Best Online Backups

By Peter Zaborszky

Important Features To Look For When You Shop Online Backup Services – 2014 update

If you have decided to entrust your data to a third party backup provider, then it is likely that you will be with that provider for quite some time. Possibly years. Backup is not something you can easily switch. Once you commit, you are looking at the long term. So you better get the one with the right features for you.

The only problem is that there are a huge number of available choices in online backup services. The choice can be so overwhelming that you won’t know what to look for. There are features you can see across multiple providers, and there are features which are unique and exclusive to particular providers too. Regardless of all of the overwhelming choices, this guide is actually meant to guide you (no pun intended) in getting the provider with the right features for you.

Know Your Needs

No two people can have exact same needs. Depending on your business or personal requirements, what you need will change. If you are storing personal files, then your needs will most likely focus on: storage space, price (here’s our seperate guide on price), user friendliness and security. But if you are looking for business backups, then there are other things you will have to look for, such as industry regulations compliance, better security and such. The more you know about your needs, the better off you will be in choosing the features that are important for you. I cannot do that for you, and while I can talk about some important features here, you will have to make the ultimate decision.


Security is the first and most important feature you will have to look at when you are hunting for an online backup provider. In fact we’ve written a separate article about online backup securityWhether you are going for personal storage or business backups, good security is a must-have feature from any provider. At an absolute minimum, the provider must use 128-bit or 256-bit encryption of your files. If they can provide encryption over the data transmission, as well as on the server, it’s better.

Security is not just about cyber security, so also look for providers with strong physical security at their data centres. 24/7 guards, biometric access to servers room, protection from natural disasters and power interruptions – all are important security features.

Web Portal

Any decent provider will give you access to your files and account through their web portal. So even if you don’t have your backup software installed, or want to access a file from somewhere remote, then you can just log-in to your account from a browser and download the files you need. So, you will need to have at least the ability to download the files and perhaps manage some basic file operations through the Web.

Mobile Apps

Mobile apps are another important feature that many online backup providers now offer. Basically, you get an app for your iOS or Android devices. The apps will let you check, manage and download your backed up files through your mobile devices. Some apps even allow backing up your mobile devices onto your online backup account. Having such apps give you mobility and better access to your own files.

Backup Speed

Depending on your backup size, the initial backup will take quite some time, no doubt. The speed will also depend on your internet connection speed. However, there are providers with capped-speed. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it may not make use of your own internet connection speed to the fullest and will also make your backups slow. So you will want to look for providers that won’t cap the transfer speed. Not only that. You will want to look for providers with faster connections to their servers as it will really improve your backup speed. For this, you can search around for other customers’ feedbacks or just sign up for trial service and test out the speed with 1GB or 2GB of data.

Backup Routines

This is actually more of a backup software feature your online backup provider will give you. Basically, you can setup routines for different types of file formats and sizes. So you can set the software to backup your photos and important work documents every one hour, while the rest backs up once a day. Some software allows you to setup multiple routines, while some will only let you do one. The only way to test is to go for a trial service.


Backup software should let you filter the file formats you want to backup, the formats you want to skip, and the sizes you may want to skip as well. Basically, filtering gives users more power and actions than the average person. Without filtering, you will be left at the mercy of what the software decides it should backup. You may be stuck with unimportant files that just get backed up for no real reason. Most decent providers will have pretty good filtering options built-in.

Advanced Backup

Most backup software is pre-configured to backup the Documents directory and anything under it, including photosmusics, and documents. However, not all of us have important files stored under those directories, nor those are only files we want to backup. We may want to backup files in other locations as well. If this is the case, then the backup software should be able to allow you to customize your backup settings so that you can backup whatever files you want.

File Format Limitations

This doesn’t apply to all providers, but some. There are providers that won’t let you upload certain file formats, for reasons unknown. If you find one like this, it’s best that you avoid them unless you are absolutely sure that the disallowed file formats aren’t important for you now or in the foreseeable future. Best to go with providers that don’t impose such ridiculous limitations.

Easy Restore

After backing up your files regularly, there may come a time where you have to restore from your backups. It maybe because of a data disaster on your machine, or on a new machine. Regardless of the case, you will want to go with a provider that gives you easy restoration options. Some will give you options to download any and all files among your backups, while some will give you better and more advanced restoring options which will remember the files’ original paths and restore them accordingly.

Cross-Platform Compatibility

ou might be using just one platform (either Windows or Mac) for now but you never know when you may buy a computer using another platform as well. Assuming that you have a Mac and a Windows PC, then you will definitely want a backup provider with cross-platform compatible software. Even if you are using just one platform now, this is still something you will want to look for. You don’t really want to commit long term to a backup provider, only to find that you cannot easily restore your files nor perform the backups of your newly purchased machine. Currently, Mac and Windows are the main platforms. If your provider also supports Linux, that’s a definite plus point.

Like I said before, you will need to know what you need before determining which features you are looking for. Once you know your requirements, it won’t be so hard to find a provider with all the criteria you have.

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