An online backup service's speed depends on how quickly it can encrypt, compress, and upload files to its servers. This should be of particular concern if you need to back up (or restore) a large amount of data. A high-performance backup service also minimizes its effect on network and system resources. Make sure to check out our speed test results in the review of any service you're contemplating using. Backup speed should not be the sole determinant of which online backup service you use, but fast upload speeds can certainly make initial and subsequent backups less disruptive.
Some services go above and beyond, including extra capabilities that improve the experience. For example, a few offer disk courier services for bulk uploads and restores via an external drive that the company ships and manages. A couple of these services throw in a local backup component, too. If you go that route, you should take a look at our roundup of best external hard drives. Some of these services can even track your device's location and let you remotely wipe it in case it's lost or stolen.

An online backup service isn't much use if it doesn't make the process of restoring or recovering your data quick and simple. For example, a service should offer search tools for finding particular files in your backup. It's also desirable for a service to be able to replicate an entire folder-tree structure so that it can help you recover from bigger data losses. Keep in mind that if you buy a plan that covers just one computer, you may have to transfer the account to a new PC if you ever switch your main device or if you need to restore data from a damaged computer to a replacement.


You can either tear out your hair when a disaster strikes your hard drive or you can prepare for it ahead of time, but data loss is as inevitable as death and taxes. An online backup service is one of the best ways to protect yourself against such threats as a crashed hard drive or accidental deletion. Natural disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes can also spell the end of your digital media and documents. Even if you're among the very few who diligently perform local backups at regular intervals, you could still lose data if you don't store backups offsite.
If you’re in a place where you don’t really have internet, but you don’t want to use up the data that’s still available on your mobile device you can still get access to the information that you want. Downloading and watching videos can eat away a lot of data from your phone plan or it could take up a whole lot of bandwidth that you really don’t want to be using. Instead, you could have the video already downloaded and ready to play without you having to continue using up the data.
Online backup services scan your hard drive for files worthy of protecting, encrypt them for security, and send them up to the company's online servers. Once your files are uploaded, you can access and restore your data from anywhere. Though there's some overlap, online backup services shouldn't be confused with cloud storage and file syncing services like Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and SugarSync. Those services do store files in the cloud, but they aren't designed to automatically protect all important documents and media files, let alone system files. Their strategy is generally to sync just one folder with all its subfolders to the cloud, and in some cases, to offer online collaborative document editing. Many backup services offer folder-syncing capabilities, but few syncing services offer full-scale backup functionality.
SpiderOak's beauty is that it's a combination cloud syncing and storage service as well as a backup client all in one. Unlike some of the other services though, you'll have to pay for the storage you use. You get 2GB for free just for signing up, and you can get up to 10GB by referring friends. SpiderOak Plus nets you 100GB for $10/mo to use for syncing and backups, and every 100GB after that is another $10/mo. Plus, you can connect as many computers to any SpiderOak account as you want, so you're not paying by the system. You can read more about SpiderOak's plans here.
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Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week. Don't just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is—and make your case for it—in the discussions below.
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