Which Online Backup Service Is Best?

Category: Backup

If you listen to talk radio, you've probably heard online backup services like Carbonite, Mozy and iDrive advertising incessantly. Let's take a look at each of them, to see what they offer...

Online Backup Services

Online backup services help you create an off-site backup copy of your important files. This is a valuable tool in that you have a way to recover data if your hard drive crashes, if you accidentally delete a file, if you experience a disaster in your office such as a fire or flood, or if your computer is stolen.

While on-site backup devices are practical they too can be lost, damaged or destroyed in a fire, a power surge or if your office is burglarized. In these situations having an off-site backup can mean the difference between spending a couple of minutes to restore your files or spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours to recreate files.

Here are some of the most popular online backup services, and some tips on choosing the best online backup service for you.

  • Carbonite is the most popular online backup service, with an estimated 2 million customers. It offers a free trial to check out its services before you subscribe. If you sign up for a paid account then the fee is $54.95 a year, which works out to be about $4.58 per month. It is easy to download, install and set up. However, according to customer reviews of this service the initial backup of your files can take days to complete, depending on how much you have to back up. This product is compatible with both Macs and PCs, it doesn’t have a limit on how much you can back up for your $4.58 per month, it automatically sets up your account to back up the most common file types, i.e. documents and settings, however, if you have video, image or music files that you would like to back up then you will need to add these manually.

    If you scan the online forums, there are some people who have complained about Carbonite’s limitations related to user control over what is being backed up, how it is backed up and how long it takes to backup. And in March 2009, Carbonite revealed that they had lost the backups of 7500 customers, but blamed the problem on defective hard drives supplied by one of their vendors.

  • Mozy is another well known online backup service. It offers a free 2GB personal use account and a $4.95 per month unlimited storage account option. This online backup/storage service is compatible with both Macs and PCs. What people seem to like about Mozy is that it is easy to use and that its security is top notch. It utilizes both a 128 bit SSL encryption program and a 448 bit Blowfish encryption program. Other popular features offered by Mozy include automatic backups, easy to access files, remote access to your backed up files and incremental backups that look for new and changed files for backing up.

    A few negative remarks have been made about the poor performance Mozy has with extra large backups. If you utilize the unlimited backup account option then you need to be prepared for your initial backup to take several weeks to complete. Also be prepared for serious delays when it comes to restoring large files and programs.

  • iDrive rounds out the Big Three for online backup services. Like Mozy, it offers a free 2 GB backup account to home users. If you need more storage than that, or if you are in need of business file backup then you can select from one of their fee based accounts. You can get a 50 GB personal use account for about $49 a year, or a 50 GB business account for $99 per year.

    iDrive does offer some unique features, such as iDrive Explorer, which maps out your backed up files like Windows Explorer, and has true archiving/synch options. That means iDrive doesn't automatically delete files on the server side when you delete them from your computer. iDrive also has mapped drive support, so you can backup multiple computers on your home or office network. The only drawbacks I could find from a customer perspective were the 50GB limitation, and that the interface is a bit more complicated to use.

Choosing an Online Backup Service

On the surface, each of these online backup services are similar. You pay about $50 per year, and you get convenient offsite backup for your important files. Carbonite gets points from users for ease of use, but Mozy seems to be preferred by techies, who like the more advanced controls that it offers when creating and scheduling backups. iDrive has some features that might be compelling to certain users. And of course there are others, such as Dropbox, Omnidrive, Norton Online Backup and Apple's MobileMe.

So which is best? You could poke around in the user forums to see what people are saying about each of them. And sometimes that's a good way to get a sense of which is best for you. But keep in mind that any service that's used by millions of people will have its detractors. I call this Big Company Syndrome. If a company has a million customers, and just one tenth of one percent are very dissatisfied with the product, that's 1000 unhappy people. And of course they are more likely to make noise than the 999,000 who ARE satisfied customers. So don't form your opinion of a company or it's products solely upon negative comments posted online.

Here's what I recommend... Check out all three online backup services, then pick one and go for the free trial. If the service meets your needs, $5 a month for automatic offsite backups is not a bad deal. Do you use an online backup service? Post your comments and questions below...

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Most recent comments on "Which Online Backup Service Is Best?"

(See all 40 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

21 Jan 2010

Bob, you single out iDrive as the only one who does 'true archiving'. Recently I was recommending Mozy to a buddy in my camera club when another techie said that the online backup services Mozy & Carbonite don't store all your files indefinitely.

Can you clarify what Mozy & Carbonite store and for how long? Sounds like I should never delete a file from my PC (I'm using Mozy) if I expect to get it back if (when) my PC crashes? I hadn't heard of iDrive, so if they're the only one who will do this, I may have to switch.

Incidentally, I use 3 external HDs for backup, 2 'hot' ones in my house, 1 w/ my PC, another upstairs, and a 3rd I keep offsite. Then I use Mozy for critical stuff like family pictures, financial docs, etc. Call me paranoid :-)

Posted by:

28 Jan 2010

well, i use dropbox, as it supports linux based os as well....

Posted by:

12 Mar 2010

I personally use Diino at diino.com and so far I am very happy with them.

I am paying $50 for 100GB which I think is reasonable.

Posted by:

09 Apr 2010


You have a great article there. Mozy, Idrive, and Carbonite are definitely in my top 10 Online Photo Backup Services.

In my experience Mozy is the best online backup software there is. It is so much better than carbonite for many reasons.

Carbonite lost many files and that damaged its credibility, While Mozy was acquired by EMC Corporation ( a leader of data management industry) for $76 million in 2007.

Carbonite doesn't support external drives, or network drives, and it doesn't provide real backup for businesses ( servers etc.).

Posted by:

21 Jul 2010

HI..I want to ask a question..My computer says that my local disk (C:) has not free space and i cant open anything..can you tell me what to delet??

Posted by:

17 Aug 2010

What is your experience with Zumo? I started to use it but their fold selection process for sending files into the cloud seemed quite clunky and inflexible.

Posted by:

05 Sep 2010

hi there bob...nice to visit ur site....well onething u must have included in this post is about microsoft skydrive :)....

Posted by:

08 Sep 2010

I had a client who installed Carbonite. System requirments met Carbonite's recommendations. He began noticing performance issues with machine even after the completed 'full' upload. Stopped ALL services associated with Carbonite (and even uninstalled at one point during troubleshooting process) and machine's performance came back. Reinstalled Carbonite and machines sluggish/poor performance returned. Saw similar instances posted by techs on various forums. However, no reasons or solutions as to why. Customer decided to leave running and "live with" the computer's performance.

I posted this to inform others I am now skeptical of Carbonite because of this incident and the things I learned while researching the problem. I initially recommended Carbonite based on articles and celebrity endorsements in tech industry. But now, I am reserved in boldly giving this product an approval.

Posted by:

09 Oct 2010

I was looking for an online backup service that would include more than just one computer. There are a few out there but I just started using back4u.biz - They allow backup of my two laptops unlimited. They are resellers of live drive i think but they offer a better deal than going direct.

Posted by:

21 Oct 2010

i need a carbonite that is free of charge and no trails anyone please help or my files will go bye bye

Posted by:

Bev Robinson
23 Oct 2010

Not having the expertise to know better, I choose Dell online backup. It is very economical for the amount of data it stores. However, I did find that some of the data I thought had been saved, had not. But, I didn't know that until my hard drive and motherboard died. When trying to restore my photos, I found that a lot of them were missing, I don't know how to fix that, but for the most part they do a good job.

Posted by:

09 Nov 2010

I personally use [08/11/2010 10:20:54 a.m.] Diego Gutierrez: ZenOK Online Backup and so far I am very happy with them.

I am paying $34/year for 150GB which I think is reasonable.

Posted by:

Boris Mehling
18 Jan 2011

I tried some online backup services and ended up at Updatestar Online Backup. It has unlimited storage and a cheap price (4,99 € / 5,83 $). I´m very happy with this. You can find a free trial on the website: http://client.updatestar.com/en/onlinebackup/overview/

Posted by:

Joe Smith
16 Feb 2011

I use Altdrive.com. Unlimited for $44.50/year. It has a two month free trial. No issues.

Posted by:

Luis Claudio
24 Feb 2011

I use Norton Online Backup, but I'm not happy with it. It takes too long to upload (it seems it groups files in big chunks; if the upload of a chunk is interrupted, that chnk's upload will be restarted). Downloading is very slow. Usually it takes several minutes till a selected file is ready for download. I'm moving to SugarSync. Maybe it's not a real backup system, but it keeps copies of the files I need quickly accessible. Upload is very faster than Norton Online Backup. The drawbacks are it keeps only five versions of a file and yu can't use filters to select which file types shall or shall not be backed up (you can only select directories).

Posted by:

Henry Zeisler
03 Mar 2011

At this time "Online Backup," is (in my opinion) in its infancy. All will preform better once the infustructure of our US TelCom's improves. At this time I'm using a D-Link NAS w/two 1Tb Mirrored drives, and it works fantastic! The DNS service offered through D-Link in conjuction with DNS.org is Flawless (so far I've been using it for my Server, six pc's, and an other six "Smartphones (both Windows, and Apple) to backup "JUST THE DATA," and only applications that were downloaded! Everything else is on CD/DVD's. If we need to backup "on the road," we either connect via DNS, or use our Gmail account to backup. The DNS is still for my money the fastest backup, and restore device I've bought. To complete "Disaster Recovery" we use "Spotmau," that creates a bootable CD for any kind of pc, and will remind you of the days when you could Insert the OEM's Recovery CD, and Just wait till it's done; at that point; just login to your pc, and go to your folder (screen name & password) of course, and watch your computer rebuild itself with allmost no intervention on your part. As for "Online Backup," at this point I think "I'll let Mikey try it." Dlink was $110, the disks 2 Seagate 1Tb drives @ $89, and Spotmau $39.00!

Posted by:

08 Mar 2011

I was looking for an online backup solution that is compatible with both my mac and windows computers and then i later came across one called Safecopy backup.I was glad i found it on a certain website that writes about online backup services called www.backuplineup.com

Posted by:

Jesse White
18 Mar 2011

Just to let all readers here know that filesanywhere.com offers a 5GB online storage for free. Of course you can get more storage for a monthly fee, depending upon the storage space desired.

Posted by:

Jack Meili
24 May 2011

We have 3 computers in the hours (not uncommon, these days). They are used for entirely different purposes. I want all 3 of them backed-up but don't appreciate the cost for 3 subscriptions to Carbonite or a similar service. One can back-up 3 computers on SugarSync at a reasonable cost, but it does syncronise the Documents folders of all computers making all of the computers Documents folders exactly alike. For us, that is both a waste of disk space and violates individual privacy.
Is there a back-up service where one can buy a single, reasonably priced subscription that can be, effectively, partitioned so that the data from each of the computers is kept separate? My thinking is a single username could be used for the subscription with individual passwords to the 3 partitions.

Posted by:

Karla Marie Robinett
08 Dec 2011

Bob,you need to update your article. iDrive offers 150 GB personal use,not 50.

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