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The best cloud backup services in 2020

Best Cloud Backup Services
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best cloud backup services, also known as online-backup services, help you avoid data-backup catastrophes. They copy your valuable information to an offsite server that never goes offline and can be reached from anywhere, preventing total digital disaster.

You might think it's enough to regularly back up your computer's data to an external hard drive. But it isn't, because both your PC and your local backup drive could be lost to in same incident of theft, flood or fire.

We've done more than 40 hours of testing,and we think the best cloud backup service is IDrive ($13.90 for the first year for Tom's Guide readers). It backs up an unlimited number of PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets for a reasonable price. IDrive is the best choice if you have multiple computers and phones to back up.

At the moment, IDrive is having a sale that gets you a pretty amazing 95% off.

Looking to back up your photos in the cloud? Check out our picks for the best photo storage services.

Our value pick is the very user-friendly Backblaze, which gives you unlimited storage space for just $60 per year, but backs up only one machine (and an attached external drive) per account. This is the best cloud backup service if you have a single computer and don't want to worry about the details.

Acronis True Image is the best choice for power users, offering a nearly infinite assortment of features and pricing combinations. But it may be too complicated, and too expensive, for the average home computer user.

SpiderOak is renowned for its security, as it encrypts your data with a unique key that SpiderOak itself doesn't have. (Don't lose it.) But SpiderOak is quite expensive, so get it only if protecting your data from prying eyes is your top priority.

Carbonite was once synonymous with cloud-backup software, and that may still be the case on the enterprise side. The consumer offerings seem affordable, but to get anything like iDrive or Backblaze's level of service, you'll have to pay a lot more.

As for Zoolz Cloud Backup, we can't currently recommend it because the Zoolz company no longer lists the service on its website. You can still buy a subscription, but it's not clear what you'll get. We're trying to get an answer from the company about what's going on. For now, hold off.

External hard drives stacked on top of laptop.

(Image credit: Boibin/Shutterstock)

The best cloud backup service you can get

Best cloud backup service: iDrive Personal

(Image credit: iDrive)

1. iDrive Personal

The best cloud backup service overall

Number of devices: Unlimited | Storage limit: 5TB | External drive backups: Yes | Mobile device backups: Yes | System and application backups: Yes, but not by default | Two factor authentication: Yes | Drive shipping: Seed and restore

Free disk-shipping data-transfer option
Fast upload speeds
Backs up mobile devices
Generous syncing option
No unlimited storage option

IDrive offers the most bang for the buck, backing up an unlimited number of machines to either a 2TB ($13.90 for the first year for Tom's Guide readers) or a 5TB limit, which should be enough for most people. 

IDrive's upload speeds are fast, its mobile apps actually back up the devices they run on (and recognize faces in photos for easy tagging), it provides a generous file-syncing option and it even lets you mail in a full drive instead of spending days uploading data. 

IDrive also keeps old copies of each file forever, which is handy, but you'll have to mind those storage caps. It also has two-factor authentication, which is an essential feature every online service provider should offer.

Read our full IDrive Personal review.

Backblaze

(Image credit: Backblaze)

2. Backblaze

The best value in cloud backup services

Number of devices: 1 computer | Storage limit: Unlimited | External drive backups: Yes | Mobile device backups: No | System and application backups: No | Two factor authentication: Yes | Drive shipping: Restore only

Cheap, fast, easy and simple
Unlimited storage
Generous drive-shipping policy
No multiple-computer plans
Few extra features

Backblaze is still the cheapest online-backup solution, gigabyte for gigabyte, and it's the easiest to use  — you literally can just set it and forget it. We also like the generous restore-my-mail feature and its rapid upload speeds. Backblaze even lets you locate a lost or stolen computer by geolocating the Wi-Fi network it connects to.

But Backblaze is not ideal for anyone who has multiple machines to back up, unless you have nearly unlimited storage needs. In that case, the reasonable yearly cost to back up each machine may be worth it.

Read our full Backblaze review.

Acronis True Image

(Image credit: Acronis)

3. Acronis True Image

The best cloud backup service for power users

Number of devices: Up to 5 computers | Storage limit: 5TB | External drive backups: No | Mobile device backups: Yes | System and application backups: Yes | Two factor authentication: No | Drive shipping: No

Full-disk-image online backups
Intuitive user interface
Backs up mobile devices
Expensive, with complicated pricing
Won't back up external drives

Acronis True Image is a disk-imaging program with a cloud-backup component tacked on. But it's not a kludge — it's perhaps the most powerful and versatile online-backup solution available, with mobile-device and social-media backups, syncing and sharing options and even ransomware protection. It even includes a "survival kit" which quickly creates a bootable file-restoration tool. 

The downsides are that Acronis can get expensive, has a confusing pricing structure and doesn't back up external or networked drives.

Read our full Acronis True Image review.

Carbonite Safe

(Image credit: Carbonite)

4. Carbonite Safe

Number of devices: Up to 5 computers, but no volume discount | Storage limit: Unlimited | External drive backups: Not with basic plan | Mobile device backups: No | System and application backups: No | Two factor authentication: Yes | Drive shipping: Restore only

Unlimited storage
Unique backup interface
Solid mobile experience
Expensive
Slow download speeds

Carbonite says it offers unlimited storage, but you'd better read the fine print, as it doesn't automatically back up large files, external drives, or any kind of video file, on its lowest pricing tier. To get those functions, you'll have to trade up to the point where Carbonite Safe is no longer competitive. 

Multiple machines are supported on a single account, but each costs as much as the first. On the plus side, the software is attractive and easy to use.

Read our full Carbonite Safe review.

SpiderOak One

(Image credit: SpiderOak)

5. SpiderOak One

Number of devices: Unlimited | Storage limit: 5TB | External drive backups: Yes | Mobile device backups: No | System and application backups: Yes, but not by default | Two factor authentication: Only for legacy users | Drive shipping: No

Backs up unlimited devices
Strong sharing and syncing features
Focus on security
Steep learning curve
Cramped, confusing user interface

SpiderOak was the first online-backup (or online-syncing) service to make sure the customer held a private, exclusive encryption key. Most other cloud backup services now offer the same thing, but SpiderOak also has strong file-sharing and -syncing features, as well as support for unlimited machines and, if you insist, backups of system files and applications. 

Yet SpiderOak's storage-space pricing is so high that it's more competitive with Dropbox than it is with IDrive, and while its file-restoration speed was amazingly fast, its initial upload speed was glacial.

Read our full SpiderOak One review.

Zoolz Cloud Backup

(Image credit: Zoolz)

6. Zoolz Cloud Backup

Number of devices: Up to 5 computers, but only 1 per user | Storage limit: 4TB | External drive backups: Yes | Mobile device backups: No | System and application backups: Yes, but not by default | Two factor authentication: No | Drive shipping: No

Multiuser support
Intuitive, attractive user interface
Very slow file recovery
Useless mobile apps
Limited to single machine per user

Editor's note: Zoolz no longer lists its cloud-backup service for consumers on its website, yet still seems to sell it in certain locations online.

We're trying to get an answer from Zoolz about exactly what kind of cloud-backup solutions it now offers to home users. Until we get an answer, we can't recommend this service.

Zoolz has a lot of features and an attractive, easy-to-use interface. The service permits multiuser accounts, lets you back up applications and system files and, at least at the time of this writing, is appealingly priced. 

But its Achilles' heel is that the Zoolz storage servers are just rented space on Amazon's Glacier cloud service, which is agonizingly slow to access. It doesn't help that the Zoolz mobile apps are next to useless.

Read our full Zoolz Cloud Backup review.

How we tested and rated the best cloud backup services

We took into consideration several factors: storage costs, ease of file restoration, computer-resource usage, unique features and ease of use and of installation. Upload speed also matters, because while your initial backup happens only once, the backup can take days or even weeks if it's several hundred gigabytes. 

We give bonus points to those online-backup services that let you mail in a hard drive full of data to start the process or send you one to restore your data.

Our testing and evaluating was done on a 2017 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro booting into Windows 10. Mobile apps were run on a Google Pixel XL 2 running Android 8.1 Oreo. We monitored data-transfer rates on the MacBook with GlassWire, and CPU usage using Windows' built-in Resource Monitor.

Each cloud-backup service was tested individually, then uninstalled from both devices before the next test. The test set of files to back up consisted of 16.8GB of documents, photos, videos and music. We uploaded this data to each service's cloud servers, then restored a 1.12GB subset of these files to the laptop.

The testing environment was a home in Middleton, Wisconsin, provisioned by TDS Telecom Extreme 300 Fiber internet service. Internet speeds during testing were typically 280 megabits per second (Mbps) down and 120 Mbps up, according to Speedtest.net.

Online backup vs. online syncing vs. online storage

Cloud-backup services aren't the same as online-syncing services like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud or OneDrive. An online-syncing service creates a cloud-based mirror of a specific set of files or folders on your device, and pushes out identical copies of those files to all of your linked devices so that you can have immediate access to them.

Network cables plugged into servers.

(Image credit: asharkyu/Shutterstock)

Cloud-backup services are simpler. They continuously or periodically copy all or most of the files and folders on your computer to their own cloud servers. Your data stays on those servers until you need it, and with luck, you never will. Most cloud-backup services offer generous amounts of storage for a subscription fee that is much cheaper, gigabyte for gigabyte, than an online-syncing service.

Cheapest of all are cloud-storage services such as Box or Google Cloud. These let you offload files you don't immediately need to online servers, freeing up space on your hard drive. These can be dirt-cheap, sometimes as little as a few pennies per month per gigabyte, but there's often a fee to download files again. (The assumption is that you will never need to download all the files.) Backblaze has its own very affordable cloud-storage service called B2.

Encryption and differences

All of the cloud-backup services we tested in 2018 — Acronis True Image, Backblaze, Carbonite Safe, IDrive Personal, SpiderOak One and Zoolz Cloud Backup — protect your data with industry-standard encryption. They also let you encrypt your data yourself with your own private key before uploading the data, although only SpiderOak makes this the default option. (But if you lose your private key, the cloud-backup service can't recover your data.)

Combination lock resting on a circuit board.

(Image credit: eamesBot/Shutterstock)

Otherwise, cloud-backup services can vary greatly. Some let you back up system files and applications, some back up smartphones and tablets as well as hard drives, some provide software to back up to a local drive, some let you share files with other people, and some even provide file-syncing or dead-storage functions.

But while a couple of online-backup services let you back up an unlimited number of devices, and a few others give you unlimited online storage space, none gives you unlimited space for unlimited devices.

  • desertsweeper
    Acronis: It does work BUT....
    March 2018. I was just called in to assist a small company hit with Ransomware, all data destroyed on their server. I initiated the Acronis Cloud Recovery they used and it is not yet at 50% - THREE DAYS LATER!!!
    It needs to restore around 800GB spread across three drives from their HP Proliant Server. I guestimate they will be down for a whole solid week. This service is really only good for an additional layer of protection. Do not even think about using this for DR unless a really small quantity of data needs to be restored.
    Reply
  • Paul Wagenseil
    20802138 said:
    Acronis: It does work BUT....
    March 2018. I was just called in to assist a small company hit with Ransomware, all data destroyed on their server. I initiated the Acronis Cloud Recovery they used and it is not yet at 50% - THREE DAYS LATER!!!
    It needs to restore around 800GB spread across three drives from their HP Proliant Server. I guestimate they will be down for a whole solid week. This service is really only good for an additional layer of protection. Do not even think about using this for DR unless a really small quantity of data needs to be restored.

    I wouldn't recommend a consumer product to a small business. You'd want instant recovery if you're running a business, and there are commercial backup solutions that would be much better for those purposes.
    Reply
  • desertsweeper
    20802138 said:
    I wouldn't recommend a consumer product to a small business. You'd want instant recovery if you're running a business, and there are commercial backup solutions that would be much better for those purposes.

    I absolutely agree...but Acronis pushes this as a business solution and I want to warn anyone who thinks it is a solution that it is NOT. Use a good local backup solution first and foremost and test cloud solutions for an additional layer. And by "test" I mean actually do a test restore.
    Reply
  • rsj.milobadz
    I have been using iDrive for 2 years. Repeatedly, its drive engine service gets turned off. There is no notice that this has happened. So only by noticing that you have not received a"successful backup" notice (which you have to select) for a while and check things out, do you know this has happened and that your files have not been backed up as expected. Regardless of any features, this is very undesirable behavior and defeats the whole purpose of auto backup
    Reply
  • michelle.dunn
    I am looking for an online backup and I was all set to subscribe to Backblaze, but I was under the impression it's more of an online storage option as opposed to backup? I thought you had to keep it constantly connected to a physical computer that's always on. Which I don't have as I use my laptop as my main computer and everything else is on external drives. I'm looking for a second backup to Time Machine (once I can figure out how to partition an existing time machine drive to add another time machine backup. If that is not an option, then I will have to go get yet another time machine drive...)
    Reply
  • mperlitch
    I've been a Carbonite user for many years. It seemed to work well. I could access files from my tablet, phone or laptop (in addition to my desktop which was the system that was backed up).

    Last month, I lost a disk drive. I thought -- no problem, I've got Carbonite. What a mistake!

    I tried to restore my critical files (financial stuff for taxes, etc.) using their web interface.

    Unfortunately, that interface limits your downloads (number of files and size) too much to get much restored. And, several of the zip files I downloaded were corrupted (7-zip could get some of the files, but Windows couldn't even open the archives).

    When I looked at the "Carbonite drive" to do a full restore, it said I had no files saved on the failed drive.

    I called. After a long conversation with a tech, I was told there were problems on their end and they'd escalate it.

    After about a day or so, I finally spoke to the senior tech. Again, another long phone conversation. No luck. They can't restore my files. Many emails back and forth. Days pass. Finally, they said they'd send a hard drive with my files on them. They eventually did (I had problems getting it since they sent it USPS instead of FEDEX overnight or something reasonable).

    To make a long story short, it's two weeks later and I have the drive. It has files from 3 other hard drives on it, but NO FILES from the drive that had failed.

    The day before I finally got the drive, I got an unexpected call from another senior tech there. He magically got my files restored online and I'm downloading them as we speak (it will take more than 2 days to get all the files restored).

    In the meantime, I see that another drive (about 1TB of stuff on it) shows 0 on Carbonite, even though a month or so ago I was able to access files on it!!! Carbonite said it "didn't look like the drive was selected for backup" -- BULL.

    Anyway, I can't recommend them. Website performance is poor. Customer service is inept. Service is unreliable.
    Reply
  • budtugglie
    No consideration of OS supported? Lack of Linux support eliminates the tool. It's not simply a Windows world anymore!
    Reply
  • tonyzorin
    Any opinions on Cloudberry's backup app?
    Reply
  • Paul Wagenseil
    20916069 said:
    No consideration of OS supported? Lack of Linux support eliminates the tool. It's not simply a Windows world anymore!

    We discuss the various operating systems each service supports in the individual reviews. The only one that has Linux client software is SpiderOak, which has applications for Red Hat and Debian-based distros. Acronis has a Linux-based rescue disk which can be used in a pinch, but that's not recommended by the company.

    Reply
  • Paul Wagenseil
    21032455 said:
    Any opinions on Cloudberry's backup app?

    CloudBerry is just backup software, not a full backup service that runs its own servers (or rents space from Amazon, as Zoolz does). We might consider it for the next round of reviews.
    Reply