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5 Best Online Backups for Windows

UPDATE: You’ll find a more up-to-date list of online backups for Windows on our sister site, BestBackups.com.

If you speak to individuals who’ve provided consumer-level IT support for any length of time, you’ll probably find that one of their biggest frustrations is seeing people continually fail to stick to any regular regime for backing up their data.

The old adage that “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” is very relevant here. One demographic of computer users who do tend to backup their files religiously are those who have suffered an (eventually inevitable) hard drive failure and lost some precious data. These people don’t tend to make the same mistake twice.

The wide adoption of cloud services, such as Microsoft’s OneDrive, has blurred the boundaries between cloud synchronisation and full system backups, However, even if you use this on your Windows PC, or a service like DropBox, you really should supplement it with other backup methods, such as a local backup (to an external hard drive) or a true online backup service. The latter is what we concentrate on here.

This round-up lists our top five recommended online backup solutions for Windows PCs. All of them are surprisingly inexpensive (or even free, to a point), and shouldn’t be too hard to set up, even if you’re a technical novice.

We’ve made a point of paying attention to privacy when considering these solutions. It’s common sense to want to know exactly what happens to your backed up data, and who could potentiapaperslly have access to it. When it comes to the “authorities,” there’s really no knowing what they might be capable of, as the succession of recent scandals seems to suggest. However, some of the companies offering these services are secure to the point of not even being able to access your stored data themselves. If privacy and security is important to you, you’ll want to choose one of the services that treats this as a priority.

It’s worth noting that all of these solutions are really rather good in their own way, and the low cost of entry (or free trials in some cases) mean you can try more than one until you meet your exact needs.

You’ll find plenty more information about online backup solutions in the Ultimate Online Backup Guide.

Summary

Rank Provider Starting price Review Link

1

CrashPlan Logo $ 4 / mo 9
Read Review >
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2

BackBlaze Logo $ 5 / mo 8
Read Review >
Visit Site

3

Wuala Logo 99 cents / mo 8
Read Review >
Visit Site

4

SpiderOak Logo $ 0.00 / mo 8
Read Review >
Visit Site

5

Cyphertite Logo $ 0.00 / mo 7
Read Review >
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Editor’s Choice

Winner – CrashPlan

CrashPlan Logo

Key Points: Provides for local and off-site backups as well as cloud backups, Good encryption, Free demo available, Decent documentation

Crashplan, by Code 42, is a rather different beast to these other online backup services, as online backup is just one facet of the service.

Crashplan is intended to be used as a complete backup solution for locally stored backups, copies of data in remote locations of your choice and (as we discuss here) backups to Crashplan’s cloud storage. It’s worthy of note that you can use Crashplan for the former two backup methods without handing over any money – it’s just cloud storage that you pay for.

Crashplan is also a more “involved” kind of service from the point of view of the fact that the company offer different options for individuals, small businesses and large companies.

Despite this, the company manages to deliver ease of use, with the service hiding its complexity well. Furthermore, it’s reasonably private, with client-side encryption, and no plain-text transmission of passwords. However, Crashplan staff are only locked out of client data should you choose to add to the encryption with a private key.

CrashPlan

We don’t think you should be put off by the complexity of CrashPlan. As we say, it’s hidden well, and if you want to also set up some reliable local and off-site backups, you could use this as a one-stop product for everything. With a free demo available, you have nothing to lose by trying – and the company even offers telephone support – a big plus point that helps it to the top of this table.

Visit Crashplan »


2. BackBlaze

BackBlaze Logo

Key Points: Backs up your complete Windows PC, Secure, but not a true “zero knowledge” system, Very simple to use, Reassuring “courier a replacement drive” service available

There’s no rule to say that every Windows online backup solution should go about things in the same way, and BackBlaze is the service in this roundup that really isn’t scared to innovate.

Most online backup services require you to select the files and folders you want to backup. This is fine if you’re organised, and also helps you contain how much data storage you require “in the cloud,” but it’s not ideal for the non-technical and / or absentminded.

BackBlaze instead backs up EVERYTHING on your Windows machine, and it doesn’t matter how much stuff you have, as the storage provided is unlimited. This way of doing things obviously won’t appeal to everyone, but for some it’s probably more desirable.

BackBlaze even provides innovative additions like offering to FedEx out a recovery hard drive containing your data in the event of a disaster.

BackBlaze Windows

If you’re about to ask “what’s the catch?” it’s perhaps fair to say that ease-of-use trumps privacy with this service, even though BackBlaze uses RSA 2048 encryption that encrypts data before it is sent up to the data centre. The slight catch is that BackBlaze DON’T state that they can’t access your data “in-house,” unless you secure your own key with a password, which they don’t recommend. We are not saying the service isn’t secure enough for most, but if you prefer a “zero knowledge” approach, such as that offered by SpiderOak, you won’t find it here.

However, for many people, the balance here will be just right – and if you’re someone who doesn’t want to have to be responsible for remembering which files and folders to backup, this could be the solution for you!

Visit BackBlaze »


3. Wuala

Wuala Logo
Key Points: Perfect balance between ease-of-use and security, Client-side encryption, Known brand.

With online backup seemingly now being offered by everyone from the likes of Microsoft and Apple to supermarket and electronics chains, the market can seem unfamiliar and mind-boggling. This Windows backup solution is provided by an arm of LaCie, who you’ve probably heard of as they’ve been making external hard drives and other such backup devices for a long time.

As you read through our round-up, you’ll notice that online backup services tend to choose where to settle on the line between ease-of-use and privacy and security. One of the reasons Wuala does so well here is that it finds a sensible position in the middle.

The first thing Wuala does right is employ what’s know as “client side encryption.” This means that the data you backup is encrypted on your own Windows computer before it’s even uploaded to the company’s servers. Many other companies do the encryption during or after the upload (or, in some scary cases, not at all!) The encryption used is 256 bit AES and nobody can access your password – not even the Wuala staff.

This commitment to security is probably adequate for most consumer users, although it IS fair to say there are companies that are even more security obsessed, which may be a better fit if you are similarly preoccupied with privacy.

Wuala

The core functionality available with these solutions is all rather similar, but Wuala includes everything most users will need. There’s file versioning, the ability to share stored files (helpfully with no registration), and a cross-platform file sync system, akin to DropBox.

Wuala offers a seven-day moneyback guarantee, so there’s no harm in giving it a try. Our only significant dislike for the service relates to the cost once you get into significant data volumes. If you want to back up 100GB or more of data, you can find better value elsewhere.

Visit Wuala »

4. SpiderOak

SpiderOak Logo

Key Points: “Zero knowledge” approach to privacy, Free 2GB version, Best in class documentation, Refined software

Earlier in the article we mentioned that some people really are obsessed with online privacy. If this applies to you, then SpiderOak is perhaps the perfect service.

SpiderOak works on the principle of “zero knowledge privacy.” They claim that nobody but you can access the data stored on their servers, including “a government” (although the cynical might prefer to take a skeptical view on that!)

It all works in quite a similar way to Wuala. The system uses pre-encrypted passwords so they are never sent as text. Like Wuala, AES256 is the choice of encryption. On the subject of encryption, in this case it seems to happen during upload, but your data also remains encrypted once reaching the SpiderOak datacentres, hence the fact that nobody at the company can access your data.

It is worthy of note that if you’re particularly concerned with privacy, another of our writers found some flaws with how SpiderOak works, when looking at backup services with privacy specifically in mind. You can read about those here.

SpiderOak

We think it’s fair to say that SpiderOak is the techie / enthusiast choice here. It’s highly configurable, and there’s access to plenty of advanced configuration options in the Windows client. However, this is beautifully offset by the notably high quality of the documentation, which spans everything from PDF manual downloads and video guides to knowledge-base and FAQ sections.

All the necessary features are here, and best of all you can try SpiderOak completely free, albeit with a storage limit of 2GB. We suspect you’ll be happily upgrading your account before too long!

Visit SpiderOak »


5. Cyphertite

Cyphertite Logo

Key Points: A generous level of free storage (8GB), Good detail on the security offered, Perhaps more of a “techies choice.”

As you can see from the logo above, Cyphertite describes itself as “high security online backup,” which suggests a product in a similar league to the aforementioned SpiderOak.

Cyphertite state that your “underlying data is completely inaccessible to us,” suggesting a “zero knowledge” system. They also state that their servers are hosted by themselves and never outsourced. Finally, they offer access to a highly detailed white paper, which explains exactly how their security and privacy model works.
What they don’t say (at least very prominently) is whether or not client-side encryption takes place.

Cyphertite

Despite a fairly minimalist home-page, it’s not too long before a browse of the Cyphertite website lands you in a Wiki support section that’s very much in line with the “open source” model the product is developed in line with. On this basis we do think this solution is more suited to technical people and those who want to really get to the nuts and bolts of how everything works. For novices, we’d be inclined to suggest a rather more simplified option.

Visit Cyphertite »


Conclusion

If you’re looking for an online backup solution for Windows, you have plenty of choice.

Every solution here does fundamentally the same thing, but what’s interesting is to review the differences in exactly how each provider pitches and delivers their service. There are subtle (or substantial) differences in all products here, but it’s you the customer who wins, as you should be able to select a service that meets your desired requirements – both for privacy, and for ease of use.

Summary

Rank Provider Starting price Review Link

1

CrashPlan Logo $ 4 / mo 9
Read Review >
Visit Site

2

BackBlaze Logo $ 5 / mo 8
Read Review >
Visit Site

3

Wuala Logo 99 cents / mo 8
Read Review >
Visit Site

4

SpiderOak Logo $ 0.00 / mo 8
Read Review >
Visit Site

5

Cyphertite Logo $ 0.00 / mo 7
Read Review >
Visit Site

Ben Taylor Ben was a geek long before "geek chic," learning the ropes on BBC Micros, before moving on to Atari STs and IBM compatibles. He was "online" using a 1200bps modem before the Internet was even a thing. Now, after two decades in the industry, he writes about technology for various publications, operates a few websites of his own, and runs a bespoke IT consultancy based in London.

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