It’s very important when choosing a company to backup your data that they offer a wide assortment of features, that are simple and easy to understand/use.
Some of the most important features to look for include:
Amount of data: If you are just backing up files, and you don’t have a vast library of music, movies, etc… You might be ok with a free, 2 GB or 5 GB plan from Dropbox or SugarSync. However, if you plan to backup your entire computer, and have a lot of media files, you may want to look for an unlimited plan, so you’re not constantly checking to see if you’re getting close to your quota. In these instances we would recommend Backblaze or Carbonite. SpiderOak is a good option if you want to sync all of your data, as they have a 100 GB plan for just $100/year.
Similar to the amount of data, you need to be aware of any file size limitations. Many companies have no limit, including Dropbox, Mozy, Spideroak and SugarSync. Others have limits, but they aren’t that bad. Backblaze has a 9 GB file size limit (not many files are over 9 GB so this generally isn’t an issue) and Carbonite has a 4 GB file limit (though you can manually backup files over 4 GB, it just won’t do it automatically). Box.net has a 25 MB file limit on their free plan, 1 GB limit on any paid plan.
Automated vs. manual backup: Most of the companies we review here include automated backup, but a few, such as Box.net, require manual updating. In general though, most of the online backup companies include automatic backup as a free feature.
Versioning (aka restoring previous versions of files): All of the companies we have reviewed (except for Box.net and Acronis) offer the ability to restore a prior version of a file. That way if you accidentally save unwanted changes to a file, or delete a file, you can pull up a prior version and recover the file you want. Some companies only maintain a certain # of prior versions, others keep all versions going back 30 days, others keep all versions forever. This is constantly changing so we don’t have a summary chart available.
Apps & web access: If you want to be able to access your data anywhere/anytime, make sure you choose a company that offers, at a minimum, web access to your files. Better yet, choose a company that offers an app for your phone or tablet. This way you can easily grab a file, share a file or even upload a new file (i.e. a photo taken on your phone)… Pretty much all of the companies we’ve ever come across or reviewed offer web access to your files, aside from Acronis. As far as apps are concerned, here is what we’ve found (green = app is available, red = no app):
You can see that one of our favorite companies, Backblaze, does not have any apps available. All other companies have apps for at least iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android. A few of the companies also offer apps for Blackberry, Windows and HP’s Touchpad.
Backup of external drives: Only a handful of companies allow you to backup not only your hard drive, but any external drives that you have connected. Our favorite in this area is Mozy. When you initially setup what you want to backup, you can easily select your external drives as well. Other companies to offer this include Backblaze, Spideroak, SugarSync (can be done manually), Livedrive and ElephantDrive.
Backup to external drives: As far as we know, Mozy is the only online backup company that can also simultaneously backup your data to an external drive. This is useful if you want a local backup to keep with you at all times.