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.
Ben Moore is an Analyst for PCMag's software team covering video streaming services, security software, GNU/Linux, and the occasional PC game. He has previously written for Laptop Mag, Neowin.net, and Tom's Guide. Ben holds a degree in New Media and Digital Design from Fordham University at Lincoln Center, where he served as the Editor-in-Chief of The Observer, the student-run newspaper.
Michael Muchmore is PC Magazine's lead analyst for software and web applications. A native New Yorker, he has at various times headed up PC Magazine's coverage of Web development, enterprise software, and display technologies. Michael cowrote one of the first overviews of web services for a general audience. Before that he worked on PC Magazine's Solutions section, which covered programming techniques as well as tips on using popular office software. He previously covered services and software for ExtremeTech.com.
Backup services vary widely in how they set up and perform backups. For example, the totally hands-free Backblaze automatically encrypts and uploads all your important files without any input. On the other hand, services such as IDrive and Acronis True Image let you choose specific files you want from a file tree. Note that some services restrict you from backing up specific file types or using particular sources, such as from an external or network drive. Make sure the service you choose supports all your needs.
Today, if you have a YouTube channel that you have spent a lot of time creating and promoting, and your accounts gets banned by YouTube (which happens to marketers EVERY SINGLE DAY) then you're out of luck. With this software, if you had your channel backed up, you just point your backed up video data (title, thumbnail, mp4 file, description, tags... everything!) at your new YouTube account and in a matter of minutes you have a completely cloned channel with all of the videos and data restored. It's almost magical how easily it all works.
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.