The best cloud backup services make it easy for you to back up your files and folders online and access them from mobile and desktop devices should there be a need to recover the data.
If running regular backups is important for home users, especially during the current new normal, it's essential in business: losing even a small fraction of your most important data, for a brief period of time, could still be a real disaster; especially with a lot of privacy laws like European GDPR.
You could try to protect yourself by copying files to rugged SSD, USB flash drives or to external hard drives, but that takes time and effort. It also leaves you vulnerable to fire, theft and hardware failure.
There's also the option to simply use back up software with a file sync solution, especially when connected to a cloud storage service, but that might not work so well for larger businesses. Below are our top two cloud backup providers with the complete list following further down below
Best Cloud Backup Services of 2021
Choosing the right backup solution can seem tricky, as there's a lot to consider, given the rising threat of ransomware. How much storage space do you really need, for instance? Must the service support versioning (where multiple versions of documents are kept)? How should this be managed?
Security is important, too. What sort of encryption options do you get? How is access to your data managed? What options are there for managing your users, seeing what they're doing, making sure they're complying with your policies and procedures? Are files easy to recover and download as part of a disaster recovery solution?
You're probably not going to get by with a free account for business, but there are plenty of business providers covering all sorts of different scales, ready to deliver the extras you and your company need. Here are some of the best.
How did we choose the best online backup services?
We looked at the features and the quality of service of the cloud backup services when we reviewed them. Number-based tests like upload or download speeds tend to be anecdotal because of so many variables involved so while they are performed, we only note any outliers (super fast speeds or very slow performances). More important for us are the general feel of the service (either when using a web browser or a dedicated client or a mobile app where appropriate), security (file encryption, ransomware protection) and value for money.
- Also have a look at the best cloud storage services
IDrive is a versatile cloud backup service which does its best to cater for just about every possible need.
You're covered on PCs running anything from Windows 2000 onwards. There's Windows plus Mac support, Linux backup scripts, iOS and Android mobile clients, and backup support for Windows Server, Microsoft SQL, Exchange, SharePoint and Oracle.
The baseline 250GB storage may not be enough for everyone (except for business users), but hybrid backup support – the ability to save some files locally – allows you to be more selective about which files head for the cloud, and which stay nearby.
Once your data is online it can be accessed via a web interface, synced with computers or mobiles, and there's even a mechanism for sharing files via email, Facebook and Twitter.
IDrive Express is a feature which enables quickly backing up or restoring your system via a physically shipped drive. Unusually, the Business plan allows three free backups per year.
Despite all this functionality, the ability to create sub-accounts for your storage space and a straightforward web-based management console helps you keep track of what's going on.
Overall it's a likable package, and if your budget is non-existent then also consider IDrive Personal. There's no server backup or sub-accounts, but the basic features and 5GB of storage can be yours for free.
- Read our full IDrive review
Backblaze has been delivering easy, low-cost backup services to consumers for years, so it's no surprise that its business products have the same focus on simplicity and value.
There are no limits on capacity, for instance, or bandwidth, or indeed file size. There's no need to browse multiple service levels to try to figure out what's right for you: Backblaze Business is just a single plan which offers unlimited backup space for one computer, at a flat annual rate.
The backup process is just as straightforward, with the program initially backing up all your data – which can even be on external drives attached to the PC, or on USB keys – and then backing up individual files as they change. Your data is then accessible online via a user-friendly web interface and a mobile app.
Bonus features include versioning, where file changes are kept for four weeks. Encryption is in place, as you'd expect, on the security front, and an anti-theft feature records the IP address of your computer when it connects. Backup data can be sent on a flash drive or USB hard drive for speedy restores, anywhere in the world. Send the drive back within 30 days and Backblaze will refund the price in full.
The service now includes some handy central management tools. Admins can assign users to separate groups for custom billing, view details about their backup status and settings, and receive alerts on problems.
There's even built-in support for Backblaze's B2 cloud backup, an Amazon S3-like service which backs up servers and NAS (B2 integration also allows for secure file sharing, should that feature be useful to you).
Backblaze delivers solid mid-range backup performance, and while some business users might want more, it will be fine for most purposes. Overall, this service is a great value proposition in terms of the features provided for the subscription fee, and particularly the lack of restrictions and unlimited storage.
- Read our full Backblaze Business review
NordLocker has all the bases covered when it comes to rock-solid security. It takes encryption very seriously, deploying the modern-day Argon2, AES256, and ECC encryption protocols (with XChaCha20, EdDSA and Poly1305) that the security community is fond of. Everything is zero knowledge – no one can decrypt your files but you, with your master password (or recovery code).
You can use NordLocker completely free of charge, if you can make do with 5GB of cloud storage space – or if you don't need to use cloud storage at all. There's no limit on the amount of local encryption you can carry out, so you can throw as much into the NordLocker folder as you like without having to worry about it (assuming you don't run out of drive space, of course).
As usual with these services, you can pay a year at a time, or month by month for a significantly higher price. The monthly fee is $7.99 if you don't want to commit for a whole year, while the annual fee is $47.88 ($3.99 a month). That gets you 500GB of secure cloud storage, which is fairly generous.
NordLocker works really well and really quickly for encrypting files on a local disk, and the software is nicely designed, but it doesn't do much more than that – this simplicity might be a positive or a negative for you, depending on your requirements.
- Read our full NordLocker review
pCloud offers a regular backup and sync service, in which the files and folders you select from your device are automatically backed up to the cloud and synced in real-time. Any changes you make to files and folders on your device will be automatically updated in your cloud account.
If you delete a file from your device, it will go into the cloud trash folder, which is automatically emptied after 30 days for paid plans (or 15 days with free plans). However, if you pay for the Extended File History add-on, you can save file versions that are up to a year old.
As with other cloud services, pCloud is a cross-platform option that works for desktop (Windows, macOS, Linux) as well as mobile devices (Android, iOS) and has a web app, too. There's a lot to like here, then, although do note that those who want online collaboration features won't find any here (pCloud isn't alone in that respect, of course, and many folks won't want these capabilities anyway).
What really sets pCloud apart from rivals is its pricing tiers. As with other cloud backup services you can pay annually, but lifetime subscription plans are available that could work out as tremendous value.
- Read our full pCloud review
Dropbox Business is another popular cloud storage provider that has options for individuals or business. While some people swear by the individual Dropbox plan, it's really the business plans we'll focus on here.
In terms of features Dropbox Business offers an extensive amount of storage, with the most basic plan offering a huge 5TB capacity. Features include a single admin login, as well as 180-days data retention, 256-bit AES and SSL/TLS encryption, control over user permissions, file-locking, watermarking, as well as file syncing.
The Advanced plan offers unlimited storage as well as catering for file sizes of up to 100GB. On top of all the features included in the Standard plan, there are a host of team admin and management options, such as SSO to simplify things.
All in all, Dropbox offers a great range of tools and a huge amount of storage, which makes it an option worth considering for whatever type of cloud storage needs you have.
- Read our full Dropbox Business review
Some business backup providers try to compete on functionality, others on price, but CrashPlan for Small Business aims to do both. The service combines a low price with a lengthy list of features and controls, including some that are rarely found elsewhere.
The package works on Linux, as well as Windows PCs and Macs, for instance. There's unlimited storage space, including unlimited versioning, and it's easy to find documents by date, time or version (such a useful feature that it could be a reason for choosing this product in itself).
The service is hugely customizable. You can have continuous or scheduled backups. Online destinations, local, or both. And it’s possible to use your preferred encryption or compression settings, retention policies and more.
Some genuinely intelligent features help to enhance reliability. The package can watch for new documents in your chosen folders, for instance, ensuring files are protected as soon as possible.
All this can be managed from a powerful web console. You're able to monitor backup progress and settings, configure clients, enforce policies and more, although notably this is desktop-only – the console doesn't support mobile browsers.
There might be cheaper packages than CrashPlan for Small Business around, but on an overall level, they don't get close to its power and functionality. If you're a desktop user and need anything more than the backup basics, CrashPlan is definitely one for your shortlist.
- Read our full CrashPlan review
While Microsoft OneDrive offers 10GB of free space with the freebie user plan, when combined with a Microsoft 365 subscription, OneDrive becomes a juggernaut of cloud storage for your office files.
Whether you're running (or are employed by) a large business, or any other large organization, chances are you're working with Microsoft Office via a subscription with Microsoft 365. This means having access to the 1TB per user cloud storage through OneDrive, which is a major boon due to Microsoft 365 documents autosaving to the cloud.
However, if you're part of a smaller business, you may be trying to save costs with cheaper alternatives to Microsoft Office, while paying through the nose for a backup solution - in which case, consider joining both together with a Microsoft 365 subscription, as it really does make it easier to have all of your office documents saved in the same cloud account.
Of course, the limitation here is that most Microsoft Office files are not easily going to fill that 1TB storage, and you probably won't be able to backup your servers or other key data from other non-MS applications to it. Even so, it's worth remembering just how useful OneDrive is with a Microsoft 365 subscription, because a lot of people still don't realize what a vast amount of cloud storage you get with it.
Carbonite Safe does deliver plenty for your money, allowing for the management of just about every aspect of your backups, keeping training and other hassles to a minimum. Even the initial backup is largely automatic, and incremental backups then upload changed files only.
Encryption is vital in keeping data safe once it has left your system, and Carbonite uses multiple technologies, including TLS during transfer and 128-bit Blowfish when stored.
All your files are visible from a web interface, iOS and Android apps, and there are various ways to restore them: individually, or all, and everything in-between, along with deleted files or previous versions (for up to a month), or everything that's changed after a point in time (handy if you've been hit by ransomware).
Put it all together and Carbonite Safe is a quality package, although there are cheaper services around.
- Read our full Carbonite Safe review
SOS Online Backup includes a host of features which are premium add-ons elsewhere. There's no limit on the number of devices you can back up, for instance. Servers are supported, too. SQL Server, Exchange, SharePoint? No problem at all.
The core product removes many of the annoying restrictions you'll find elsewhere. There's unlimited versioning, no file size limits, no maximum retention times, and the service backs up just about everything: PCs from Vista up, Macs, iOS and Android devices, flash drives, network drives and more.
SOS Online Backup offers an optional per-user encryption key which is never stored in the cloud, ensuring your data can't be read by anyone else. That's a major security plus, if you can put up with the usability issues. (You can't browse or access files from the web, and if you lose the key there's no way to recover them at all). However, do note that the company was the victim of a major data breach in 2020, exposing some 135 million user records - so let's hope lessons have been learned.
In day-to-day use, the SOS Online Backup clients don't always deliver quite as much functionality as we'd like. They're still above average, though, and the service scores where it matters, being both fast and very easy-to-use. There's a 15-day free trial if you're interested in taking a look.
- Read our full SOS Online Backup review
SugarSync Business is a convenient file sync and cloud backup service with one or two handy enterprise-friendly extensions. The core of the package is its powerful and configurable sync service. You choose your folders, they're uploaded and then backed up in real-time, giving easy access to your data from PCs, Macs, Android or iOS devices.
There's considerable control over file sharing. You can create public links to share data, invite specific people only, allow file viewing only, or give them editing permission, too. SugarSync's key advantage over similar services is that it's not just based around a single folder. You're able to choose any folder or folder tree, and have everything backed up and synced in the same way.
Opting for the Business plan takes the package further with 1TB of storage space for up to three users. Remote management enables the creation of user accounts with storage limits and permissions, and there's a bonus option to remotely wipe one of your systems.
Limited versioning support might be an issue for some. SugarSync only maintains the last five versions of a file, not much of a safety margin, and disappointing when some services have no fixed limits at all.
On balance, SugarSync Business doesn't have quite as many features as other products, but the strong sync and file sharing technologies have kept it on our shortlist.
- Read our full SugarSync Business review
How to choose a cloud backup service
Greg Lissy, VP Products at SolarWinds MSP, shares his views on how businesses can choose the best cloud backup solution
A backup plan for a business is like an insurance policy for your data, so choosing the right provider isn’t something to be taken lightly. Low-priced consumer-grade products may be tempting, but if your business depends on access to your data, reliability is essential.
Check out the backup vendor’s performance and reputation. What do their customers say? How quickly do they get systems back up and running again? If something goes wrong, how much downtime can you afford before your business is seriously impacted?
Another critical consideration when choosing a cloud backup provider is where, specifically, your backups are stored. Many businesses must comply with regulatory requirements about keeping data in country, so be sure your vendor can meet your requirements around data sovereignty.
Finally, it’s important to realize that security is a big part of backup, and that backup is an essential ingredient in your overall security plan. Insist on secure data transfer to and from the cloud storage location, data encryption, and role-based access that ensures only authorized personnel can access or restore data.
While backup is critical, it’s typically your last line of defence. Be sure it’s complemented by a robust defence strategy including managed antivirus, web protection, patch management, and mail filtering. If one vendor offers a full layered security portfolio, you’ll be in an even better position, as you’ll have one trusted partner to rely on in your time of need.
Why backing up data is crucial
Check Point Research (CPR) revealed that with an increase in phishing and ransomware attacks, human error and a greater reliance on the cloud and enterprise networks, regular backups are essential for organisations to protect their data.
Preventive measures do not always work: As cybercriminals continue to target the remote workforce, companies have started to expand their cybersecurity strategy through robust defense software, both for the corporate network and the cloud, to update systems and apps on a regular basis, to install a VPN and to increase levels of protection on employees' devices, as well as to provide cybersecurity training for workers. While these measures do considerably increase the level of protection for a business, it is still possible that they could fail to stop an attack, as cybercriminals constantly develop new ways to get round the defenses. It is essential to have a backup plan so that no data is lost in the event of a cyberattack. If a company becomes the victim of a double ransomware extortion attack, having a backup system in place gives them the chance to quickly restore things back to normal.
Cyberattacks are evolving: Cyberattacks are evolving every day and cybercriminals are constantly striving to find security loopholes. Companies are often unprepared for new ransomware, phishing emails, and malware. This is why, despite the updates and protective barriers they may have in place, new generation cyberattacks could still get through these defenses and achieve their objectives.
Data theft puts a company's reputation at risk: Losing information by exposing customers' personal data can have irreparable consequences for a business in terms of reputation and financial loss. Since GDPR came in a few years ago, allowing customer’s personal documents to be compromised can lead to litigation.
The cloud becomes another attack vector: It is true that the cloud has brought great advantages to companies, like reducing costs and allowing remote working. However, storing data on cloud platforms exponentially increases the attack surface through which cybercriminals could gain access to the corporate network. So, it’s a good idea, in fact it’s essential to carry out regular manual backups of the information stored in the cloud, in case anything outside the company's control might happen.
Internal dangers are sometimes undetectable: Unfortunately, even with all possible cybersecurity measures and the best protection software in place, the responsibility of users is fundamental. It is essential to train employees on the different techniques and correct approach to cybersecurity. Instilling in employees the importance of having up-to-date backups in the event of an unforeseen event or cyber-attack can be one of the best defenses.