[Updated with a price hike. This review was originally published May 15, 2018.]
Acronis True Image is one of the best-looking cloud backup services we've tested, and it's arguably the most full-featured. But its expensive subscriptions, complicated pricing structure and notable exclusions separate Acronis True Image from our top recommendations, Backblaze and IDrive. We think it's only the best cloud backup service for power users.
From a purely consumer standpoint, it is difficult to see Acronis' lower-priced tiers, which max out at 250GB or 500GB, as viable long-term solutions for customers who have extensive photo and video collections to back up.
However, the company's more expensive plans will be worthwhile for power users who would appreciate Acronis' extensive feature set and full-disk-image cloud backups — and who might not mind the premium pricing.
Online backup vs. online syncing
You're probably familiar with online syncing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud and OneDrive. These services give you a cloud-based drive that copies a set of files or folders onto all your devices while letting you share some files with friends and/or colleagues. But it would cost too much to use a cloud syncing service to back up all of your personal files.
This is where true online backup services step in. They back up all of the personal files on your computer to the cloud, keeping them safe from floods or fires. If you have thousands of photos, videos or music files that you can't imagine losing, then an online backup service is what you need.
Most of these services offer unlimited, or nearly unlimited, storage for all of the personal files on your computer — and, in some cases, connected external drives — for a reasonable flat fee. However, many online backup services don't store system files and applications. Acronis True Image is one of the few that, by default, will back up an entire drive to the cloud.
Acronis costs and what's covered
Acronis began in 2003 as a maker of local-backup software. The company still offers this solution, called Acronis True Image Standard, for a one-time fee of $59.99.
To get Acronis' online backup services, you'll have to move over to the Acronis True Image Advanced subscription plan, which starts at $49.99, but you'll have to pay that every year.
This plan includes up to 250GB of cloud-stored data, backed up online from one computer. You can upgrade to 500GB for an additional $20 per year. (All Acronis subscriptions include the local-backup software.)
If you need to back up more computers, it's an extra $30 per year to move to three machines, or $50 to cover five, but keep in mind that the storage cap stays the same. (Mobile devices aren't counted as computers, and you can back up an unlimited number of them under any Acronis cloud plan.) Also, unlike some other online backup services, Acronis won't back up external drives attached to a computer, or NAS drives on a home network.
Half a terabyte of online space might be enough if you don't have a lot of photos or movies. For more significant needs, the Premium plan (starting at $99.99 per year) covers 1TB of online backup for a single computer, with options all the way up to 5TB for a single machine for $259.95 per year.
Moving to three computers on the Premium plan costs an extra $50, but it's only $60 to bump up to five machines.
Acronis local-backup software has a very good reputation, and hard-core computer users employ it to "image," or clone, their drives in case of a drive failure or other disaster. Acronis True Image 2018 also bundles in ransomware protection, as well as the rather nifty abilities to move your drive's contents to a larger drive while your computer is running and to create a virtual PC using your local cloned drive.
But for ordinary computer users who might not need all these extras, it's not easy to justify paying $100 per year for 1TB of backup storage for a single PC, or the same fee for 500GB across three PCs.
For comparison, Backblaze gives you unlimited backup storage on one machine for $50 per year, and IDrive lets you back up 2TB from an unlimited number of machines for $70 per year. You could back up five machines on five unlimited Backblaze plans for $70 less than what you'd pay for Acronis' five-machine 5TB bundle.
Acronis True Image runs on Windows XP SP3, OS X 10.11 El Capitan, iOS 8.0, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and later versions of all four operating systems. There's no Linux version for home users, but some Acronis forum users say True Image's Linux-based rescue disk will do the job for Linux machines. (Use this at your own risk.)
To test online backup services, we used a 15-inch MacBook Pro 2017 running Windows 10 via Boot Camp, and a Google Pixel 2 XL. We tested each service individually and then uninstalled the software from both devices prior to the next test.
Our test set of files to back up held 16.8GB of documents, photos, videos and music. We uploaded this data to the cloud service and then restored a 1.12GB subset of these files to the laptop.
We used the GlassWire application to monitor upload and download speeds, and the built-in Windows Resource Monitor to track computer usage. Internet service was provided by a TDS Telecom Extreme300 Fiber home account in Middleton, Wisconsin. Real-world speeds during testing were typically about 280 megabits per second (Mbps) down and 120 Mbps up, according to speedtest.net results.
Our initial upload of the 16.8GB of files to Acronis' servers took approximately 2 hours and 56 minutes, for an average transfer speed of 13.7 Mbps. That's not bad, and it earned a close third place behind Backblaze among the six services we tested. But it's about double the time it took for IDrive to back up the same set of files; IDrive had an average speed of 26.1 Mbps.
Restoring our 1.12GB of photo and video files from the Acronis servers took approximately 10 minutes. According to speedtest.net, our connection provided a download speed of 282 Mbps at this time, while Acronis downloaded our data at approximately 16 Mbps.
This speed put Acronis in second place, just ahead of Backblaze but far behind SpiderOak, which restored the same set of files in a breathtakingly fast 1 minutes and 55 seconds. (Don't get too excited; SpiderOak had the slowest upload speeds, by far.)
Acronis True Image 2018 used an average of approximately 12 percent of CPU resources during the backup process, varying from 8 to 15 percent throughout. Resource usage dropped to approximately 4 percent following the initial backup. This was the most resource-intensive of the cloud-backup client applications we tested, which is not surprising given the depth of its available features.
The design of Acronis True Image 2018's desktop interface is a departure from the extremely rudimentary design in most of the other cloud backup services we tested. But the application remains reasonably intuitive and clean-looking.
The main dashboard view for Acronis features seven large tabs in the left-hand column of the interface, covering all of the primary features and settings. Many users will likely never access some of these tools, and this layout keeps the options from being overwhelming.
The primary screen is called, naturally, Backup. Acronis stands out from the pack here by offering the option to back up your entire hard drive, including the OS and applications. Alternatively, you can select specific files and folders in a standard tree menu.
The application lets you choose to back up your data either to the Acronis cloud servers or to your own external drive or local folder. (This is a nod to the original Acronis software.) Other services, such as IDrive and the higher-end Carbonite plans, offer local disk-image backups as well, but no one else puts it front and center like Acronis does.
Acronis also offers more granular backup controls than most of its competitors. It has the standard backup-scheduling options of nonstop, daily, weekly and monthly, but the final option of Upon Event is an interesting addition. This feature lets you back up files when you log on, log off, start up or shut down your computer.
Different file-restoration options are also available in the Backup tab. You simply choose the backup from which you wish to restore, and then either select the individual files and folders you wish to recover or download the full backup.
The next two tabs in the True Image desktop interface are Archive and Sync. The former reviews your drive for large and/or rarely used files, and then backs them up to the cloud or to an external drive. The latter acts like an online-sync service, keeping the contents of any folders within it synced across your devices.
Tools is the catch-all tab for Acronis, with roughly a dozen features for data protection and recovery. This tab is predominantly for power users, with features like Try & Decide.
This lets you make some potentially dangerous changes to your computer — such as installing a new piece of software, opening a questionable attachment or performing an early system update — and then immediately roll back to your previous state if a problem occurs. We'll cover a couple more of these tools in the Unique Features section below.
The Acronis web interface presents some additional options, such as sharing a file or folder to a social network, or simply creating a universally shareable link to a file or folder. This works as advertised, but the web interface is incredibly slow, and the UI constantly refreshes. If sharing is a key feature for you, look to IDrive instead.
The Acronis True Image mobile app follows the same basic design as most of the competition, with just a basic list view available. Given the nature of the app, this works just fine. But some search functionality would be nice, to speed up the process of tracking down a specific file.
Acronis also fails to offer thumbnails for photo and video files, making it impossible to quickly grab a single image or video remotely. Tapping on any of the files simply downloads it immediately to your device.
However, Acronis is one of the few services we tested that actually backs up your smartphone data rather than just listing your PC's files in the smartphone app. You can back up contacts, photos, videos, calendars and messages. As with the desktop version, you can choose to encrypt the backup when you initially create it.
For users satisfied with iCloud or Google Drive, a third-party smartphone-backup service may be redundant. But for those who don't store their photos and videos in the cloud with Apple or Google, it will be a welcome option.
Acronis will, by default, create a true disk-image backup online. A full restore can bring back everything on your computer, rather than just your personal files. While most of the services we tested let you do this locally, online backups with other services are limited to your personal files.
Acronis also offers Facebook and Instagram backups that capture your photos, videos, messages and more from your social media profiles, so you will never lose that content.
Active Protection, another recently added feature, is designed to protect you from ransomware that encrypts your files. The feature scans your backup constantly for known threats, as well as looks for any changes to your files that Acronis deems concerning. The software will prevent an action from happening if it could create a boot issue for your computer.
Acronis also supports the use of a private encryption key if you are particularly concerned with the security of the files you are backing up. Just remember that if you lose the key, your data will be useless.
With Acronis True Image 2019. there's a new feature called "Survival Kit" which quickly creates a bootable drive to be used during emergency restorations. Needless to say, you should create it well before you need it. It also supports backups of Microsoft Office 365 data.
By default, Acronis archives all of your older backups, including older versions of changed or deleted files. You can set the software to automatically delete backups older than a certain age, or use the built-in cleanup tool to manually delete older backups if you're approaching your storage cap.
Acronis offers a wealth of features for those who want to use their online backup service as more than just data vaults. But ultimately, it falls a little short due to the cost and a few weak features, such as a clunky web interface and a lack of file thumbnails in the mobile app. The program doesn't quite reach the bar set by the "set-it-and-forget-it" Backblaze or the feature-packed IDrive.
Acronis certainly has appeal for power users who would benefit from the in-depth tools offered by the service. But for the vast majority of users, these would be overkill and result only in a considerably higher price for backup storage than they'd get from other services.
Credit: Tom's Guide