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

This software category is in need of an editor. If you would like to give something back to the freeware community by taking it over, check out this page for more details. You can then contact us from that page or by clicking here.

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Comments

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.

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