents and a third site with pre-upload and post-download encryption for your financial documents and other documents you want to keep private.

Read also Requirements to Judge the Online Backup at the end of this page.

 

Rated Products

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

IDrive  

An online backup with pre-file-transfer encryption and long term reliability


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free (Limited features)
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.
Read full review...

Google Drive  

An established and well-known cloud service gives you a large amount of free storage


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free (Limited features)
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.
Read full review...

OneDrive  

Access, backup and share files on PC, Mac, Android and iOS


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Limited features)
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 OneDrive.
No encryption; All files to be synchronized must be located in the OneDrive folder on your PC.
Read full review...

Dropbox  

One of the well-known online storage and file sync services


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Limited features)
Quick and light, file syncing between most desktops and mobile devices.
Limited small free storage, folder for syncing must be created.
Read full review...

Other Online Backups

These are other online backup services which are not rated:

  • Mozy: 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.

  • ADrive: After testing for the past month, ADrive meets one of three off-line backup requirements. The storage size is very large at 50 GB. The downside is that it does not sync files. Longevity of the free service needs to be proven.

Dropped from the list:

  • Windows Live Mesh: Microsoft dropped it in favor of OneDrive exclusively.
  • Bee Cloud ceased operation in March 2012.
  • 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.
  • Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail: not really back up systems.

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

 

Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 

Requirements to Judge the Online Backup

The requirements to judge the online backup are listed below:

  • Storage Size: More free storage is obviously better. Our photo files are larger and we are taking more photos. This requires more storage.

  • Document Synchronization: Documents and files created or changed need to automatically be uploaded to the Cloud.

  • Long Term Reliability of the Site: Will your files be there available a year from now, five years from now? This is subjective. If I have heard of the service before I became editor of this category or one of our readers makes a compelling argument, the site will be considered reliable.

  • Security: It should be assumed that security is minimal for the free sites. If the files you upload will not be encrypted, there's nothing to stop someone from looking at your files. This includes law enforcement officials who can serve papers from a judge requesting copies of your files. The services I have checked do not have encryption on the fly. Spideroak has pre-egress or pre-internet security. Your files are encrypted before they are uploaded.

  • File Location: Ideally the files should be able to be located any place on your hard drive. Instead many online backup services require a special folder to be created. All your files will have to be stored in that folder. Also, the files will have to be stored on the local drive and copied to the online service.

  • Ease of Use: The service should be menu driven and intuitive when selecting the files and folders to be backed up. These are two primary ways to do this:

    1. The first way is the service creates a folder and all the files in the folder are backed up. OneDrive does it this way. It creates a OneDrive folder and everything in this folder is backed up.

    2. The second way is you select folders or files inside the program. Using Spideroak, a tree of your files and folders is displayed and you select the files/folders to back-up by clicking a check box.

 

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.

 

Editor

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Comments

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

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!

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?

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.

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..

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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
davcock, Thanks for the comment.

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..

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

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/

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