Experts agree that all computer owners should use some kind of backup system to protect their important data. If your files are stored only on a computer, you are only a theft, fire or hard-drive failure away from losing everything. Online backup services are a good alternative to backups on CDs, DVDs, flash drives or external hard drives, though most experts recommend backing up both locally (to an external hard drive or flash drive) as well as to an online service for absolute peace of mind.
Online backup services allow users to store their most important or bloated files (such as music and videos) on a secure remote server. Some allow you to sync files across multiple computers. If you don't have many files, some leading online backup providers provide a free account with 2 GB of storage. That's enough to store about 200 MP3s or hundreds of digital pictures. Some of the top file synchronization services up that to 5 GB or even 7 GB. If you need more space, paid subscriptions are available that offer more storage. This is good choice if you want to back up the contents of your entire computer. Many online backup services create local backups as well, automatically copying your data to an external hard drive or another computer as well as to the company's servers.
We found a number of good reviews for online backup services, but details can get outdated quickly. As a result, we focus on the most recent reviews. Several excellent comparative tests come from British sources such as Pocket-Lint.com, PC Pro and MacFormat. These sources conduct group tests, rate each online backup provider and declare the best choices overall. Computerworld.com, NotebookReview.com, PCMag.com and Laptop Magazine also have a good number of backup reviews and roundups. Aside from a few blog posts, ConsumerReports.org isn't particularly helpful when evaluating online backup services. User reviews are scarce because most of these services aren't sold by third-party retailers, meaning there are few places to post user reviews, although a comparison review of file synchronization services on TheVerge.com receives nearly 600 comments from opinionated users.
Read the fine print before subscribing to any online backup service and make sure the details are right for you. For example, although none of the top sources review MyPC Backup (*Est. $10 per month for unlimited storage), the service earns top nods from TopTenReviews.com and NextAdvisor.com. Unfortunately, pricing information on MyPC Backup's website is unclear -- instead, visitors are encouraged "Sign up, it's free!"
Digging around the web shows pricing to be about $10 a month for unlimited storage, but MyPC Backup's own help pages say that the pricing page can be confusing; rather than listing the total price for a discounted two-year subscription, MyPC Backup lists the price as $4.95 for a duration of two years, then charges users the full $118.80 upfront for 24 months' worth of service. Another worrying FAQ page on the website explains why the company continues to take a monthly fee out of your PayPal account even after you switch to another payment method, while others try to explain why extra charges appear on your credit card.
MyPC Backup also charges extra fees for many of its features. If you want to change the backup schedule from daily to hourly, it'll cost you an extra $20 a year; increasing file versioning from seven days to the industry-standard 30 days will set you back yet another $17.95 a year. Every additional computer you want to back up costs an extra $25 a year. Plus, MyPC Backup only backs up your documents folder by default and caps individual file sizes at 3GB for paid users.
Without reading the fine print, you wouldn't have known any of that, and you would have ended up stuck with a cloud storage solution that is inferior in many ways to the top-rated online backup services.