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.

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.


Most services encrypt your files with strong systems such as AES 256 before sending them up to the servers over an encrypted connection. The majority of products we tested also offer a private encryption key option. If you choose to manage your own encryption keys (basically the "key" that decrypts your backup), know that it is your responsibility to remember it. The online backup service itself will not be able to help you reset the password if you forget it. On the flip side, this means that no one (including employees of the backup service and law enforcement officials) other than you can unlock your backups. This is ideal from a privacy and security standpoint. Use a password manager to keep track of your private encryption key if you think you will forget it.
This rule, to be carried out this month, applies to all the YouTubers, regardless of their location or their content (even if it is directed towards a mature audience). This sudden declaration has caused quite a big conundrum in the virtual world. According to the rule, YouTube can demonetise the content of YouTubers who fail to follow it and might even get fined.
There are a few common practices for configuring when backups occur. The most common option is on a fixed schedule, such as once a day, week, or month. The second, which we prefer, is to upload file changes whenever they're changed and saved, otherwise known as a continuous backup setting. Services only transfer the modified part of the file in this scenario, so as not to overburden your internet connection or take up unnecessary storage. A third way is simply to upload files manually. Some may appreciate this degree of control, but this method is only effective if you remember to regularly run the backup.
If you're backing up your data but you're not saving it offsite, you're putting it at risk. If something happens to your home or electronics, all that data could be lost. That's why there are tons of affordable, easy-to-use online backup services that you can send your data to seamlessly for safe keeping. This week we're going to look at five of the best, based on your nominations.

BackBlaze doesn't have an offline component, so you'll have to handle that yourself, but it's by far one of the most affordable options on the market. Accounts are $5/mo (you get a break if you pay up front for one or two years), and you can add more computers to the same account for another $5/mo. You can read more about Backblaze's pricing options here.


Bitcasa starts you off with 10GB for free, but $100/yr throws the floodgates open and gets you unlimited storage for anything you want to sync, share, or back up. Plus, you can connect as many computers or devices to your account as you choose, so you don't pay by the PC. It's client isn't quite as robust as some of the other tools here, but if you're more interested in a flat fee for unlimited space and you can handle the details of which files go where and when, it's a solid option. You can read more about Bitcasa's pricing here.
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.
One of the biggest advantages of using an online backup service is that it lets you access your files from anywhere. Most online backup providers let you view and download files from a web browser, but that should be the bare minimum. Many also include file-sharing options, the best of which even let you specify a password for access and an expiration date for the shared item.
CrashPlan is our favorite backup tool for Windows, for the Mac, and we've even shown you how to build a bulletproof backup solution with it. CrashPlan gives you the flexibility to back up any folders you select on your computer (or whole drives, if you prefer) to external hard drives, other computers on the same network, a friend's computer across the internet, or online to CrashPlan's own servers, where it's stored and encrypted to keep your data safe. The backup utility is set-it-and-forget-it, and it runs quietly in the background whenever you're away from your computer, or at specified times of day. It's smart enough to only do differentials and incrementals, and supports multiple backup destinations so you can back everything up at one time everywhere it needs to go. Restores are just as easy, and a few clicks drops all of your files right back where they should be. You even get access to your backup data on your mobile devices. If you have a ton of data to back up or restore, you can even have CrashPlan send an external hard drive to your house that you can back up to and use to seed your first backups or restore from, all without blowing past your ISP's bandwidth limitations. You can read more about CrashPlan's features here.
The iDrive service comes with backup clients for nearly every PC and device, including Windows Phone—a rarity these days. The company provides additional storage for syncing all your devices and PCs, allows sharing of files with anyone, and has the ability to back up to a local drive. The company also has several affordable pay plans. For all the details, read our full review of iDrive. 
There are a few common practices for configuring when backups occur. The most common option is on a fixed schedule, such as once a day, week, or month. The second, which we prefer, is to upload file changes whenever they're changed and saved, otherwise known as a continuous backup setting. Services only transfer the modified part of the file in this scenario, so as not to overburden your internet connection or take up unnecessary storage. A third way is simply to upload files manually. Some may appreciate this degree of control, but this method is only effective if you remember to regularly run the backup.
Most services encrypt your files with strong systems such as AES 256 before sending them up to the servers over an encrypted connection. The majority of products we tested also offer a private encryption key option. If you choose to manage your own encryption keys (basically the "key" that decrypts your backup), know that it is your responsibility to remember it. The online backup service itself will not be able to help you reset the password if you forget it. On the flip side, this means that no one (including employees of the backup service and law enforcement officials) other than you can unlock your backups. This is ideal from a privacy and security standpoint. Use a password manager to keep track of your private encryption key if you think you will forget it.
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