Best Cloud Backup Services 2018

Product Use case Rating
iDrive Personal Best Overall 8
Backblaze Best Value 8
Acronis True Image Best for Power Users 8
Carbonite Safe 6
SpiderOak One 6
Zoolz Cloud Backup 5

You're likely backing up your computer's contents to an external hard drive (and if not, you should be), but that's not enough. Both your PC and your backup drive could be lost to theft, flood or fire. Cloud-backup services, also known as online-backup services, provide an offsite repository for your valuable information that never goes offline and is available from anywhere.

Based on more than 40 hours of testing, our  top pick among top cloud-backup services is IDrive ($13.90 for the first year for Tom's Guide readers), which 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.

Our value pick is the very user-friendly Backblaze, which gives you unlimited storage space for just $50 per year, but backs up only one machine (and an attached external drive). Backblaze is the best choice if you have a single computer and just want to back it up without worrying about the details.

How We Tested and Rated

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 a massive initial backup happens only once, it can take days or even weeks. 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, get bonus points.

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.

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, 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.

Backblaze is still the cheapest online-backup solution, and 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. But Backblaze is not ideal for anyone with multiple machines to back up, unless you have nearly unlimited storage needs, and it has few extra features.

Acronis True Image is a disk-imaging program with a cloud-backup component tacked on. But it's not a kludgeit'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. The downsides are that Acronis is expensive, has a confusing pricing structure and doesn't back up external or networked drives.

Other Backup Services Reviewed

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.

SpiderOak was the first online-backup (or online-syncing) service to make sure the customer held a private, exclusive encryption key. Most other online-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.

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.

Online Backup vs. Online Syncing

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.

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. 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.

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.)

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

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  • 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.
  • Paul Wagenseil
    Anonymous 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.
  • desertsweeper
    Anonymous 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.
  • 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
  • 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...)
  • 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.
  • budtugglie
    No consideration of OS supported? Lack of Linux support eliminates the tool. It's not simply a Windows world anymore!