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

 

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Comments

by Humpty (not verified) on 20. January 2012 - 20:52  (87504)

This article should sort the various sites by:

1. SIZE:how many Gigs of free space each offers;

2. SOFTWARE TO DOWNLOAD: some require users to download software and others don't (why should I install WINE to use Windows software in Linux just for SugarSync when other storage services are without software to download?); and

3. FOLDER DOWNLOAD: some have this ability and some don't (even using the CTRL button to download multiple files is rather slow).

by kyengineer on 28. January 2012 - 17:30  (87940)

Thanks for the comment. I am the new editor and I will address your comments when I revise this category. I have a some more testing to do.

As far as size. Windows Live Mesh will sync 5 gig.

by Tom Jones (not verified) on 13. January 2012 - 3:40  (87103)

I tried Mozy and it didn't work with my MacBook Pro. It took me forever to get Mozy to stop billing me for a service that was worthless to me.

by NotHonkeyTonkin (not verified) on 25. December 2011 - 21:25  (85971)

One warning about Microsoft Skydrive; you get 20gb free storage (fair enough) and separate 5gb of synced storage. So, for example (in my case) I create a lot of Photoshop files. Well, I had one folder which I would drop my photos into and it would sync to that 5GB folder on Skydrive. So far, so good. Problem; it filled up. Now, common sense would say, "Oh, that's no problem; just move the files on the 5GB section over to that remaining 20GB section, so that you've freed the 5GB and can keep on just dropping files in your local folder and now worrying about it (presumably, it would continue to automatically sync)." Wrong. You cannot move anything from the synced 5GB area directly to the non-synced 20GB area. You'd have to upload all 5GB of photos to your non-synced folders, then delete the files out of both your online 5gb synced storage, then you could begin syncing again.

Yes, they all have their ups and downs, but because of what I store and the way I need to store it, Skydrive sucks a hairy ape toe.

by VitalyGusarov on 22. December 2011 - 5:33  (85670)

You should try Adrive.com
50Gb of free storage, nice interface, good speed!

by kyengineer on 28. January 2012 - 17:36  (87943)

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll test it out.

Editor: Best Free Online Backup Sites

by Humpty (not verified) on 20. January 2012 - 20:15  (87500)

ADrive is awful! It's slow and the UI is terrible! I use Minus.com and CX.com that each offer 10 Gb free.

by Humpty (not verified) on 20. January 2012 - 21:25  (87507)

...AND you have to type in a CAPTCHA code every time you want to log in. May be great for security but it's real annoying (to me, at least).

by colin clayton (not verified) on 8. December 2011 - 10:01  (84644)

Hello,does anyone know anything about [commercial service edited out]?I am paying about £6 a month and £20 for the broadband,£10 for the security...I am sure that i can get a better deal than this,any advice?.....also i'm not sure of backup now as a lot of my files are my own music creations and my comedy written sketches,film script etc...I'm not sure if [edited] encrypt the files when they are uploaded to the backup or not...I only learnt of this reading your posts...But then i'm not sure of any of them to be quite honest...there are a lot of sharks out there trying to steal your ideas and i'm not sure if i trust any of them to be honest...I think the best thing to do is save all your very important files to disc...all the best to all of you...kind regards
colin

by Duplicati Backup (not verified) on 3. December 2011 - 18:08  (84329)

If you have any concerns to upload your data to an online storage provider: There is a great backup tool named Duplicati that does securely encrypted backups and stores those on online storage like Windows Live SkyDrive, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud Files and others that are using standard interfaces like WebDAV, SSH or FTP.

Duplicati is open source and available for free. It is easy to use and once you have set it up it keeps your backups up-to-date. Get it from http://www.duplicati.com

by colin clayton (not verified) on 8. December 2011 - 9:37  (84641)

Thank for that message about duplicati mate much appreciated....most people do not even take the time to thanks anymore because some people are selfcentred and full of ego...
thanks again
and merry christmas to you all

by Johnty (not verified) on 5. November 2011 - 13:44  (82760)

You missed out on Dropmysite.com - Great for backing up websites, email & databases.

by nowthengizmo (not verified) on 3. November 2011 - 11:54  (82642)

The thing that puts me off using online storage is that I would have to enter my username and password onto a stranger's PC. Although the risk might be low it is possible that those login details could be logged by software on that PC. I would like an online storage service that would randomly request only specific characters from my password, so that I do not enter the full thing.

Do any of these services do that?

Thank you

by Bart Roelant (not verified) on 27. October 2011 - 18:46  (82256)

Have a look at BeeCloud.eu.

We offer 512GB online backup for free (no trial, free !!)

by Binh (not verified) on 29. January 2012 - 20:32  (87996)

If you go to BeeCloud's website, it says "512Gb" which is actually 512GigaBIT and *NOT* GigaBYTE. It's still 64GBs of free online stroage though.
However, they are a reseller of LiveDrive so it's a matter of making sure that LiveDrive is still operational and also that their Reseller account doesn't get cancelled. Have a look at this post here which mentions Backify - http://www.tomshardware.com/news/backify-cloud-storage-music-streaming-video-streaming-briefcase,13695.html. However, if you go to Backify.com now, it says "LiveDrive has terminated Backify's reseller account, and Backify.com is no longer in service". So, there is a chance that BeeCloud could end up the same way as Backify.

by Peter Wills (not verified) on 26. December 2011 - 5:51  (86000)

All well and good but;

Who is Beecloud?
How long have you been around?
What is your business model to ensure you stay around?
Beecloud seems to be reliant on Livedrive. What if you lost your Livedrive reseller status? Where does that leave users?
What Server structure and security does Beecloud employ to ensure security and availability of data and how closely or dependent is it on Livedrive?
What is your Service uptime?
How long will the 512GB free deal last or will you go the way of Backify?

by DJ Roksor (not verified) on 2. November 2011 - 1:36  (82548)

Thanks, I made an account and I'm downloading the setup right now.

by zafnat paaneah (not verified) on 7. October 2011 - 2:41  (81032)

Have anyone try www.4shared.com. 10 GB for free user. I used this services and it's great.

by gdemaderios on 22. October 2011 - 13:39  (81922)

Thank you for your suggestion zafnat. I'm in the process of testing and compiling a list of a lot of online backup services. Look for potentially new recommendations soon!

by Paul H (not verified) on 21. October 2011 - 2:41  (81816)

I researched both Dropbox and Mozy, and chose Mozy mainly for the fact that you don't have to mess with your file structure by putting your backup targets in a special folder. By using its advanced features, you can just check the folders (or subfolders or files) that you want to back up.

Mozy also will simultaneously create a backup on your hard drive if you wish. It also has the "Pause" button desired by a previous poster.

I'v used it enough (and done some practice restores, which can be directed to a single folder) to be really impressed with it.

by Chela Robles (not verified) on 22. September 2011 - 23:26  (80147)

I'm totally blind and find DropBox to be quite useful because the buttons are properly labeled for a screen reader user.

by sbwhiteman on 13. September 2011 - 13:32  (79524)

First, thanks for your work on this topic.

Contrary to your review, I don't believe there is a Windows Live SkyDrive client. The normal way of using SkyDrive via your browser.

There are third-party applications that can add functionality, like SDExplorer (at http://www.cloudstorageexplorer.com/) and Gladinet Cloud Desktop (http://www.gladinet.com/index.htm), but these are not produced by or affiliated with Microsoft and are not necessary for the normal functioning of SkyDrive.

Am I missing something?

by gdemaderios on 14. September 2011 - 5:42  (79570)

Hello sbwhiteman,

You aren't missing anything. This isn't technically my review, yet, it was here before I got here. I'm working on putting something together as we speak and hope to have something up soon.

Edited to add: I've edited the original article to reflect the Windows Live Mesh client, which is necessary for using Skydrive to *synch* across multiple computers (like Dropbox).

by Anonymous1234 (not verified) on 11. September 2011 - 20:15  (79440)

I would like people to understand the problems with going with a paid cloud storage program over a free, name brand one. I had Trend Micro SafeSync, which actually was a TM buyout of the former company Humyo. TM offered their "unlimited" upload and storage for home users at a very reasonable intro rate on a yearly license plan. Right after the sale was over TM went to a limited plan for everyone. Now to renew it's like $80 annually for 100 GB. I need to download everything back to my hard drive and close my TM account, which will take a long time to do. I also was not thrilled to learn all my files were held in servers in Japan, not that I have anything to hide. Another thing is that TM emailed me asking me to take a strictly "anonymous" poll about their cloud storage. I decided not to take the poll and I got another email a week later asking why I had not yet taken their anonymous poll yet. I hear G-drive is maybe coming so I'll either use that or try to deal with the MS Skydrive. I would rather use Skydrive because if they decide to end the program MS has always gave several months of advance notice. Google starts and stops projects all the time and seems to give less notice than MS.

by gdemaderios on 11. September 2011 - 20:22  (79441)

There are inherent risks with using, and therefore depending on, anything to do with "cloud" services...paid or not. Therefore it behooves everyone to determine what their risks are and determining a level of risk that's acceptable.

Sounds to me like SafeSync had an unacceptable level of risk for you as well as charging you for that. Let me know what service you end up settling on...

by Alexander Potton (not verified) on 13. July 2011 - 18:56  (75405)

I Have tested most of those Cloud services and found one that address all my security standards which are:

1. Password protection
2. Complete encryption before it is transmitted.
3. Can be used with any operating system
4. Ability to decide security level of folders
5. Ability to decide security level of individual files
6. ability to share files without compromising the security of the other ones
7. ability to access my files and folders from any computer and from anywhere without risks to my files and without leaving any trace.
8. Total security and ownership of my files

Only one free service gives me all that, it is Wuala. The company, owned by LaCie, is based in Switzerland.

The software is available here:
http://www.wuala.com/en/

I Gig free and the option of sharing some of your disk space to get extra storage.
File sync and backups are now included.
You can get extra storage when you refer other users.
For those who need a lot of space, you can buy at a very good price.

WARNING.....
Do not lose your password because nobody at Wuala will be able to help you. the password file stays on your computer and it is encrypted with your password. That file is useless without the password.
WARNING.......

Try it, test it and use it, you will say it is hard to get something better.

Please note that i am not related to the company, i am only an IT tech who wants the best.

Best regards,

Alexander in Canada

by kagitapus on 20. July 2011 - 5:42  (75881)

Hi,

Thanks for the nice share Alexander!!!

I have tested Wuala and found that its meeting all the standards that Alexander have mentioned.

The Sync option is quite nice. The application is simple and a very reasonable amount of CPU & memory being consumed.

Options to adjust download and upload bandwidth is very helpful to allocate lesser bandwidth for the application so as to prevent network congestion.

Trade your storage is another nice feature which allows the user to have more storage online by trading their local storage. This option needs to be used carefully alongwith the bandwidth limits option as it may consume the network bandwidth heavily.

After installation, Wuala will be mapped as a shared drive and can be used through explorer.

As Wuala is from Lacie, the leading storage manufacturer, I can say this service is reliable in terms of storage. Please remember that'Nothing is completely secured in a data network' everything has its plus&minuses so choose carefully what to keep online and what not to.

Kagitapus

by davcock on 31. October 2011 - 9:47  (82460)

I have been testing a few of the "best" recommendations for online backup and sync and have been very unhappy with all of them for one reason or another. The closest I got to liking a prog was actually Microsoft Mesh. But that was until I looked at what it was doing. It was actually merging some of my folders. Now I will hold my hands up and say that yes, it was possibly me setting it up wrong in some way (though I don't really think that I did) but in any case, it became a pain. AND it is very slow to syn. Then I tried Wuala. BRILLIANT. It works straight out of the box, is dead easy to set up and has not caused any problems. The interface is flexible and offers plenty of control. It also allows me to see exactly what is being synched at any time. Excellent bit of kit and I really recommend others to try it. I would also welcome a formal review on this site.

by gdemaderios on 1. November 2011 - 4:46  (82512)

Thank you for the recommendation davcock. Wuala is on my shortlist.

by davcock on 3. November 2012 - 12:27  (101789)

A year on and I am still totally happy with Wuala, as are the other half a dozen people that I have put onto it. Are we any closer to a formal review of this great software and cloud service?

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