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.
SpiderOak is well known as one of the most privacy-centric cloud storage services, but it's also a great backup service. The same power and features that you get for file syncing and access extend to its backup client, and SpiderOak's "Zero Knowledge" policy extends to your backups as well. Even they don't know what you're storing on their servers, and all of your data is encrypted on their servers and before it leaves your computer. The SpiderOak desktop client has a fully-featured backup tool in it that lets you back up your entire desktop, documents, email, music, or movies right to the cloud, or you can hit the "Advanced" tab and pick the files and folders you want to save, including external drives, network drives, or anything else on your computer. As you add files to your backup job, you'll get a live preview of how much space you'll use with what kinds of files, and whether you have space for it. SpiderOak supports Windows, OS X, and Linux, has mobile apps for iOS and Android, can do incrementals, and if you uncheck a file to stop backing it up, the files will still live in your SpiderOak account, just as an archive. Your backups happen in the background, or when you schedule them.
An online backup service isn't much use if it doesn't make the process of restoring or recovering your data quick and simple. For example, a service should offer search tools for finding particular files in your backup. It's also desirable for a service to be able to replicate an entire folder-tree structure so that it can help you recover from bigger data losses. Keep in mind that if you buy a plan that covers just one computer, you may have to transfer the account to a new PC if you ever switch your main device or if you need to restore data from a damaged computer to a replacement.
It may take some time depending on the number of files you have and the total size. You can use the "Email me when done" option to get notified once the archival completes. You can then download the created archive locally. Make sure to download it to your Google Drive shared folder or copy it there after download so it gets synced and backed up in the cloud.
Many services also offer a feature called versioning. This saves incremental changes you make to files as recoverable snapshots of the file. It's useful in case you need to get back information from an earlier version or if your latest file save becomes corrupted. Services vary widely in how many versions they keep and how long they're saved. Best-in-class services, such as SOS Online Backup and SpiderOak ONE keep an unlimited number of file versions forever.
Among the free programs we tested, Aomei Backupper Standard wins primarily because it has the most features, including imaging, file backup, disk cloning, and plain file syncing, plus multiple scheduling options (see our full review). Sure, its bitmapped interface may be retro, but the layout and workflow are intuitive. And though it’s on the slower side for backing up sets of files, it’s the fastest software we’ve tested so far for backing up full disks and partitions. Its CPU usage during backup is also commendably light.
Online backup services scan your hard drive for files worthy of protecting, encrypt them for security, and send them up to the company's online servers. Once your files are uploaded, you can access and restore your data from anywhere. Though there's some overlap, online backup services shouldn't be confused with cloud storage and file syncing services like Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and SugarSync. Those services do store files in the cloud, but they aren't designed to automatically protect all important documents and media files, let alone system files. Their strategy is generally to sync just one folder with all its subfolders to the cloud, and in some cases, to offer online collaborative document editing. Many backup services offer folder-syncing capabilities, but few syncing services offer full-scale backup functionality.

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.
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