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Online backup services

Do you struggle to take regular backup copies of your important files? Maybe you should try an online backup service. They are one of the easiest ways to take safe copies of your data, keeping you protected if files get corrupted or deleted, or your computer fails.

See also:

What to look for

FAQs

Jargon explained

Online backup services comparison chart for 2022

Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Carbonite
Elephant Drive Home
iDrive
Dropbox
Box
Acronis Online Backup
iBackup
Excellent
Five stars means excellent
Very good
Four stars means very good
Good
Three stars means good
Average
Two stars means average /
Poor
One star means poor
Carbonite has been awarded best buy Product image of carbonite Product image of elephant drive home Product image of idrive Product image of dropbox Product image of box Product image of acronis online backup Product image of ibackup
 
 
Ratings
Overall
carbonite has a rating of five  overall elephant drive home has a rating of four  overall idrive has a rating of five  overall dropbox has a rating of five  overall box has a rating of four  overall acronis online backup has a rating of four  overall ibackup has a rating of four  overall
Setup
carbonite has a rating of five for setup elephant drive home has a rating of three for setup idrive has a rating of five for setup dropbox has a rating of four for setup box has a rating of four for setup acronis online backup has a rating of three for setup ibackup has a rating of four for setup
Backup
carbonite has a rating of five for backup elephant drive home has a rating of four for backup idrive has a rating of five for backup dropbox has a rating of four for backup box has a rating of four for backup acronis online backup has a rating of four for backup ibackup has a rating of four for backup
Restore
carbonite has a rating of five for restore elephant drive home has a rating of four for restore idrive has a rating of four for restore dropbox has a rating of three for restore box has a rating of four for restore acronis online backup has a rating of four for restore ibackup has a rating of four for restore
Security
carbonite has a rating of five for security elephant drive home has a rating of four for security idrive has a rating of four for security dropbox has a rating of five for security box has a rating of four for security acronis online backup has a rating of three for security ibackup has a rating of four for security
Features
carbonite has a rating of four for features elephant drive home has a rating of four for features idrive has a rating of four for features dropbox has a rating of three for features box has a rating of four for features acronis online backup has a rating of four for features ibackup has a rating of three for features
Ease of use
carbonite has a rating of five for ease of use elephant drive home has a rating of four for ease of use idrive has a rating of five for ease of use dropbox has a rating of five for ease of use box has a rating of four for ease of use acronis online backup has a rating of four for ease of use ibackup has a rating of four for ease of use
Help & support
carbonite has a rating of five for help & support elephant drive home has a rating of four for help & support idrive has a rating of four for help & support dropbox has a rating of four for help & support box has a rating of five for help & support acronis online backup has a rating of three for help & support ibackup has a rating of four for help & support
Backup options
Full backup
carbonite offers full backup elephant drive home offers full backup idrive offers full backup dropbox offers full backup box offers full backup acronis online backup offers full backup ibackup offers full backup
Incremental backups
carbonite offers incremental backups elephant drive home offers incremental backups idrive offers incremental backups dropbox offers incremental backups box offers incremental backups acronis online backup offers incremental backups ibackup offers incremental backups
Scheduled backups
carbonite offers scheduled backups elephant drive home offers scheduled backups idrive offers scheduled backups dropbox offers scheduled backups box does not offer scheduled backups acronis online backup offers scheduled backups ibackup offers scheduled backups
Idle backups
carbonite offers idle backups elephant drive home does not offer idle backups idrive offers idle backups dropbox does not offer idle backups box offers idle backups acronis online backup does not offer idle backups ibackup offers idle backups
Manual backups
carbonite offers manual backups elephant drive home offers manual backups idrive offers manual backups dropbox offers manual backups box offers manual backups acronis online backup offers manual backups ibackup offers manual backups
Backup features
Auto-resume
carbonite includes auto-resume elephant drive home includes auto-resume idrive includes auto-resume dropbox includes auto-resume box includes auto-resume acronis online backup includes auto-resume ibackup includes auto-resume
Versioning
carbonite does not include versioning elephant drive home includes versioning idrive includes versioning dropbox includes versioning box includes versioning acronis online backup does not include versioning ibackup includes versioning
Status window
carbonite offers status window elephant drive home offers status window idrive offers status window dropbox offers status window box offers status window acronis online backup offers status window ibackup offers status window
Drag & drop interface
carbonite offers drag & drop interface elephant drive home offers drag & drop interface idrive offers drag & drop interface dropbox offers drag & drop interface box offers drag & drop interface acronis online backup offers drag & drop interface ibackup offers drag & drop interface
Remote access
carbonite includes remote access elephant drive home includes remote access idrive includes remote access dropbox includes remote access box includes remote access acronis online backup includes remote access ibackup includes remote access
Mobile access
carbonite offers mobile access elephant drive home does not offer mobile access idrive offers mobile access dropbox offers mobile access box offers mobile access acronis online backup offers mobile access ibackup offers mobile access
Log-files
carbonite includes log-files elephant drive home includes log-files idrive includes log-files dropbox includes log-files box includes log-files acronis online backup includes log-files ibackup includes log-files
Restore features
Individual files & folders
carbonite restores individual files & folders elephant drive home restores individual files & folders idrive restores individual files & folders dropbox restores individual files & folders box restores individual files & folders acronis online backup restores individual files & folders ibackup restores individual files & folders
File search
carbonite restores file search elephant drive home restores file search idrive restores file search dropbox restores file search box restores file search acronis online backup restores file search ibackup restores file search
Security
Storage encryption
carbonite includes storage encryption elephant drive home includes storage encryption idrive includes storage encryption dropbox includes storage encryption box includes storage encryption acronis online backup includes storage encryption ibackup includes storage encryption
Transfer encryption
carbonite includes transfer encryption elephant drive home includes transfer encryption idrive includes transfer encryption dropbox includes transfer encryption box includes transfer encryption acronis online backup includes transfer encryption ibackup includes transfer encryption
Personal encryption key
carbonite includes a personal encryption key elephant drive home includes a personal encryption key idrive includes a personal encryption key dropbox includes a personal encryption key box includes a personal encryption key acronis online backup includes a personal encryption key ibackup includes a personal encryption key
SSL secure
carbonite includes ssl secure elephant drive home includes ssl secure idrive includes ssl secure dropbox includes ssl secure box includes ssl secure acronis online backup includes ssl secure ibackup includes ssl secure
Multi-location storage
carbonite includes multi-location storage elephant drive home includes multi-location storage idrive does not include multi-location storage dropbox includes multi-location storage box does not include multi-location storage acronis online backup does not include multi-location storage ibackup includes multi-location storage
Mobile
iPhone app
carbonite includes a iphone app elephant drive home does not include a iphone app idrive includes a iphone app dropbox includes a iphone app box includes a iphone app acronis online backup includes a iphone app ibackup includes a iphone app
Blackberry app
carbonite includes a blackberry app elephant drive home does not include a blackberry app idrive includes a blackberry app dropbox includes a blackberry app box includes a blackberry app acronis online backup includes a blackberry app ibackup includes a blackberry app
Windows mobile app
carbonite includes a windows mobile app elephant drive home does not include a windows mobile app idrive includes a windows mobile app dropbox includes a windows mobile app box includes a windows mobile app acronis online backup does not include a windows mobile app ibackup includes a windows mobile app
Supported platforms
Windows
carbonite supports windows elephant drive home supports windows idrive supports windows dropbox supports windows box supports windows acronis online backup supports windows ibackup supports windows
Apple Mac
carbonite supports apple mac elephant drive home supports apple mac idrive supports apple mac dropbox supports apple mac box supports apple mac acronis online backup does not support apple mac ibackup supports apple mac
Help & support
Telephone support
carbonite is compatible with telephone support elephant drive home is compatible with telephone support idrive is compatible with telephone support dropbox is not compatible with telephone support box is compatible with telephone support acronis online backup is not compatible with telephone support ibackup is compatible with telephone support
Email support
carbonite is compatible with email support elephant drive home is compatible with email support idrive is compatible with email support dropbox is compatible with email support box is compatible with email support acronis online backup is compatible with email support ibackup is compatible with email support
Live chat
carbonite is compatible with live chat elephant drive home is not compatible with live chat idrive is compatible with live chat dropbox is not compatible with live chat box is not compatible with live chat acronis online backup is not compatible with live chat ibackup is compatible with live chat
Knowledge base
carbonite is not compatible with knowledge base elephant drive home is compatible with knowledge base idrive is not compatible with knowledge base dropbox is compatible with knowledge base box is not compatible with knowledge base acronis online backup is compatible with knowledge base ibackup is compatible with knowledge base
Tutorials
carbonite is compatible with tutorials elephant drive home is compatible with tutorials idrive is compatible with tutorials dropbox is compatible with tutorials box is not compatible with tutorials acronis online backup is compatible with tutorials ibackup is compatible with tutorials
FAQs
carbonite is compatible with faqs elephant drive home is compatible with faqs idrive is compatible with faqs dropbox is compatible with faqs box is compatible with faqs acronis online backup is compatible with faqs ibackup is compatible with faqs

Online backup services explained

The principle behind online backups is the same as any other backup method; you keep a second copy of your data in a safe place, in case anything happens to your master copy.

The main difference with online backups is that your backups aren’t stored on a disk that you have to manage and handle yourself. Online backup services send copies of your files across the internet, storing them safely on a server that’s owned or run by the online backup company.

Most online backup services require you to install a small piece of software on your computer. This runs constantly, performing backups automatically. The only other thing you need is a fast broadband connection, to transfer your data across the internet.

Getting started with online backup services

Basic online backup services are free. They may be adequate for backing up a small amount of data, but higher-capacity services will charge a monthly fee. It’s very important your online backup service offers enough space for all your files.

Pricier services usually offer greater capacity, plus other useful features. These may include the ability to share data with others, back up files from more than one computer, or to ‘synchronize’ files on two or more computers (or even other gadgets like mobile phones), so you always have access to your data.

After taking an initial backup of the files you choose, an online backup service should be able to monitor for any changes and take backup copies automatically, without you having to do anything. This ensures new files are backed up almost as soon as you create them. If you do run into a problem, you should suffer minimal data loss.


What to look for in online backup services

To find the right online backup service, consider these key areas.

Online backup capacity

It’s important that your online backup service has enough space for your files. When evaluating how much space you’ll need, think about how you expect your files to grow.

For instance, if you want to back up photos that you take regularly, the space you require will soon increase. Ensure your chosen service has enough extra room – or that it’s easy to add extra capacity when you need it.

Backup methods

Online backup services give you different options for actually creating backups. Some run backups at regular times of the day, which you can set. But it’s a good idea to choose a service which backs up new or changed files whenever your system is idle, and you’re not using it for anything.

File locations

Check which locations on your computer’s hard drive the backup service is able to take backups from. For instance, some services only allow you to back up one particular folder. That makes for a foolproof, simple backup system – but only if you can group all your files together in one folder.

Security and reliability

Your online backup service is where you’ll turn if you have a problem with the data stored on your own computer. It’s therefore essential that you can rely on the service you choose. Look for good customer ratings and a proven track record. Make sure they keep your data safe too – most online backup services should encrypt it before it’s transferred over the internet.

Access on the move

For extra versatility, choose an online backup service which allows you to log in and view files from any computer, without having to install software. You can even access some services on your mobile phone. With all your key data in your pocket, you’ll never be struggling for an important document again.

File sharing and synchronization

Online backup service can be a good way to share files with others. Many services allow you to designate a one or more files as ‘shared’, so people who know the username and password can log in and view or download them.

Similarly, look for software that lets you synchronize or mirror the files onto more than one computer. For instance, you can have all your files to hand, on both your home and work computers.

Ease of use

It’s important your online backup service is easy to use. You don’t want any confusion as to whether you’ve chosen to back up the right files, or uncertainty about whether automatic backups are actually being performed. Check screenshots and try a demo version, if you can.

Help and support

The cheapest online backup services tend to offer minimal support. If something goes wrong, you’ll be required to email for assistance or consult advice on a support website.

If you’ve never used online backup services before, or will be backing up data that’s really important, look for telephone support (so you can actually speak to someone) and a guaranteed level of service.


FAQs

Here are our answers to the most common questions about online backup services.

Q. What is an online backup service?

An online backup service gives you an easy way to back up important files stored on your computer. With an online backup service, copies of the files you want to back up are sent over the internet and stored on a server owned or operated by the online backup service company.

Q. Do I need an online backup service?

If you don’t currently back up your files at all, then an online backup service will enable you to start backing up very easily. All you need to do is sign up and install a small piece of software. The online backup service should do the rest.

If you already take backups in another way (perhaps you regularly copy files to CDs or DVDs), an online backup service can provide you with offsite backups. This means the data is stored away from your computer, so if there’s some kind of disaster (like a fire), your backup copies are safe.

As well as giving you a safety net, online backup services can synchronize or mirror files on all your computers (so you can access them no matter which machine you’re using). They’re good for sharing files with other people too.

Q. Is it easy to get started with an online backup service?

Usually, yes. You generally have to install a small piece of software and choose which files you want to back up. The software should do the rest for you.

Q. How much data can I back up?

It depends on the capacity of the online backup service you choose. Make sure there’s enough space for all your files – and that you have a bit of spare room too.

Q. Once I’ve set up my online backup service, do I need to do anything else to keep my files safe?

It’s a good idea to have two different backup systems in place. If one is your online backup service, you could also take regular backups by copying important files onto CDs or an external hard drive.

Also, remember that online backup services don’t protect you from threats in the first place – they simply give you a way to recover if you have a problem. Always make sure your computer is running up-to-date security software.

Q. How do I know if my online backup service is secure?

Make sure your online backup service scrambles your data with encryption. This will ensure nobody else can read it. The data should be encrypted before it is sent over the internet, and should be stored on the server in an encrypted format too.

Q. How does file synchronization work?

File synchronization mirrors your files across different computers that you own. For instance, you could set up your online backup service to synchronize the ‘My Documents’ folder on your computer.

This would copy all the files in that folder to your other computers. Whenever you change a file, it would be updated on all the other computers too.

If you have more than one computer, file synchronization enables you to always have access to all your files.

Q. Is it safe to share files with other people through my online backup service?

Yes, as long as the service is protected by a strong password, and you don’t share the password with anybody else.

Q. What sort of internet connection do I need to use an online backup service?

The faster the better. All the files you want to back up have to be sent over your internet connection. Although this can be a lot of data, most home broadband connections are more than up to the job.


Jargon explained

Although online backup services are generally easy to set up and use, they come with more than their fair share of jargon. Here’s what the key terms mean.

File sharing

The process of enabling other people to access selected files stored by your online backup service. Most online backup services allow you to designate certain files or folder as shared – and to set up usernames and passwords to control who they are shared with.

Idle backups

When your computer is switched on but you’re not actually using it for anything, your computer is ‘idle’. Many online backup services take advantage of idle time to scan for new or changed files and take backup copies over the internet.

Using idle backups ensures that the online backup service doesn’t slow your computer down while you’re trying to use it.

Mobile phone access

Because online backup services store your data on the internet, you may be able to log in and access it from any internet-connected device. That includes mobile phones.

Some services offer apps which you can install onto your phone, making it easier to view files when you’re out and about. Mobile phone access can be useful for checking documents and other files when you can’t easily get to a computer.

Selective backups

Rather than backing up all your data every time it runs a backup, most online backup services use selective backups. This means they check to see which files have changed, then only back those up.

Selective backups run faster and don’t need to send as much information across the internet. That’s particularly useful if you have a broadband package with a data transfer limit, or you share your connection with other people.

Storage encryption

Encryption scrambles your files so nobody can read them, keeping them safe. Many online backup services use storage encryption to keep your files in an encrypted state on their servers.

SSL encryption

A type of encryption used to protect data when it’s sent over the internet. If your online backup service uses SSL, it means it scrambles all your data before it gets on the internet – keeping it safe from anyone who tries to intercept it.

Synchronization

Keeping the same files automatically updated on two or more computers. Synchronization is really handy if you have several computers and want to be able to access all your files from any of them.

Versioning

Tracking changes to files and keeping old versions, so you can look back and see what changed and when. Versioning helps you roll back to an old version of a document or keep track of when things changed.

Web interface

Allows you to log in to your online backup service from any internet-connected computer. You simply visit a particular website and enter your username and password. A web interface means you can get at files from pretty much any computer, anywhere in the world.


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